Image: Laurie Morrison
“Participation on every level is important.”
So said US Sailing Board member, offshore race veteran and America’s Cup alumnist John Sangmeister at last week’s Yachtsman’s Lunch at Newport Harbor YC. Speaking on behalf of the Newport Ocean Sailing Association (NOSA) and their 73rd annual Newport to Ensenada Race (N2E) being held over April 24-26, 2020, Sangmeister laid out the challenges ahead for this race and the sport in general.
At the well-attended NHYC event, Sangmeister proclaimed that “Our beloved sport is struggling,” and called upon the sailing community to come together not only in support this classic SoCal sailing event but to also help build a path for the next generation to experience the same joys we have had so that these sailors of tomorrow will not only become sailors for life but may help propel the USA to excel in the next Olympiad.
“It’s a critical time in our sport,” Sangmeister said. “Participation on every level is important.”
As entry chairman for NOSA, he said his goal was to get everyone in the room at NHYC to sign up for the 2020 N2E and asked that they bring friends, particularly those new to sailing.
The cost of the sport has outpaced inflation, he said, making it harder for new people to get in the game. So one way to combat that is to motivate the people who already have boats to use them. He said there are 3500 boats in Long Beach, 300 of them race yet only 30 or so enter the N2E…he wants to change this for 2020.
“Encourage friends to get on the water and race – bring your family too, and remember why we do this – N2E is a memorable, moving experience,” Sangmeister said. “The race will be a great adventure, a wonderful tradition, but it’s also a deeply personal adventure for each participant.”
The majority of the 50 attendees could identify with this because not only had they sailed this iconic coastal race more than once, but four had competed in the race 15 or more times. One was Roy Pat Disney’s Volvo 70 Pyewacket, who is expected to sign up soon for the 2020 race given the family’s long and winning history in various boats with this name.
In contrast, one attendee reported just taking her first sailing lesson, in a Lido earlier in the week, but was also keen to give the race a try.
Whether beginner or veteran, Sangmeister said NOSA’s goal is to draw upon its extended 72-year history to not only celebrate the record setters but to foster and rekindle the spirit of the Corinthian yachtsmen who really hold the key to the sport’s future and offer them a fun sailing opportunity. NOSA looks for innovative ways to bring in new sailors so they can create their own history, like reaching out to coastal high schools, colleges and university sailing teams to run on its new sprint course to Dana Point.
“What we talk about a lot at our meetings is how to improve the competitor experience,” he said, “make the race fun for all.”
For example, some who race the N2E feel the big fast boats have been crowding out the PHRF sailors from the competition. To help provide a level playing field for all, the 2020 race will open classes that use the ORR handicap system – this is intended for the bigger faster designs so as to separate them from the PHRF classes. The change will make for closer racing for more boats, which means more fun.
Sangmeister also put a pitch in for ocean sailing being a better social experience for its participants. “Real friendships occur when sailing offshore. That does not happen in a buoy race,” he said.
He also acknowledged that not only is it expensive to participate as a competitor in sailing, but it’s also expensive to produce and promote races that have the features that competitors enjoy, so he took a moment to thank the N2E race sponsors. “It’s a big ask these days,” he said about sponsorship acquisition. “It’s no longer possible to secure sponsorship just because the CEO likes sailing, so the company’s financial contributions require deliverable returns on their investment.” These sponsors provide considerable support both at the start and the finish of the N2E, and high levels of participation in the race helps show the sponsors their support is a good value.
Paraphrasing a famous political figure, Sangmeister said “We will need all your help to make Ensenada great again,” he joked with the audience.
Sangmeister also commented as a Select Director for US Sailing’s efforts to coordinate efforts with the City of Long Beach as the venue for the 2028 Olympic sailing events.
“The Olympics makes everything better,” Sangmeister said. In preparation to welcome the world, many aspects of the city will be improved upon, from city streets to the transformation of the Belmont Veteran’s Memorial Pier. Plans are in the works for a massive renovation of this key landmark to provide spectator viewing of many of the sailing events.
His last pitch was for sailors to support their sport. “Become members of US Sailing,” he asked. “If you believe in the sport, then join. It’s not a big ask. If you believe in the sport, participate, help develop the next generation, inspiring them and show up in our boats. And let’s go to Mexico.”
The next presentation in the N2E Seminar series is Thursday, January 23rd at Pierpont Bay YC in Ventura. Food and beverages for purchase starting at at 6:00 PM, presentation starts at 7:00 PM.
The 73rd Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race starts April 24 off the Balboa Pier. Boat owners can register their entries here.