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Scuttlebutt News:
Guest Commentary

To: Editor, Scuttlebutt
From: Jim Capron, President, US SAILING

There has been a lot of discussion in recent days about a possible new requirement for active racing sailors to join US SAILING. The requirement would be a new US SAILING Prescription to the 2009-2012 Racing Rules of Sailing. In essence, the rule would require skippers and anyone steering the boat to be members of US SAILING, but only in races above a certain level. It is NOT our intention to require beginning sailors to be members, nor is it our intention to have this rule apply to racing at local clubs or sailing centers open primarily to their sailors.

As the national governing body for the sport, US SAILING creates, organizes and administers the many programs that provide a level playing field to racing sailors throughout the country. We train and certify judges and race officers, administer the racing rules, decide appeals and resolve disputes. For offshore racers, US SAILING provides rating certificates and administers the rating systems that open up racing to various types and sizes of boats. We rely on our members to help us maintain and administer these programs.

Most of the competitive sailors I ask agree that racing sailors ‘should’ be members of US SAILING to support the sport, but balk at any notion that racing sailors ‘must’ join US SAILING. Many of those who admit they ‘should’ support US SAILING do not join. The reality is that we spend a lot of time and energy into trying to convince nonmembers to join, or convince existing members to rejoin the following year.

Mandatory membership in the national authority is common practice for other sports in the United States, and it is certainly the norm with other sailing governing bodies abroad. For other countries, universal membership or support is mandated either directly by the NGB or its government sports agency, or through club or association dues. Either way, a significant majority of racing sailors worldwide contribute to their national authority. US SAILING is one of the few sports which make membership in the NGB voluntary and as a result, a minority ends up supporting the majority.

The idea that all racing sailors are part of their national governing body is all about fairness and sharing the responsibility. We already require those sailors who take our judging and race management courses and become certified race officials to be members. Is it really fair for the volunteers who run the races or hear the protests to be US SAILING members but not the racing sailors who benefit from those services? Universal membership is also about bringing more skills and ideas to the governance of the sport to make it better.

Some sailors have asked what US SAILING would do with the increased revenue? Some potential revenue will be used to offset the cost to join. We are currently considering special programs for high school and college sailors, lower cost membership for sailors starting careers and families, and group rates for clubs, classes and associations. We want to make it easy to comply with the new rule. We would also be looking to reinvest in our race administration programs, expanding race officials training, and creating products to help organizers run better racing.

The leadership at US SAILING is fully aware that this new rule will not be popular among some racing sailors, but we believe that requiring membership is the fair thing to do for everyone, those already serving and supporting the sport, and the active racing sailors receiving those programs and services.

Over the next few months, we will be working on the proposed membership rule and the programs needed to make it easy to comply. The Board of Directors will decide on all 2009 US SAILING Prescriptions in June 2008, including the one that will require most racing sailors, at least those driving and those in charge, to join US SAILING in growing the sport.

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