The whole idea of any sport is to get as many people involved in it, along the way some will have that magical talent, the skills, the stamina and the urge to reach for Olympic Gold. Most others will be satisfied reaching for national championships, regional championships or just local weekend racing.
Sailing has an image today in the eyes of the general public. They think that sailors are rich and have barriers to entry that makes sailing exclusive. Report.
Of course over the past few years I have been working to dispel this myth, but my reach is small, and how in the world do you change global public perception? The National Marine Manufacturers Association has the data that 75% of all boats in the U.S. are owned in households with income under $100,000. In all actuality, sailing is a middle class sport.
I've also shown in this blog how easy it is to start sailing, shown on the rail on the right side of this page, offering entry points with no secret handshakes, no sequences to knock on the door, just show up and go sailing for either low hundreds of dollars or no money at all.
So here we are embarking on the Olympics over a year from now. The press has made a story of the heavily polluted and trash filled waters where the Sailing Olympics are to be held in Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Sailors practicing there have become ill, their boats damaged, and their boats slowed in competition by garbage slowing their way allowing competitors to pass them.
Within the sailing industry between magazines, newsletters, websites, etc. it is estimated that the media reach is under 10,000,000 (million) readers. However, it is reported that the Summer Olympics have a media reach of over 3,000,000,000 (billion).
The Olympics most assuredly can change public perception in a way no one within sailing ever could.
All of this is caused by the International Sailing Federation who has 100% control over the decision to use Guanabara Bay as the place to run the Sailing Olympics, and can't seem to find their oats to blow the whistle and move the Sailing Games to a clean and safe facility elsewhere in Brazil.
What I see in my crystal ball is that in 2017, the public's perception will change. What will Sailing be known as?
Sailing will become known as rich, exclusive and a new verb - disgusting.
In the future, where does the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) think it will get its future Olympians from? As participation in sailing has been on a downhill slope for 40 years, ISAF is a proponent of more decline by keeping the Olympics in Guanabara Bay. This fiasco is all of their making, they can blow the whistle on this any day. ISAF needs to work on growing sailing, putting it in the best light possible, sailing is a "green sport" and the images ISAF has created for sailing since November 2013 when the first report came out has been appalling.
I would like to see a class action lawsuit against ISAF in 2017 brought by everyone in the sailing industry (most are small business owners - sailmakers, boat builders chandleries, marinas, shipyards, magazines, newsletters, websites, sailing associations, yacht clubs, sailing schools, etc.) whose income has been harmed because the general public won't enter sailing because they think that it is a normal thing for sailors to sail in untreated sewage, hospital wastes, industrial wastes, and garbage. That's not a sport I want to be a part of.
Everything has a cause and effect.
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