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Isn't sailing an Outdoor Sport????

by Molly Winans on 9 Feb 2013
Ericsson 3 mastman Anders Dahlsjö on the foredeck - hardly being a couch potato Gustav Morin/Ericsson Racing Team/Volvo Ocean Race © http://www.volvooceanrace.org
Every now and then we need to step back and take a breath... Spinsheet magazine Editor Molly Winans looks at sailing from a mainstream angle in a recent magazine editorial.

Here is an extract from that editorial ...'when interviewing Bob Lippincott, early in his college sailing career, I asked what his favorite television shows were. His response sticks with me: 'I’m an outdoor guy. I’d rather be out bike riding or taking a run than watching TV.' He had me at outdoor.

Every sailor I know is an outdoor guy, but somehow, with the exception of Lippincott and Nicholas Hayes in his book Saving Sailing, few of us use the words 'outdoor' or 'outdoor recreation.' It’s as if we think that campers, backpackers, rock climbers, white-water rafters, and those who own crampons and ice axes own the copyright to them.

In an effort to expand and reach out further with our Start Sailing Now guide’s sixth edition in 2013, I did some research on the websites for Under Armour, Patagonia, REI, and Eastern Mountain Sports. What did I find about sailing on those websites? Zilch. Nada. It was as if the sport of sailing wasn’t invited into the exclusive world of outdoorsiness. As someone who has donned labels from all of those companies, I was surprised.

How strange to be a member of what some perceive as the elitist club of sailing and to realize that we’re not acknowledged by the giant retailers of the outdoor recreation world. Now, you can say, who cares? We have West Marine, Fawcett Boat Supply, Annapolis Performance Sailing, Landfall Navigation, and the like. We have our niche suppliers for our nichey world of sport.

Who cares? I think that anyone who is concerned with the future of our sport should care. A quick keyword search
of the October issue of SpinSheet, the largest one of the year, revealed only five mentions of the word 'outdoor' and 61 of the word 'marine.' I wonder what one would find if they searched the same keywords in Sailing World, Cruising World, SAIL, or Sailing?

We are in the marine industry, so that’s only natural, right? Perhaps in Climbing Magazine, they have fewer mentions of the word 'outdoor' and more of 'boulder' or 'belay,' but I bet that the word 'out-door' gets more ink than sailors give it. It’s worth examining. It’s worth entertaining the thought that perhaps, we in the sport of sailing limit ourselves and build walls around our sport with language.

What if we made an effort, especially in print and digital formats, to replace our favorite words—marine, Corinthian,
yacht race, regatta, commodore, clubhouse, and charter—with a few that would make sense and sound intriguing to non-sailors? A few ideas: waterfront, sportsmanlike, sailboat race, on-the-water challenge, sailing competition director, sail center, sail-sport open house, sail travel, and sail fitness. How about 'novices welcome'?

What if we stopped talking like Thurston Howell III and started talking like cutting-edge outdoorsmen and women who are dedicated to inviting other fit, outdoorsy, adventurous, thrill-seeking, nature-loving, competitive people of all ages and backgrounds into our exciting outdoor world?

If we chose our words to target such souls, would more curious people find sailing opportunities on the Internet? Would REI, Patagonia, and Under Armour start recognizing us as sport enthusiasts in synch with their out- door philosophies? If one of these giants featured sailing among its website’s sports, would it attract newcomers to sailing?

Sailors are inherently outdoorsy.

There’s nothing indoorsy about our sport or the people who get out in the wind, sun, rain, or even sleet to do it.

We just need to mind our words. We must update our vocabularies to welcome the next generation into the sport of sailing.

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