Gary Jobson, 60, is a legend within the U.S. sailing community. Currently, he serves as president of U.S. Sailing, but he is a former All-American collegiate sailor and most notably a winner of the America’s Cup as tactician for media mogul Ted Turner.
Jobson went on to become the voice of sailing as a commentator for ESPN and has been a part of many first-class media productions on the sport of sailboat racing.
When the Maryland-based Jobson isn’t behind a television microphone or at the helm sailing in a regatta, he’s probably driving his Mercedes on an interstate somewhere, heading towards a yacht club to give a lecture about how to improve the quality and protect the future of the sport he loves.
On Saturday, April 16, Jobson will pay a visit to Del Rey Yacht Club for JOBSON (Juniors Outreach for Boating and Sailing Opportunities Now) Day, an event intended to teach preteen and teenage boys and girls about the benefits of the sport of sailboat racing.
The Argonaut recently caught up with Jobson to talk a bit about the future of sailing:
The Argonaut: Do you think youth sailing in the United States is in a good place?
Jobson: I think that youth sailing in America is incredibly vibrant. There’s the El Toros, Optis, Sabots to the 420s and all the yacht club programs out there going strong. There’s over 500 high schools now with sailing teams around the country and over 200 colleges with teams, so I think we’re doing pretty well.
Having said that, one thing I see is too many high-powered parents and coaches pushing young kids too hard too early. You know, these kids are just happy to be on the water and more than winning a race, the cool thing is having all their friends out alongside.
We have to be careful not to push them too hard, but instead inspire them to want to sail. I try to talk about the balance in sailing out there – I have a line I say which is: ‘It’s far more important what they learn than how they do.’
The Argonaut: So you feel the participation number in the youth ranks is good?
Jobson: Yeah. I travel around the country a lot. Last year I spoke at 118 clubs and everywhere I go, the junior part of this is doing pretty darn well. What’s suffering is bigger boat racing and PHRF (Pacific Handicap Racing Fleet). I see declining participation in many parts of the country at the adult level. That’s what we need to address.
The Argonaut: Why do you think those numbers are declining?
Jobson: It’s because people’s available time is less and sailing takes a lot of time. We need to, at the clubs and sailing centers, provide sailing in short bursts. For example, it’s okay to have a regatta that starts at 4:30 in the afternoon and finishes at 6:30 at night.
I’m also an advocate of clubs having fleets of boats – eight or 10 boats. It doesn’t matter what kind they are – this allows people to come down and use them for two hours at a time. You can also use them for team racing, match racing, fleet racing, day sailing, adult instruction – the point is that they be available for short amounts of time because people don’t have as much time.
This is particularly important for people aged 23 to 35 who are getting their career going or starting a new family. They don’t have time to own a boat or have a place to keep one, but if there’s a fleet there, there’s more of a possibility they’ll get involved. Every club that does that seems to do better and gets young people engaged.
The Argonaut: Do you think the current boats used for junior sailing like the Opti and Sabots are still the best boats to get kids going or do you think more modern styles like the Open Bic do better to inspire?
Jobson: I think for an 8-year-old – he really doesn’t know. And as long as they’re about the same – it’s okay. I think with young kids, meaning 13 and under, it doesn’t really matter that much. The single-handed aspect is important – to be in command of your own boat. It’s not a good thing if they crew too early and don’t get to be a skipper.
To be a part of JOBSON Day, teens and preteens and/or groups must be accompanied by at least one parent or responsible adult. The event is free of charge. There will also be a silent auction and a fundraising dinner with Jobson and Del Rey Yacht Club’s Junior Champions.
The event proceeds will go to the Junior Sailing Program. Dinner guests will have an opportunity to speak one-on-one with Jobson about his unique experiences in the sport of sailboat racing.
The event takes place at the Del Rey Yacht Club, 13900 Palawan Way, Marina del Rey. Information, please contact Bruce Kessler at (310) 489-7730.