"Sailing became a compulsion: there lay the boat, swinging to her mooring, there blew the wind; I had no choice but to go."
-E.B. White from The Sea and the Wind that Blows (1977)
Sailing means something different to all of us fortunate enough to have ever felt the power of the wind whisking us across the water. For those of us in latitudes far from the equator, the summer season becomes the epicenter of our sailing. It seems fitting to celebrate sailing as a part of our lives during summer. And so, Summer Sailtice was born.
Summer Sailstice is the global sailing holiday celebrated on the weekend closest to the summer solstice. This international event was founded in 2001 to connect the global sailing community in a fun, creative, multifaceted, multi-location sailing holiday. Every year, Summer Sailstice connects over 19,000 sailors all over the world—cruisers, racers and recreational—to celebrate and showcase life under sail. It has expanded to include participants from Asia, across the Americas and Europe. For more information, please visit SummerSailstice.com
Q & A With SUMMER SAILSTICE Founder John Arndt
You've been working within the sailing industry a long time. Judging by your career highlights, it's evident you work pretty hard getting people involved in sailing. Let's talk about Summer Sailstice, which you founded in 2001, as an annual day to celebrate sailing, to get sailors and potential sailors on the water—this year scheduled for June 22. The day has grown into a nationally recognized event with Summer Sailstices being observed internationally and at both coastal and inland sailing destinations across the US, but it also involves contests, prizes, sailing rendezvous, t-shirts, hats, and more. Can you explain the event and why you started it?
John: Essentially to get the whole world sailing on the weekend closest to the summer solstice—school's out, the sailing season is ahead and it's the longest days of the year so it's time to celebrate sailing!
Unlike so many other activities, like tennis or soccer, sailing has many unique forms of participation. A shared celebration event seemed like the best way to showcase all the sailing options—tall ships, kiteboarding, racing, cruising, classic yacht restoration, carbon fiber foiling Moth development, simply sailing a Sunfish or Hobie Cat. Additionally, over the years, I've worked with so many dedicated volunteers—junior program parents, yacht club membership directors, one-design class leaders—who are all working hard to promote sailing and their activity/organization. They do great work but the impact always seems to fall just a bit short of everyone's dreams. I thought an event that could help combine all these individual efforts would help give them leverage and provide greater success for sailing in general and their programs in particular.
What kind of growth have you seen?
John: First year was a friends and family year and thanks to the web we've been able to register over 19,000 sailors in 50 states and 47 countries. Typically, that number reflects a single boat owner; so many more people have participated in a Summer Sailstice weekend as crew.
Do you invite sailboat manufacturers and other vendors to participate?
John: Yes, everyone's invited—community sailing programs, yacht clubs, manufacturers, one-design classes. I see Summer Sailstice as more of a template or tool to help manufacturers or other organizations (such as owners groups) unite their far-flung members to share an event together, even if they're scattered around the planet.
What kind of response have you seen within the industry?
John: The industry has been very supportive. I'd say everyone recognizes the unique and diverse nature of sailing, which is hard to explain to the non-sailing public, from community sailing on the Charles River in Boston to crossing the North Atlantic on the Clipper Round-the-World race. We had someone who was sailing North of Spitsbergen in the Arctic Circle sign up and someone sailing over North America in the Northwest Passage, and numbers of small boat sailors on lakes and reservoirs across the country. Typically, the non-sailing public sees billionaires sailing or a sailing tragedy in the news. Rarely, if ever, is there any coverage of how most people sail most of the time. Summer Sailstice gives the general media a reason to cover sailing as it's commonly practiced, thereby showing a much more approachable, affordable, accessible, and hopefully fun side of sailing.
What can we expect this year?
John: I've just relaunched the website and it will allow much better visibility into sailing. Events and sailors will be geolocated so you can see via a map tool what's going on in your area and, for event producers, it gives more tools to help you run an open house, get your club or fleet together, or just cruise off with friends for a sailing rendezvous.
You are also Chair of SailSFBay, a portal started in 2008 for getting people on the water in San Francisco Bay that includes lists of places where people can learn to sail as well as articles and blog posts from writers in the sailing community. Does SailSFBay bring in primarily new sailors, returning sailors, intermediate sailors? All of the above?
John: It focuses on youth outreach, media outreach, and bringing awareness and access to sailing opportunities to more people. There are dozens of great sailing programs in the Bay from community to commercial to yacht club sailing programs. We're trying to coordinate and collaborate with all of them to help leverage their efforts for better results for the whole sailing community.