Thursday, January 11, 2007

Leading outside of the results column

We sense this was a busy week at the US headquarters of the sport. For the past six months, the US Sailing Review Board had been dealing with the process of Brodie Cobb’s gross misconduct case, with the final decision of a two-year penalty now announced. Additionally, the results of the Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year awards were finalized and published. A most serious offense decided, and the honor of the sport’s elite awarded, all in the same week. One theme struck us from these announcements: sportsmanship.

Obviously, Cobb had not succeeded in this department. What should be noted is that Cobb is a highly decorated sailor. A former All-American at Tulane University, he is a two-time winner of the US Sailing Singlehanded Championship (’84 & ’85), an America’s Cup effort organizer, a former US Olympic team campaigner, and just this year (after his Rule 69 incident), winner of his age division at the 2006 Laser Masters Worlds.

The Scuttlebutt poll in December on who the ‘buttheads thought should win the Rolex awards felt as much like a debate on sailing talent versus popularity. In the men’s category, winner Jud Smith and Greg Fisher proved to be supremely popular. On the women’s side, Anna Tunnicliffe was a run-away favorite. The involvement of these three sailors in active one-design classes as both sailors and instructors, along with Anna’s time in college sailing, likely led many supporters their way.

Sailing needs people to look up to. Top sailors - just as any top athlete in their sport - are thrust into the role model category. Perhaps some are not capable of dealing with this responsibility. Managing the requirements of competing at the top level, along with supporting the needs of the sailors around you, is not an easy task. However, for folks like Smith, Fisher, and Tunnicliffe, we should feel fortunate that they are leading our sport in more than just the results column. - Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt

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