An Open Letter to Larry Ellison – Engage, Invest, Lead
October 1, 2010 § 2 Comments
This article first appeared in SailingAnarchy, in October, 2010.
Let’s cut right to it. I’ll make no judgment regarding boats or venues. I’m not qualified.
But I believe we have a common interest in sailing, and you are gearing up to invest in shoreside infrastructure and large scale marketing. Please consider this three step plan to make the most of AC34, submitted with highest respect and humility.
1.) Don’t wait for trickle down. Make it something we all do now, with you. Engage.
Link every sailing not-for-profit in the country to your project, and popularize the best ideas in the grassroots through a nationwide collaborative design and discovery effort. Within a year, the best ideas will find their way not just into your boat, but also into dinnertime and classroom discussions and practical use all over the country.
A mass remote boat building project that mirrors the work that you are doing will engage multiple generations, and may, in fact, provide you a new idea or two in return.
Local sailing centers are the eager hubs of sailing energy and innovation. Together, they are a ready channel that when focused on a common cause, like active involvement in your campaign, will accelerate sailing breakthroughs, while at the same time sharing sailing’s central lessons: energy, information, teamwork, exploration, trial and error, friendship, freedom, etc.
Direct a seed round active donation to these organizations (in lieu of the amount that might instead be spent on stadium seating) to supply raw materials and kits, the basic guidelines, teaching tools, and short bursts of direct involvement from your team, to build miniatures of your boat that will eventually sail in local events at about the same time as the actual event by the kids and mentors who build them. Leading up to the actual cup, stream live design/build/test events throughout the network as aspiring sailors all over the country use their hands and minds to build a distributed fleet that they will sail and share into adulthood.
Insist only that the local teams include all ages and genders, that the entire event is staffed by volunteers, the work is done safely, and that materials and tools are ready and ample. Let time invested, new ideas and risk-taking be their own reward, but of course, the coolest ideas should trickle up, and the inventors should be celebrated as sailing’s new heroes.
After the work is done and the race is over, a new breed of American sailboat and American sailor will have become part of our local communities and the national fabric. They will have invested the time. You will have invested what you would have spent on spectating, and instead, created active avid fans and participants.
2.) Don’t confuse spectating with participation and inadvertently block the latter. New local infrastructure should leave a community sailing and ready for more.
Wherever the main event is held, the last thing we need now are more shoreside strip malls, beer tents and nautical museums – barriers to actual experiences. Instead, we must have ample places and spaces where people can be launching and boarding sailboats on the way to the water, and that they will sail themselves. Use this opportunity to change the political and policy discussions about land use, water rights, co-ops, clubs and parks. Build a real and actual model into your own development plans, even if it means that the enduring legacy of this project is a new battery of public launches and parks filled with dinghy racks, (filled with newly-minted mini ac cats) lining the host city’s shores, and setting the example for the rest of the country.
Sure, on the day of the event and for training, clear the racecourse. But on the days before and around it, the space should be a festival of sailing, and the shores should be a launch pad to fun and friendships.
Along the way, tell the truth: that these docks and this fleet of modern, fast solar-powered boats, unlike all of the conventional alternatives, bring massive social and economic benefits, teaching us to engage the earth and its inhabitants, instead of eating it and them. Invest.
3.) Then lead. Take the biggest risk in this plan and invite your wife and kids. Not as a silly stunt. Seriously.
I read once that you said that your ultimate life goal was to have great relationships with family and friends. It is honorable, and one that we can all learn from.
Sailing, even competitive sailing at the very pinnacle, is as much about relationships as anything else. Use this global platform to demonstrate the potential of cooperation, mutual support and respect in successful relationships between men and women and young and old, and the power of the authentic personal connection.
You can set a new bar for sailing, sailors, and perhaps even for modern America.
Erase false gender and age barriers in sailing, engage your family in your dreams, and remind us along the way that prosperity is best defined as the luxury of time spent well with the people you care about. You may already have done this. I don’t know. Together, these three thing done well would have immediate and large positive impact on American lives, and cost very little in the grand scheme.
Engage, invest, lead.
I’ll be rooting for you.
– Nicholas Hayes