|Thomas Hubbell - President, US Sailing|
|Profile of the week|
Friday, 18 January 2013 16:15
Dr. Thomas Hubbell is the President of US Sailing, having been elected in November 2012. Before becoming President, Hubbell served as Vice President of US Sailing for nine years. As Vice President, he led the 2005 re-organisation of a smaller Board of Directors with direct election by members. He is also a two-time Thistle class President.
Hubbell was educated at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine and became a physician in family medicine. Hubbell spent 10 of his 30-plus years of medical practice as President of the Medical Staff at Grady Memorial Hospital. He also teaches family medicine residents and medical students.
Hubell is a keen sailer and he leads a racing seminar during Thistle Midwinters. He also wrote an accompanying book, Sailboat Racing with Greg Fisher. As Vice President of US Sailing for nine years, Hubbell led the 2005 re-organization of a smaller Board of Directors with direct election by members.
You have recently been elected as President of US Sailing, what are you hoping to achieve? And, how are you looking to achieve it?
US Sailing will sustain and improve its expertise in race management, rules adjudication, and sailing education at all levels. US Sailing began as an organization to foster fairness and uniform rules for racing sailors and that remains its central theme. We have developed extraordinary training programs and collaboration with the sail training industry.
The exciting development of community sailing centers provides a model of access to sailing that delivers large numbers of new sailors to the sport. To grow and support the sport of sailing US Sailing assists sailing clubs and community sailing venues to share expertise. We strengthen all levels of the sport through a variety of programs in sail training including seamanship and safety.
US Sailing provides great value to the racing as well has the ‘just for fun’ sailing community. We will help larger numbers of people acquire and achieve excellent sailing skills. At the elite level this translates into superior international and Olympic performance.
We continue to take the initiative in the area of safety through the study of sailing accidents that allow us to provide sailors with best practices designed prevent these tragedies from occurring in the future.
What does this role mean personally to you?
I have been sailing in my head from early childhood and actually in boats from age 11. The fact that it was not easy for me to get into sailing made it all the more desirable. I continue to enjoy sailing in a variety of ways, mostly racing Thistles. I sailed 77 days this year, 103 races, and seven classes (types) of boats. My sailing friends of all stripes share that special “something” of being on the water plying the wind and waves. It is hard for me to understand why it isn’t the national pastime. I want to continue sharing this nautical experience and to be a part of making the trip a little better every time. Sailors will keep sailing as long as they keep growing in the sport. Leading the mission on a national level is a real thrill. Collaborating with incredibly passionate sailors at this level is very energizing and rewarding in itself.
You led the recent reorganization to a smaller board with direct election by the members. Why was this decision made?
The short answer is efficiency, responsiveness, and better decision-making by the organization. We also wanted to engage the membership in selecting board members. The old format had 49 board members trying to discuss complex issues and make decisions in 3-4 days twice a year. It could not keep pace with the changing needs of the sport and the society. We now have 15 very talented people talking monthly and meeting in person three times a year. We are much more dynamic and creative now.
Sailing is widely considered a ‘niche sport’, what does the sport need to do to appeal to more people and, if wanted, become more mainstream?
Sailing is mysterious to many people. How does it work? How do you get into it? And it is widely misunderstood. Here’s a key that works; community sailing programs are all over the country, roughly 2,000 of them. They are very inexpensive (really) and they are accessible by literally anyone, any age, any physical ability or disability, both genders, any income level. All you have to do is show up willing to try something new. Many yacht clubs and sailing clubs are also developing this kind of more open access to bring in new people. Boat ownership is not necessary.