Has this ever happened to you?
(The Following is a Speech that I gave at the US Sailing Board of Director's Meeting in July 2020 to raise awareness that the Sport of Sailing needs to evolve its outlook on being more inclusive if it is to survive. Often, Individuals like myself are hesitant to speak out because we fear retribution for calling out the obvious. However, if not us to speak out, then who?
Sailing like most of boating is perceived as predominantly an activity of being white and wealthy. If Sailing and boating is to transcend generational boundaries and thrive- it is important for a fundamental pivot to occur. There is no better time than the present for that.)
Has this ever happened to you?
• Have you ever attended a regatta celebration at a yacht club and while following your friends in through the gate, been asked where you were going and what you were doing there?
• Been a visiting yachtsman at a yacht club in the South; shown your home club ID- which said you were the vice-commodore and been asked for two other forms of ID to prove who you were? (Learning later that they only recently allowed women and still do not allow minorities)
• Been asked to bring a fellow older club member a drink, because you made the mistake of standing by the bar-wearing black slacks and a club shirt that looked like the staff shirt?
• Had an older club member demand that you bring them milk for their oatmeal, because they thought you were part of the staff when in fact you were the commodore of the club?
• Held positions in most of the critical committees of the club, yet had your judgement on a simplistic issue is questioned by a three-year member?
• Had knowledge that of the furloughs that need to be made, almost 75% of them will affect black or brown families. Yet because of the nature of their roles- their work is deemed expendable?
• Had a prospective customer approach you while you washed the deck of your company’s showboat; asking to speak to the owner of the company and just assumed that you might not be that person because of the role you were fulfilling at that time?
• Had a customer call, to ask a question about their new boat; you answer the question and provide a solution to their problem only to learn that they called your business partner immediately afterward, asked the same question and received the exact same answer?
• Been at an industry trade dinner and while waiting outside the restaurant with colleagues you make the mistake of wearing a bright regatta jacket which leads to having a set of keys thrown at you followed by a request to park a patron’s car?
• Had insensitive jokes about your race made right in front of you at an industry event?
• Been told at a national industry trade show that ‘your kind’ weren’t welcome in that part of the country? When asked what ‘that kind’ was- the response is “illegals, we don’t like you here”.
• Been at an industry meeting of thought leaders and been 1 of 7 in a group of over 150 that did not look like the rest? (I.e., 2 hispanic; 3 women; 2 black)
• Washed the deck of your own boat and while doing so had someone ask you if you knew when the owner of the boat would be back?
• Been questioned by security at your own marina and asked if you “belonged here” as you stand by the gate to your dock?
• Been pulled over leaving the marina in your foreign sports sedan, asked to put your hands on the hood in front of your own family “only” for an ID check?
All these things and many more have happened to me during my lifetime in the marine industry, club leadership and the sport of sailing. While I know that it does not taint all the great people that I have met during my 20+ years, it is a barometer of the growth we have yet to achieve. To say that it is not time for the sport, the industry, and our country to not have a real conversation about true inclusion, to value our individual perspectives and identify an inclusive path for growth is not good for business. Not doing so is tantamount to staying in the past, closing our eyes, and pretending that change does not matter. We are all unified as Americans in this great country of ours and we all deserve respect.
With traditional participation in boating being flat, sustainable growth will come from communities that do not look like our traditional customers, participants, or members. It will be necessary for our industry, our clubs, our sport to move forward to grow and remain viable for years to come. I took the risk of sharing this with you tonight, not so that you see me as an angry person, because those of you who really know me, know that I am not. I know that we all have implicit bias, the first step that we can all take is recognizing that and treat everyone with respect, kindness and try not to judge one another. I have used all the experiences that I have had in my life to drive me to impact change. I have done my part – and I will continue to do so. It is time to do your part in whichever way you can. I ask that we all commit to one concrete thing that we will do- to do our part to create the positive change we all need and will all benefit from.
Thank you for listening.
US Sailing Member Since 1996
Lou Sandoval is an award-winning innovative business professional and collaborative business leader who has held various positions of leadership in the private and non-profit sectors.
Mr. Sandoval currently serves as a business leader for a division of a major marine manufacturer. He spent 15 years as the Owner/founder of a marine dealership in the Great Lakes region where he garnered National accolades for customer service and sales in developing the market for a large European based boat brand. Prior to that, Sandoval had a successful 17-year career in the healthcare/biotech/biomedical industry where he held many positions of increased responsibility for several FORTUNE 100 companies.
Lou serves on several industry boards including the National Board of the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, Sail America, and the Recreational Boating Leadership Council. He chairs the Board of Directors for Chicago Yacht Club and their executive board where he was elected to the position of Commodore beginning his two-year term on 1/1/19. Mr. Sandoval also sits on the board of Wintrust Bank NA. He is past board member of the Yacht Broker’s Association of America (YBAA) and has served as the Chairman of the venerable Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac. Lou believes in giving back to the community and volunteers with the Boy Scouts of America.
Mr. Sandoval received a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from DePaul University and a completed Executive Education Coursework in Business Strategy and Marketing at the Kellogg School of Business, Northwestern University.
On the water, Lou has extensive offshore experience having navigated over 30,000 nautical miles and competed in several Transpacific races and the Newport to Bermuda race. Lou campaigns his boat- KARMA which he co-owns with his brother in offshore buoy and distance races. He has won his section in the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac an unprecedented 9 times in 19 races. Lou, his wife and two daughters live in Chicago and enjoy family boating and youth sailing in their spare time.
~Lou Sandoval is an American Business Leader whose successful career transcends over 30 years of entrepreneurially Building businesses, brands, and high performing teams. Lou parlayed his Fortune 100 experience into business ownership and intrapreneurial Corporate leadership. As a servant leader, Lou believes in giving back to his community and has been involved in the Boy Scouts of America's leadership. He serves on a few non-profit and professional boards. Opinions expressed here are solely personal and not a representation of any of the organizations with which he may be affiliated.
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