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Behind The Scenes at Next Level Sailing, an America’s Cup Experience in San Diego

People say to me all the time, “that’s got to be a fun job, out sailing all the time on those fancy America’s Cup yachts.” I try not to be too disappointed as I tell them that I spend most of my time behind a computer, behind the wheel of the car or at the other end of a busy phone.

Of course, there are highlights that do involve sailing, such as the times we’re short of crew or I’m going along to schmooze with a client on the yachts. It’s actually the rare time that I do get out on the water these days, and whether it’s considered work or not, I do enjoy those opportunities and rarely knock back the call to pitch in when we’re in a bind.

Megan Reeves Photography_028 (1)There was a time just over 7 years ago that I was on the water at least 4 days a week. Before taking on the sales and marketing with Next Level Sailing and Dennis Conner’s America’s Cup Experience, I worked for a sailing rental company promoting, selling and delivering team building sailing regatta events. These were not always team building I guess, but ultimately whether they were for fun, a reward for performance or a more serious nature, ultimately any captive audience on a sail boat produces a ‘team’ thing, whether you know it or not.

Where do you go? You’re on a 32 foot boat or similar, 5 or 6 other people –  friends, colleagues or strangers, you’ve never met before today and you’re forced to get to know each other because you have nowhere to run or nowhere to hide. Now that may be a little harsh. It’s not like you’re on Lake Michigan in the middle of winter, or Cape Horn in a raging sea. You’re in San Diego Bay! Almost every day of the year the sun is shining, there’s a 13 knot breeze right down the middle of the bay, you’re getting a sunburn because you didn’t think it would be so nice, and you’ve likely got a cold beer in your hand, to ward off dehydration of course. SO, who wants to run or hide in an atmosphere like this?! Pretty basic to the makings of a great day and although you may not have boarded the boat as friends, there’s every chance you will be by the time you depart.

That was my life for nearly 11 years up to 2006. Corporate groups would come and go. Their planners having checked the box for sailing this time instead of golf, or sometimes both. In that period of near 10 years I entertained over 60,000 visitors, during the course of over 900 events on that bay, and they loved it. Very few were sailors, just people out for a good time. I didn’t mind it either. There aren’t many jobs that you can head out on the water on a pretty day, wave a few flags, take a bunch of photos, watch a bunch of strangers laughing, have a cold beer on the way back to the dock and get a pat on the back for all that hard work.

SternS&S

Pretty fun job….Huh! Well, it was, it is, and it will be, but don’t forget the time behind the computer, the wheel of the car and the busy phone leading up to each of those pretty days. Yep, to me it was like taking a break to be able to go out on the bay and conduct the events, leave the phones and paperwork behind for a few hours. Now I’m dealing with much bigger yachts, much smaller groups, but much more work than I ever did for those 60,000 guests. That’s right. Every job has a “behind the scenes” aspect and it seems as we get more technically proficient in our marketing and supposedly smarter as you age, things just seem to get harder and busier than ever before. Just when you think you have a little direction going for you, something will change. 

I thought to title this story “it’s been a long day”, but in reality it’s been 2 very long weeks and I’ve got ‘technology’ that we all rely on, to blame for it. Well, I better blame myself a little, for had I owned a decent back-up system for my computer, I might have only had one really long week. Yeah, you’ve heard it before, but this is a doozy. Not only does my hard drive crash and hold me to ransom in data recovery hell, but the new computer breaks down constantly for the entire week that I had it before also crashing the hard drive and corrupting every bit of work I did for the previous week. I should have just taken 2 weeks off work… I’d be much further in front.  

Spectators

Anyway, do you know what has come out of this debacle? A fresh start, a clean slate and a positive outlook that I didn’t need all that stuff that was on the computer anyway. Think about it. The world is moving so fast right now, things are changing so much in every direction, people that I may have nurtured in a database for years, in the hope that they might need me one day have likely moved on to other jobs, have had to change industry’s, or just don’t have budgets or perceived ability to use my services anyway. So, I update the web site a little to adjust to the environment, and those that do have a need are likely going to look there first before going back through old files.The web is for the impatient, and there are lots of us. SO, here’s to crashing computers as a way to brighten up ones outlook on the future. Maybe my job just got a fraction easier. One way or another it’s a job that is pretty cool.

CupSternHere I am Mr. ‘America’….with an ‘Aussie’ accent. Let me explain: I do the sales and marketing for “Next Level Sailing” in San Diego, CA. That’s right, most folks know Dennis Conner is the world’s most famous sailor. I on the other hand actually learned to sail properly in San Diego, and despite my novice sailing credentials, am today making Dennis’s famous yachts available for the general public to live out their sailing fantasies. Expert sailor I am not. Expert ‘wannabe’ sailor’…maybe! Expert at helping introduce and deliver these amazing sailing experiences, I try to be!

Here’s the kicker, it was Australia who were the first team to ever beat America to win the “America’s Cup.” Alas only to lose it back to Dennis Conner the very next race. So, you can assume there was some very strong rivalry there in those days of 1983 & 1987. Until a few weeks ago Australia didn’t even field a team since 2000 and America had but one team with a budget healthy enough to do battle. But, while Australia didn’t have a ‘team’ as such, there are fantastic Aussie sailors in the thick of the battle including the 4 who just helped win the America’s Cup. “Oracle Team USA” skippered by Jimmy Spithill from Sydney, pulled off one of the greatest ‘comebacks’ in sporting history, and certainly the biggest comeback in sailing history. From being down 8 races to 1 in a ‘first to 9’ event, they won 8 races in succession to beat ‘Emirates Team New Zealand’ 9 races to 8. What a fantastic week of racing that was. Now it is Australia who has put their hand up as the official ‘challenger of record’, to build a team to take on America at AC35, the next America’s Cup. That’s a story for another day, a long story that I’ll shorten when told but all of which makes up the on-going history of the “America’s Cup”, the pinnacle of the sailing world.

I’m lucky to live in San Diego, this beautiful city that beyond New York/Newport RI & now San Francisco is the only other city in America to host this amazing series of yacht racing, the Holy Grail of sailing. For now I’ll leave you with this, the job is a lot of fun as we sell ‘fun’ – not widgets or software or engines, just great sailing, on huge yachts, for fun and team building, reward & incentive. The ‘reward’ is for me as well as the guests. The clients write great testimonials and that makes the office work worth all the effort.

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