Sailor of the Week: July 23-29
We often refer to sailing as a life-long sport. A sport for people of all ages, and it is never too late to learn how. George Burchfiel, 57, decided to give sailing a shot seven years ago for the first time. At the age of 50, George took his wife, Sue’s, advice and they both signed up for sailing lessons at the Mission Bay Aquatic Center in San Diego, Calif. Sue’s idea changed their lives forever.
George had been an avid power-boater his entire life, and water skiing was one of his favorite past times. In his first sailing lesson, George remembers being amazed by the control you could have with a sailboat. It was astonishing for him to see how you could be in such command of a motorless vessel. He quickly became hooked on the concept of sailing, and after his first lesson, George purchased a Hobie 16 on eBay, and they have been sailing it ever since. “What I like most about sailing is that, in a sense, you can control Mother Nature by harnessing the wind and turning it into energy,” he explained. “But you’re never really in control of Mother Nature. She’ll eventually end up letting you know who is boss.”
George has a very competitive side to him, so racing became the next step in his new sailing hobby. “You can learn how to sail in 15 minutes, and spend the rest of your life trying to learn how to sail faster,” he mentioned. “Racing has helped me learn how to sail faster better than anything.”
Just seven years into the sport, George is a huge contributor to Hobie Cat sailing. George is the fleet captain for Hobie Fleet 4 in San Diego, and was the coordinator for the 40th Anniversary Hobie Cat Regatta that took place on October 4-5, 2008 at Doherty State Beach in Dana Point, Calif. The event spanned three days, with approximately 103 boats. Over 500 people attended the celebration and party. Racers came from as far away as Australia and Puerto Rico to attend this event, including several National and World Champions. This was the largest Hobie regatta (racers and non-racers), outside of the National Championships, in over 15 years. The event won US SAILING's One-Design Regatta Award for 2008.
The anniversary celebration included a “town hall” type discussion session with Hobie legends - Hobie Alter, Sr., Wayne Schafer, Sandy Banks, and others. The Doheny State Beach/Park, the Dana Point Interpretive Society, and the Dana Point Historical Society all worked to make this event a success. And all proceeds from the event were donated to the Dana Point Interpretive Society, a non-profit organization. Wyland, the world famous marine life artist, attended the event and painted a Hobie hull, which was auctioned off.
“What I liked most about this event, was that we provided an opportunity for people to start using their Hobies again for the first time in a while,” George said. “This was a special event, and I’m not sure we could replicate what we did at this regatta.”
Getting involved with the Hobie Fleet 4 San Diego was meant a lot to George. When he first got involved, membership was shrinking and activities were stale. The fleet was headed in the wrong direction. Since his arrival, the fleet has established an accurate accounting of their financial standing, re-populated the key leadership positions, drafted new organizational tools, and hosted two successful San Diego Classic regattas and the 40th Anniversary Regatta.
“Membership is starting to grow again,” said George. “Volunteers are plentiful and we're having fun.”