Living , Modern

Leonard

Shabes

Lenny

1948

Leonard “Lenny” Shabes is the founding Chairman and Executive Director of the American Sailing Association.

Lenny started his sailing career by sailing small model wooden boats across the pond in Manhattan’s Central Park – and dreaming he was aboard. After moving to California in the 1960s, he took sailing lessons and fell in love with the sport. One day, a sailing instructor at a local school called Lenny to ask if he would teach a sailing class. He did so, and for his first day of teaching was paid the princely sum of $27. Lenny was having fun and loved teaching sailing. He soon decided to hang out his own sailing school shingle and shortly thereafter added a charter company that also sold boats to his students and others.

One day, a Canadian sailor on vacation inquired about chartering the largest sailboat in the fleet. The customer asked if Canadian Yachting Association (CYA) certification was accepted and he introduced Lenny to their set of national standards. He showed Lenny his logbook which reflected increasing levels of proficiency, displaying certifications from beginner through advanced. It also included a well-kept log of his sailing experience. Seeing the level of professionalism that the CYA logbook represented was all it took. Lenny immediately recognized the value of an organized association of like-minded schools that teach to an agreed-upon set of standards. He also saw the impact that it could make on the level of professionalism of teaching sailing in the U.S. He contacted the CYA and asked if they were interested in working together.

Lenny was on the next plane to Canada where he successfully licensed their educational system and adapted it for the United States. In 1982, Lenny and his wife, Cindy, took all the money they had and started the American Sailing Association (ASA). Since then Lenny’s vision of high-quality, universally accepted sailing standards has thrived. Since its inception, ASA has certified 7,500 sailing instructors who have taught more than 476,000 people how to sail and issued almost a million certifications to the various levels of sailing proficiency. ASA’s effect on the sailing industry is now worldwide. Over 300 authorized schools now teach sailing throughout the United States, as well as in Belize, the British Virgin Islands, Canada, the Caribbean (28 schools), China, Cyprus, Egypt, Hong Kong, Greece, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Thailand, the Canary Islands, Singapore, and the U.S. Virgin Islands – with more to come.

ASA didn’t start the sailing school business in the U.S., but it united a diverse group of schools to employ a standardized educational system that brought the schools together under a common banner. ASA didn’t start the charter business either, but it has been a major contributing factor to its growth and success by creating an experienced cadre of licensed instructors and partner schools that – through their combined efforts – provide a growing body of trained and certified customers.

Today ASA affects the entire industry – 70% of all of ASA’s certified sailors want to charter after graduation, and approximately 5% of ASA certified sailors buy boats within a few years. They also buy books, navigation and safety equipment, sails, rain gear, jackets, hats, gloves, boots and a boathouse full of other supplies. ASA’s critically-acclaimed sail training textbooks – co-authored by Lenny – have sold almost one million copies worldwide. Lenny’s continued involvement and commitment to sailing and to the ASA has resulted in an exciting entry-level, low cost, and fun-to-sail 22-foot training boat in partnership with Beneteau. He has also developed a marketing partnership and sail training program specifically designed to attract young people to the sport by capitalizing on the America’s Cup catamaran’s popularity with Hobie Cat and Oracle.

Lenny’s vision of ASA has evolved into one of the largest sail training associations in the world, but his goal remains the same as it has always been: “Attract people to sailing, train them how to do it well, and keep them in our industry by showing them how much fun sailing is!”

Accomplishments and Honors

  • Founding Chairman and Executive Director of the American Sailing Association
  • Since its inception, ASA has certified 7,500 sailing instructors who have taught more than 500,000 people how to sail, and issued almost a million certifications to the various levels of sailing proficiency

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