Peter Durant grew up sailing on Cape Cod and has dedicated a large portion of his life to sailing, both personally and professionally. We’ve heard about his previous roles with the Community Boating Center in New Bedford, MA, and as a trainer and coach with US Sailing. But, his MBA from Babson College, his years managing Finance, Operations and Customer Service at Concordia, his time as a production manager with equipment and supplies manufacturer Seitech Marine Products, and even his stint at a ski resort—all contribute to his role as Sail America’s new Association Manager.
You've been professionally involved with sailing for two decades, correct? Did you grow up sailing?
I grew up spending summers in North Falmouth [Massachusetts], and sailing on Buzzards Bay. My parents summered on the Cape and I was lucky to learn to sail on my mom’s Herreshoff 12½ and a Beetle Cat. These wooden boats will always remind me of my childhood, but I love all boats.
I grew up sailing in local programs and playing around with boats on the weekends. Eventually, I got a Laser and then learned to windsurf. As a kid, my mom would watch from the beach. At dinnertime, she would wave for me to come in, but generally she would end up just keeping dinner warm for me.
I love cruising and racing. Cruising on Buzzards Bay offers many great destinations that are so accessible. I’m also an avid racer and am currently sailing in the Etchells class.
My wife and I are raising our kids on the water and I’m already noticing the profound impact sailing has on the next generation.
What, in your background, prepares you most for this role as Association Manager?
When I was 18, I began to teach sailing and taught through college. Once I graduated, I worked in customer service at Vanguard Racing Sailboats introducing new boats, including the Club 420 and Optimist, to sailing programs that were updating their equipment. Rather than simply delivering these boats, I was able to leverage my training skills to enhance the product delivery for Vanguard by teaching the staff how to rig and use these new boats, empower programs to teach sailing more effectively.
In my younger years, I worked as a ski coach for kids ages 4–6. And, that helped me learn more about teaching sailing to kids. As a ski coach, I learned about balance and body-based movement and about introducing young people to a new sport. I was able to apply these learning’s later in my career when making sailing more accessible to kids while working with the Community Boating Center [New Bedford, MA]. Introducing people to sailing is one of Sail America’s top priorities. I’m very comfortable with this objective.
With an MBA, I also spent several years in the banking world. Having a background in finance has been important in many of my roles, and will continue to be important at Sail America. My MBA was focused on entrepreneurship, which is in line with much that I have seen thus far from Sail America’s member businesses.
Ultimately, if we help introduce people to sailing, and connect them with our member businesses, we will promote the health and growth of sailing.
What brought you to Sail America?
I first became aware of Sail America while with Vanguard Racing Sailboats. I attended ASAP’s (American Sail Advancement Program) first few Sail Expo Shows in Atlantic City and saw how this show grew. I became aware that a boat show dedicated to sailing was important for the industry and consumers.
While I had kept tabs on the Association over the years, my recent interest in Sail America grew from the desire to leverage the broad industry background and support the growth of sailing, on the national level.
I fundamentally believe in supporting organizations and associations that positively impact the industries that are important to me. My wife jokes every year when I join one particular organization that I must join for the free hat. But in all seriousness, I believe in giving back in some way to the influences in our lives. Whether that is a local land trust, or a sport, or an industry that we love, we need to do our part to help support what they do for each of us. I’d like to support sailing, and my new role with Sail America is a great way to do so.
What strengths do you bring to Sail America?
Twenty years in the industry is an asset. I’ve worked in retail, taught sailing, volunteered with US Sailing, managed boatyard operations and customer service, run production and manufacturing, and directed a community sailing program. I have direct experience in the many facets of this industry and also have an appreciation of how they are all reliant on each other.
I am also a sailor, windsurfer, cruiser, and racer and I have seen many products and services in my years. And in every role, I would support customers—whether they were boat owners or students—to improve their experiences. These experiences shaped the foundation for me to interact with Sail America’s members.
What's your vision for Sail America?
This is less my vision, and more about fulfilling the vision of the organization and its members.
Sail America’s mission is to promote the health and grown of sailing. And the Association has three goals. First, to create connectivity between the sailor and our member businesses. Second, to contribute to the growth and success of our member business. And, finally, to represent the sailing segment of the larger boating industry.
I bring a diverse background to Sail America. Having worked in so many aspects of the overall industry, I hope to partner with our members to bring them all together—to pull their oars together—to move the industry forward.