Lou Sandoval (Chicago, Ill.) feels fortunate that the sport of sailing has played such an important role in his life today. “I am a bit of an anomaly when it comes to sailing,” he said. “I grew up in a part of the city where sailing wasn’t what you did.” Lou was introduced to sailing as a Boy Scout many years ago, and now he is a five-time winner of the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac and the current Vice-Chairman of the race for 2011.
“If you had told me back then that I would be sailing in the oldest annual freshwater distance sailboat race, much less heading the organization of the race, I might have laughed,” he added.
Lou has won the Race to Mackinac five out of the last seven years. He has served on the organizing committee for the past six years. His list of accomplishments, community sailing involvement and civic duty is extensive. He is co-Owner/co-Founder of Karma Yacht Sales, a Lake Michigan Beneteau dealer. His firm has been instrumental in the development of the first 36.7 one-design fleet. Lake Michigan is home to the largest F36.7 fleet in North America. He served as chair of the Beneteau 36.7 North American Championship in 2008. Lou was selected as a delegate to represent the Chicago Yacht Club on the Lake Michigan PHRF council from 2002-2009.
Aside from being a leader in the marine industry, Lou is involved on the civic front at many levels. He serves on the board of directors for the Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Foundation (JGASF) and the Chicago Area Council Boy Scouts of America. JGASF is a national foundation that seeks to expand the sport of sailing to sailors with disabilities. He chairs the local chapter of the national Hispanic outreach initiative for Scouting. Lou credits scouting with his exposure to the sport. He has successfully built a company that has obtained national recognition and can serve as an inspiration to youth in the Hispanic community. Lou spends time presenting to Hispanic high school students in Chicago about the importance of setting goals on education and the application of navigating sailboats as a metaphor for life, involvement in the community, business and leading teams.
Lou is focused on leveraging technology to share the Race to Mackinac experience with fans. “Through the use of tracking technology and social media, viewers around the world are able to watch the progress of competing boats,” he said. Lou was quick to give credit to over 150 very competent volunteers on the committee that he described as experts in their own right.
The JGASF along with Chicago Yacht Club is host to the North American Challenge Cup, the national competition for disabled adult sailors. “Having participated as an able bodied sailor in years past with this event, it is impressive how many of the competitors are able to break what many would consider barriers to participating in the sport,” he explained.
“I look forward to the opportunity of being part of this renaissance period by sharing the message of sailing so that the sailors of tomorrow continue to grow up in the sport,” said Lou.
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