COMMENTARY: Escalating entry fees

Published on June 27th, 2013

By James Marta – Seattle, WA:
Bravo to Henry Sprague’s exposure of the escalating entry fees imposed by yacht clubs, thus defeating a major purpose of their existence; its participation in yachting.

In the Seattle area’s past history, we used to have just two principle racing yacht club sponsors, and we had wonderful turnouts for racing. No entry fees were charged except for the Swiftsure Race, Victoria to Maui, or the Southern Straits Race. We joined a club to have the right to race!

We then had new marinas come into existence between the sixties and the eighties, and they often founded new marina yacht clubs which were typically woefully unfunded. The new clubs sponsored a few races with small entry fees…a new trend then began.

The “bean counters” at the richer clubs then saw a new revenue stream coming their way and began to charge entry fees, and these now are at unacceptable rates! The fees are so high that they discourage young and even older sailors to race.

The old standard was that one joined a yacht club to have the privilege of racing one’s boat under the burgee of their club. The older two Seattle clubs did not charge each other’s members to race in their races in the years past, but now they do. And, they charge their own members to race!

Now, the question is raised as to why race attendance has fallen so drastically. Our Tri-Island (sponsored by Seattle Yacht Club) sees thirty or fewer boats on the long courses where we used to see 300 plus boats participating in just one race of the series, the Vashon Island Race. What has changed?

Some would say that boat design has changed to make some of the boats uncompetitive, yet that has always been the case, even in years past. Sails have changed, yet that has always been the case too. The only new variable is that the entry fees discourage entering races.

After fifty years of racing, which I still enjoy, I find the fees make my season a much shorter one due to the ever increasing nuisance fees. It’s easy to spend a couple of thousand dollars each season if one wants to have a full season of racing.

Yacht racing is now controlled by the finance committees, not the membership of the clubs. These committees forget just why the clubs were formed in the first place. Yacht clubs aren’t private banks, nor should they be for profit only. Yacht clubs should provide yachting experiences for the membership period! We need to remember just why yacht clubs have been formed and to encourage new and younger members to belong.

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