Supporting the Shallow End of the Pool

Published on March 20th, 2017

The face of weekend sailing has changed. The boats and equipment have become faster and more technical, and the sailors have matched this shift by investing more time and money into skill. Regattas have followed this trend by delivering more intense formats that these sailors desire.

These changes are all good except that it has increased the gap from the casual racer and the more competitive racer. In some cases, the casual racer has tapped out, finding they are no longer getting the enjoyment out of their recreation.

The problem is the sport needs entry points. Call it the shallow end of the pool, and by losing competition for the racer/cruiser contingent, the sport loses an arena for people to get their feet wet. The top of the sport will keep climbing higher, but the base remains vital too.

Geoffrey Emanuel has assembled this list to address the problem he has observed with the decline of people that own racer/cruiser boats from participating in both racing and cruising:


Contributing issues:
• Perceived and real expense
• Long time it takes.
• Intimidation of trying it out
• Junior sailors burned out from “forced march to race and win” pressure cooker
• Juniors focus exclusively on singlehanded; not learning how to or liked to crew
• Media sensationalize racing accidents, alleged elitism of sport, U.S. Olympic failures
• Slow, boring
• Excessively complex racing rules
• Unwelcoming, restricted venues
• Alcohol abuse
• Seasickness
• Limited female participation in adult sailing
• Professionalism/intensity
• No easy entry

Solutions:

• Promote beginner adult offshore sailing/racing
• Promote a fleet of affordable under 30 foot cruiser-racers
> Streamline finding boat, rehab, mooring, winter service
> Sail, equipment limitations
> Long term- create a charter fleet
• Run frequent adult sailing classes- on and off the water (2-3 per summer; navigation and safety at sea winter)
• Separate starts at weeknight events
> Pool of experienced sailors rotate on each beginner boat
• Social events for beginners
• Develop racing and cruising schedule- 2-3 weekend races and 2-3 cruises per summer
• Run pursuit race format on weekends
> 3 hr. max race time
> Round government marks; reaching legs are good!
> Spinnaker and cruising classes
• Off season gatherings at local, family oriented establishments
• Handicap credits for husband/wife/children teams
• Short distance 1-2 overnight cruises; fleet raft up

Try to restore what sailing offered participants in the 1960s and 1970s, which was a casual, fun, family escape from the daily grind. Focus on building a passion for sailing, offshore racing and cruising, all by the same group, instead of bifurcation of racers from cruisers as is more commonly occurring today.

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