How the Inland Empire is growing the sport

Published on January 28th, 2014

The Inland Lake Yachting Association – aka Scow Country – is healthy but always working for more. In this report, Candace Porter of the ILYA highlights the reasons why youth participation after high school and college is at an all time high…

Discounted entries: Our Promotion Committee instituted an incentive for youth sailors which we define as 25 and under. The regatta registration fees are 50% discounted automatically from the Inland Lake Yachting Association for any of our sanctioned events. The National C Scow Association jumped on our bandwagon and committed to a 50% reduction for ALL C scow events with membership. So, yes, that means FREE registration for C Scow youth sailors and 50% discounts for the E, I20, Melges 17 and MC sailors sailing ILYA events and all youth C sailors pay only 50% at all events.

Housing: We added the “strong suggestion” to our regatta organizers that housing be available for our youth sailors. They are given priority over other sailors seeking local housing.

Affordability: We have minimally discouraged the very expensive formal parties for something more financially palatable or we have built the social package into the registration fee which gets 100% coverage for the C youth sailors. We are moving toward appetizers right after racing which can serve as dinner for the younger set. It is always the financial consideration which limits the youth.

Boat ownership: On our local member lakes and older sailors are buying new boats and developing purchase plans to assist our youth with purchases. We don’t believe just asking a top notch college sailor to come and serve as crew is as effective as encouraging boat ownership. We work hard to make that happen. For the ILYA boat ownership is key. Even in our youth programs. While Club 420s are the boat of choice for high school and college, it is the club who owns the boats.

In the ILYA we have an intermediate trainer between Opti and Club 420. Our X boat has an over 100 year history and we boast 100+ boats on the line at our championships. Local events often boast 50+ boats. That is 50 personally-owned boats which sets the stage for a lifetime pattern. At the conclusion of youth sailing, the family has a boat which has kept its value due to our strong programs and that sale becomes a most attractive deposit on a used scow for adult sailing. I personally don’t think you can emphasize enough what the boat ownership model does for a class.

Recycling sails: Experienced sailors buy new sails each year. We hand the one-year old sails down to our youth. New boat sales–is there anything more promising to the growth of a Class? This is a win-win for all of us: youth, experienced sailor, boat builder.

Family: But, most importantly, sailing is what we do! Our families, our neighbors, our local clubs are so engrossed in this endeavor that our social lives in the summer are defined by the sailing schedule. There is a natural expectation that our youth will move into scows-crewing, skipping and owning. We schedule racing for a series on both Saturdays and Sundays. This IS your weekend. It creates a bond amongst our sailors since we are always together. It has created an extended family which benefits us all in many ways. As an aside, when the College Nationals were held in Madison at University of Wisconsin, it was a $120,000 event. Ten percent came from this family of scow sailors (50% from sale of boats, 10% from Terry Kohler, 7% from direct ICSA sponsorship, and the rest from actual fees collected for registration and banquet fees). A lot of numbers, but the bottom line was of all the donations gathered, it was Terry Kohler and the ILYA family who gave.

When Steph Roble, Sally Barkow, John Ruf and Annie Haeger compete, there is the scow family behind them. We have developed a culture where our time, resources and enjoyment come from the structure we have developed. So how do you attract youth? In some ways, George Griswold’s statement rings true. If parents sail, so do families. But the addition from the Inland Lake Yachting Association is we have created a milieu which welcomes youth, enables youth and accepts their accomplishments as our own. We celebrate our successful Classes and what they bring to the world of Midwest sailing.

Legends: Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention the strength of our sailing legends and legends in the making. We make every opportunity to showcase our past successes and our legends continue to give back. I have a marvelous personal story which demonstrates our past and future. An A scow is 40 feet of sheer power. It takes a team of seven hardworking, practiced individuals to successfully master the boat. Eighty year-old Buddy Melges won a championship several years ago in the biggest blow seen in many years. It was a feat no young man could accomplish without total respect for the effort of his crew and the skillful control of the elements.

As I was preparing to present the award (and it was an emotional day with all the respect and love extended to Buddy for this accomplishment), I looked out to the crowd after presenting the Runner-up trophy. In an instant, I recognized ALL who had contributed to this victory. There were children of the crew, wives of the crew and Gloria Melges, but I saw young grandchildren sitting in the crowd, PARENTS of the middle-aged crew, young Opti sailors watching in awe of the legendary Wizard of Zenda. This championship reached so many and yet it was one man winning one regatta. It was generations of friends and relatives celebrating a victory of a sailboat race.

This is what has been created by this sport. The under-10 children sitting there that day will recall that experience for life. Buddy simply BUILT sailors by winning that event. Let’s all celebrate our legends and we here in the ILYA are fortunate to have so very many. It reminds us to continue to work hard to grow this sport.

Republished from the Lake Michigan SuRF Newsletter

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