New Regatta Formats: Build it, promote it, and help them come

Published on March 20th, 2014

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
This year marks the 27th Anniversary of the NOOD Regattas, which in 2014 includes six stops in the United States. While the NOODs are known to be a One Design regatta serving classic buoy courses, the 2014 San Diego NOOD on March 14-16 presented a new feature – the North Rally Race.

The North Rally Race was a one day, random leg, PHRF-scored race geared for new-to-racing sailors, families, custom boats that don’t fit within the one design concept of the NOODs as well as the avid racer that only has one free day.

The race is similar to the format used by the hugely popular Hot Rum Series in San Diego, which hosts a set of three pursuit start random leg races, held every other weekend, with the course covering 12 miles in and out of the San Diego Bay.

So how come the three race Hot Rum Series attracts 140+ boats and the single NOOD Rally Race attracted only 10? Here are some observations…

* Handicap racers see the NOOD as a One Design brand which they don’t typically consume. Excessive outreach is needed to overcome that obstacle.

* The winner of the Rally Race, a stock J/105, did not have a PHRF handicap before they entered, and found the process of getting a PHRF handicap to be somewhat excruciating.

* The Hot Rum Series uses a handicap system that is based on PHRF, but managed by the event host. Entrants are not required to have a PHRF handicap. The event host will assign a rating to boats without a PHRF rating at no additional fee.

* An adjacent club was hosting a handicap event which attracted 18 boats that may have otherwise done the Rally Race.

* The One Design fleet and Rally Race fleet had separate fees and a separate NOR and SI. There was some confusion.

* A prominent pram regatta on the same weekend depleted the NOOD of skippers and crew who were supporting their child’s activity.

The entry fee for the Rally Race was higher than the comparisons above, but taking in account the NOOD swag and ambiance, this becomes a minor factor, and still far cheaper than running a marathon. Plus, Scuttlebutt was such a fan of the idea that we paid for the first five entries to contact us, so free is a zero hurdle.

It’s good that NOOD took this leap, as it addresses a growing desire that alternatives are needed to the template Windward-Leeward regatta format. Any trend that can stir up the pecking order and instill some fun seems like a good trend.

Build it, promote it, and help them come.

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