Class growth: Stop preaching to the choir

Published on September 24th, 2014

by Scott Brown
When it comes to racing the Nite iceboat, there’s an interesting problem. It’s too comfortable. It could be the two-person capacity or the semi-upright seating. Whatever the reason, there are hundreds of accomplished summer sailors seemingly content to spend their winters cruising around at high speeds on winter’s frozen ice instead of lining up to race around the buoys.

But a noticeable change is happening as more and more owners are beginning to race. And this has taught the class an important lesson – stop preaching to the choir.

“We’re just applying some basic marketing principles,” said Don Sanford, commodore of the International Nite Class Association. “We were so focused on our current members that we forgot how important it is to create a clear path of entry for new members. So we’ve redesigned our website (niteracing.org) with the new guy in mind.”

For starters, the site breaks down the notion that racing a Nite requires a highly specialized boat. Actually, the class by-laws follow a strict one-design philosophy. All those cruising boats are already race ready.

A second focus is to communicate some of iceboat racing’s oddities such as its unique set of rules, on-the-ice registration and the idea that the location of the regatta is never really known until just a few days prior to the first race. Basic stuff to a current racer, but not so for the newcomer.

“Our new members frequently mentioned their decision to start racing was influenced by a friend or local sailor,” Sanford said. “This one-on-one relationship turns out to be a key conduit of information. So we’ve created a mentor program in which anyone can contact us through the website and we’ll connect them with a current member to help get them started. It’s the buddy system gone digital.”

The Nite National Championship trophy is engraved with some of sailing’s well-known names; Melges, Gluek, Burdick, Allen and Sweitzer among others. The hope is to expand this list in generations to come. The 2015 Nite Nationals are slated for January 17th and 18th, and of course, the location won’t be known until just a few days prior.

Editor’s note:
Speaking from experience, most one design class websites assume a certain amount of knowledge from the viewer. This is fine for active class members, but not for new members. Props to the Nite class for realizing this.

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