Love it, or you’ll leave it

Published on February 25th, 2015

by Don Finkle, RCR Yachts
A common topic is bantering around on why we don’t have more people racing, or why people drop out. One reason I believe is that not enough fall in love with sailing itself. If you don’t love to sail then the lure of racing is not as strong; it is just another activity fighting for limited spare time.

On our boat we almost always sail around after any local race, enjoying the day or evening, passing the helm around, and maybe talking about what happened on the course. A few others do that but many start the grinder and drop their sails within a few yards after finishing, powering back to the dock as fast as they can go.

These after-race wind-down sessions are excellent for crew bonding and enjoying the sunset, simply sailing for sailing’s sake. No pressure, no hiking, just enjoying the breeze and the feel of the boat going through the water. Why the rush to get back to the club and stand at the bar inside when you can be on the boat? The answer is you have to want to be on the boat in the first place.

The cost of racing sailboats is often blamed for the decline, and while cost is always a factor, I don’t think it is the primary issue. If cost was the main problem then how do you explain the difficulty in finding crew members when their cost to participate is minimal?

Let’s face it… racing sailboats takes time, and time is the real culprit. This is where love for sailing comes in. Those who love sailing, whether racing or not, are “hooked” and will do what it takes to go racing. Sailing in any form is more of a priority to those of us who love it.

I was discussing this with my son Tim last week and we both agreed that we were bitten by the sailing bug as kids.

In my case, we were seldom able to race as it pre-dated junior sailing. We simply went out by ourselves in assorted dinghies with no coaches, no instructors, and rarely any parents around. That was a different world then; we had few other competing activities aside from backyard sports, building tree houses, etc.

Tim and his buddy Morgan grew up in a junior sailing program but they would also take off in their Lasers for the fun of it when they had free time. I would guess that there are many in the older generations who learned to love sailing in their youth and continue to be active today.

You can certainly come to sailing later in life but often there is not that same deep attachment. I will go out on a limb here and say that we create our own problems when attracting new sailors. Too often we do not give them meaningful jobs on the boat and regular training so they can grow as sailors. Eventually a steady diet as rail meat or deck fluff gets old, especially when you are not part of a winning team.

Winning is the other problem, as only a few boats can win. If you are not winning, and not having fun, then soon you will find another way to spend your precious free time. So it can’t be just about the results.

If you want to keep those new sailors you need to make sure they are being challenged, being made to feel like they are a meaningful part of the team, being taught, listened to, and having FUN! Let them drive out to the racecourse or back in afterward. Then maybe they will learn to love sailing like we do.

Source: RCR Yachts Racers’ News

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