Sailing is the Cheapest Fun You Can Have

Published on February 18th, 2016

In the February edition of Sailing magazine, columnist Nick Hayes how cheap sailing can be…

If you happen to have the wealth of a monarch (but lack self-control), you could easily spend your net worth on the sport of sailing. But a valid counterpoint is how smart, eager and creative paupers also go sailing, and they spend almost nothing for the privilege.

In fact, there is a strong case to be made that sailing is among the least expensive ways to have the most fun, ever invented.

Consider, for starters, that in 2009 (the most recent data I could find) Golfer Magazine estimated that the average golfer spends about $3,000 a year on golf. Skiers spend closer to $3,500 a year, according to data published in the Atlantic in 2012. Hunters spend, on average, about $3,200 dollars a year, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Piecing together publicly available facts from sailing industry sources; by comparison, each sailor spends half as much as golfers, skiers or hunters. This is based on a rough estimate that sailing generates about $6 billion in economic impact in the United States, including boats, gear, services, transportation, soft goods, storage, slips and moorings, taxes, destination tourism, consumables and charters. If you divide economic impact by the number of sailors making it—there are about 3.6 million of us—you can estimate the amount spent by each: $1,667 a year.

“Sixteen hundred dollars,” you say? “That barely buys a new Cal 20 mainsail, including speed stripes and shipping.”

If the numbers seem implausible, you may be among the sailors who spend the most (as a group and as a percent of income). Middle and upper-middle class sailboat owners (mostly baby boomers) represent 40% of all sailors, we do 35% of all of the sailing, but we spend 54% of the dollars.

We buy most of the newly built and late model boats in the U.S. We occupy most of the marina space. We make up about 95% of club memberships, we reinvest in sails, electronics and safety equipment, and we pay insurance, interest, fees and taxes; in total contributing more than $3.2 billion dollars to annual gross domestic product through our sailing.

For this opportunity, we spend between $17 and $100 an hour, every hour that we sail, depending on taste, technique and target.

So how again is the sport so inexpensive? Click here.

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