Increase Participation, Improve Satisfaction
Published on May 19th, 2016
If Annapolis Yacht Club is right, other clubs will need to sit up and take notice. What they’ve done with their Annual Regatta next month is to look beyond the advanced racing teams and re-tune the event to be more inclusive to the casual racers.
At its peak in the 1990s, the AYC Annual Regatta predominantly featured handicap racing. Over the past decade or so, one-design competition has become more popular and those classes have come to dominate the regatta. Participating in PHRF classes has decreased to the point the handicap component of the event has not been held for five years.
“Everyone talks nostalgically about what we did in the past. A lot of folks were quite happy about how things used to be,” said Mark Murphy, who is assisting in the event. “Perhaps things have gone too far in terms of the one-design and windward-leeward trends. Maybe we need to get back to the way it was done before. We just want to encourage folks to come out and enjoy a day of sailing while testing themselves against other boats on a challenging course.”
Among the alterations to the AYC Annual Regatta are the introduction of cruising classes, the revival of PHRF classes, condensing competition from two to one day for all boats and celebrating at an awards party upon conclusion of racing.
Starts for Cruising Spinnaker, Cruising Non-Spinnaker, Short-handed Spinnaker and Short-handed Non-Spinnaker classes will be offered with distance courses around government marks for all handicap entries.
“We are seeking to introduce racing to the cruising sailor so we need to make sure things are not too complicated,” Murphy said. “This is one big experiment and we need to be flexible and responsive to the sailors.”
Another significant change involves reducing the regatta to one day on June 11 in order to promote camaraderie and sense of unity among the entire fleet. A key reason for having all classes compete on Saturday involves a post-regatta prize-giving party that is new this year.
In years past, the AYC Annual Regatta awards were handed out at a later date. Now all the sailors will gather for a fun party at the Annapolis Yacht Club Sailing Center for food, drinks and a proper trophy presentation.
Paul Parks, chairman of the Annapolis Yacht Club’s newly-created Sailing Committee, believes those two alterations should make the Annual Regatta more appealing for fledgling racers.
“We think a one-day event is critical for the cruiser. We discussed this issue at length among the committee, and were in agreement that a known course going out and a good party afterward is a winning combination,” Parks said.
Workshops and icebreakers in April and May were held to support potential racers and discuss the state of participation.
Regatta chairs Craig and Dotty Saunders remember the glory days when the Annapolis Yacht Club Annual Regatta attracted a large contingent of boats and are eager to turn the tide. “We want the non-traditional racers to know that we are taking steps to make the Annual Regatta easier and more enjoyable,” notes Dotty. “Our overriding goal is to increase participation and improve satisfaction.”