Harken Derm

A Changing Landscape

Published on June 19th, 2016

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
A recent Scuttlebutt survey asked whether one design classes with a significant number of professional entries should begin considering hosting Corinthian-Only events.

The example used in the survey was the J/70 Class, however, there are many one design classes that have no restriction on the participation of professional sailors (ie, Group 3 sailors). In these instances, the “pro teams” generally fall into one of three categories:

• Group 3 owner driver
• Paid Group 3 crew
• Non-paid Group 3 crew

Of the three categories, the ‘Paid Group 3 crew’ group has caused the most consternation. While Group 3 sailors tend to have a significant impact in performance, if one design class rules do not restrict Group 3 sailors, than their participation becomes a legal performance variable like new sails, going to the gym, coaching, etc.

The results of the poll came strongly in favor of the idea of Corinthian-Only events:
Yes – 81%
No – 19%

With such a strong response, it would appear this is a mandate not for Corinthian-Only events but for one design classes without Group 3 restrictions to consider whether a change is needed. As this ‘Yes’ respondent commented, “The Pro’s drive up costs and bring a win at any cost mentality. Over time, the mid fleet competitors get frustrated and quit.”

This comment from the survey reflects on how the landscape has changed in the sport:

“My answer is a combination of yes and no. Having spent 20 years competing among pros in the J/24 class, I enjoyed racing against them and beating them once in a while. However, the level of professionalism has changed in the sport. In the past, the pros made you successful to make them successful, and they were more than willing to help you climb to the top of the class. While there may be a few of those left, I fear that the mercenaries have taken over the fleet who are paid to win and win at all costs. Skippers with deep pockets have no qualms about paying crews big bucks for a regatta today. So, a Corinthian regatta today is probably similar to racing with the pros before.”

Every one design class has the opportunity to define what it wants to be in its class rules, and then foster a membership that embodies its mission. However, if sustained activity (and growth) are objectives, the cost of participation – in both time and money – need to be considered. Having good parties helps too.

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