The Demise of Local Fleet Racing

Published on October 4th, 2016

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
Whenever someone is looking to get involved in racing but is unsure of what boat to sail, I invariably suggest they look at what is popular in their local area. Odds are this choice will offer the most activity and greatest rewards.

When it comes to one design boats, local fleet activity is the backbone of the class, and arguably the sport too. This is where racing is its simplest and most inviting. Local racing can fit into our busy lives and stretched budgets. Local fleets provide social fulfillment. Our sport grows through active local fleets.

Keeping local fleets strong is the responsibility of all its members, but as Glenn McCarthy points out in the Lake Michigan Sail Racing Federation newsletter, this tenet may not always be everyone’s priority…

When I was young, the Star Class had rules that in order to go to a District, National, or World Championship you had to qualify by Eliminations Series through your local fleet. This caused a lot of people to practice at their local club, even the rock stars of the likes of Harry Nye, Bill Parks, and many others. Then came the demolition.

Some of those rock stars didn’t wish to waste their time sailing at their local fleet; they just wanted to go to the major events and nothing else. The Star Class members agreed to this and changed the rules to allow open events for the District or National events. The World Championship still has a qualifier, yet has many more avenues to qualify than just through the fleet.

What happened to fleet racing since? Frankly, for the most part, it has collapsed.

The rock stars are happy. They travel far and wide and aren’t seen at home or even regattas across the District. They hit the Bacardi Cup, National and World Championships. It accomplished their goals. The vocal minority won the day.

Should rules like this be blown up? Should qualifiers come back to the fleets in order to qualify for major championships in Inshore One-Design Classes? Would this grow racing?

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