Collaboration, Growth, and a Chicago Focus

Published on November 9th, 2016

Between our variety of boats and their uses, whether it be inshore or offshore racing, no sport is more diverse than sailing. Equally diverse is each sailing area, and it is those with ‘boots on the ground’ that know best their local attributes and challenges.

To best address their needs, a new organization called Chicago Area Sail Racing Association (CASRA) has been launched to provide outstanding sail racing across Chicago’s 18-mile lakefront, and coordinate their various regattas and events to generate maximum participation by Chicago’s boating community.

Mike Hettel, the inaugural president of CASRA, offers this update:

Let’s start with the obvious question, what is CASRA?
CASRA, or Chicago Area Sail Racing Association, is a newly created organization that will serve yacht clubs’, boat owners’, and racers’ interests with a focus on the Chicago waterfront to collaboratively coordinate and grow sail yacht racing. Some key words worthy calling out here are collaboration, growth, and a Chicago focus.

Could you speak to the purpose, goals, and objectives of the organization?
Broadly speaking, the purpose of CASRA is to respond to the needs and desires of the key constituencies that organize a majority of the Sail Racing in Chicago. More specifically CASRA will coordinate sail racing activities of the yacht clubs in the City of Chicago, to promote growth of the sport and foster sail yacht racing, again, in the Chicagoland area.

As to goals and objectives, the immediate tasks at hand include securing input from sail yacht racing owners and crew so that the yacht clubs can develop the 2017 race schedule with that input. CASRA seeks direct input from all constituencies and will employ a few different mediums, to be announced shortly.

Longer term CASRA has thoughts on elevating sail yacht racing to an even higher caliber than exists currently with additional events for the entire boating community in Chicago. Stay tuned, there’s more to come.

So who’s currently involved and who will be involved in CASRA?
CASRA has just very recently been formed by five founding members; Burnham Park Yacht Club, Chicago Yacht Club, Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club, Columbia Yacht Club, and Jackson Park Yacht Club.

As the CASRA organization is very new, at this point involvement is with the five clubs. However, CASRA has plans, discussed and agreed by the five clubs, in process to involve and engage all sail yacht racing participants: all sail boat owners; One Design fleets; racers that crew; other non CASRA clubs and racing organizations; and Regional Sailing Authorities that govern the sport.

What distinguishes CASRA from other sailing organizations?
There are a few key elements here. First, is the focus on the City of Chicago. This is a fantastic sailing city and a skyline view from the water that is second to none, and I make that claim based on experience having sailed in SE Asia, North Asia, Northern Europe, the Caribbean, and the SE US winter circuit. Chicago and the waterfront is a perfect canvas upon which to paint a greater sail racing program.

CASRA will seek to foster and promote growth of the sail racing sport and more broadly boating in general. Whether via building upon current youth programs at the clubs, adding new exciting sail racing events, or creating new events for the boating community in Chicago, growth is a key purpose of CASRA. Additionally, CASRA will bring innovation to all processes with an eye to reducing complexity and increasing availability and participation. Here too stay tuned, there’s more coming.

How will sailboat racing be different in the Chicago Area under CASRA?
CASRA aspires to grow the sport, with a Chicago focus, and via the collaborative efforts of the five founding member yacht clubs, we have the critical mass to effect change and make improvements. So simply being able to drive change via collaboration will be a big difference.

More specifically, from an on the water perspective, racers will see more events, and events tailored to their desires. New to racing sailors will see events tailored to them so they can realize more time on their vessels with family & friends. All will see complexities reduced.

How will CASRA address the issue of declining participation in sailing?

Simply, CASRA will engage boat owners, clubs, harbor management, racing fleets, and sailing organizations of all types, to determine needs and desires, and then respond with offerings via the five clubs comprising CASRA.

This means offering new events, offering events at optimal dates & times, reducing complexity, offering events for owners/sailors new to racing. Lots of work to be done, but the CASRA clubs are up to the tasks.

We hope to hear more from the CASRA organization. Please plan to come back soon.
Yes, we will be back. There’s more coming to Chicago.

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