Activating Interest in Sailing

Published on March 21st, 2018

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
When a World Championship is held within a country, it has the opportunity for those within reach to heighten interest or provide unmatched competition in that class of boat. But for a few events, such as the America’s Cup or the Volvo Ocean Race, there is the greater opportunity to heighten interest in the sport.

However, as sailing is an experiential activity, providing the means to readily activate the interest is imperative. And that’s what happened for members of the public and school groups during the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race stopover at the Auckland viaduct from February 24 to March 18.

More than 3000 people tried sailing with Yachting New Zealand’s Volvo Sailing… Have a Go! Programme which provided a fleet of Topaz Omegas.

“It’s a fantastic result and exceeded expectations,” said Yachting New Zealand chief operating officer Andrew Clouston. “The main aim for us was to give people a really good first-time experience of sailing and it was great to see so many beaming smiles after people came off the water. The vast majority of people had never sailed before.”

But it’s one thing to offer that first opportunity, but equally important is connecting the dots for what lies beyond. Everyone who indicated an interest in learning more about sailing had their details passed on to their nearest club, who are encouraged to follow up these leads to help grow their own membership.

The Volvo Sailing… Have a Go! programme relied on a number of volunteers, with many skippering the boats or helping out on the dock. On top of that, a number of Olympic sailors, including Rio medallists Sam Meech, Alex Maloney and Molly Meech, took people sailing.

“We had a great bunch of volunteers and we couldn’t have done it without them,” Clouston said. “At times we had no wind and at others lots of wind but everyone had a good experience.

“Yachting New Zealand sees this as creating a pathway for people into yacht clubs because there’s definitely an interest in sailing around the country. We know of three groups who went to a boat shop after sailing with us to ask about what sort of yacht they should get and there are bound to be other stories like that.”

But not every harbor or lake hosts international events, nor is that needed when other events deliver the visual of sailing activity. Any decent gathering of boats, when placed in front of parks or city fronts, creates the opportunity to heighten interest in the sport. All that’s needed is the effort to activate it.

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