It’s not a secret how to promote racing

Published on May 22nd, 2018

Kurt Hoehne reports from the Pacific Northwest on what we all know but bears repeating (and repeating).


“At what point will the other clubs take notice?”

This question came out with all of Nate Creitz’ overflowing, bubbling, enthusiasm for the Race to the Straits (RTTS), a double and single-handed Sloop Tavern Yacht Club event from Seattle to Port Townsend and back (with an overnight in the unique sailing town Port Townsend).

With a course length of 30.3nm each day, the RTTS hit its limit of 125 boats several days before the start, and it’s no wonder. The atmosphere before, during and after the event is special. And as for Nate’s question, I’m pretty sure they have noticed.

In my experience, the traditional clubs have a hard time changing course. It is not like destination racing and shorthanded racing haven’t been mentioned before (they have, multiple times). But there’s something special in the Sloop Tavern mindset that the leaders responded “Why the hell not?” and just did it.

Make no mistake, it’s a logistical challenge get all the staggered start times, provide the not-usually-a-racer crowd with ratings so they can do this one event, dealing with the folk in Port Townsend (who are eager hosts). Add to that a pizza punctuated skippers meeting and the big dinner Saturday night, and it’s a lot of work. But it sure seems the STYC folk are having fun doing it!

Maybe the task is too daunting for clubs used to doing everything from Seattle?

I’ll add a question to Nate’s: When will the sailors come up with some new courses and new formats? For whatever reason, the round-the-buoys race until you drop thing just isn’t as appealing to many keelboat sailors as it used to be while the less predictable, more organic racing like RTTS, Round the County, and Van Isle 360 thrive.

Personally, I think there are places for both. But in the end, no matter how intransigent the clubs are, it’s the sailors who get to decide. Want more shorthanded racing? Multiple stages? Season Championship series? Build it and they will come. Or not.

Is there the will to energize the racing scene with some altered or new events? Perhaps not. Last fall’s sailish.com survey indicated there is the will.

But judging from the scene at Port Townsend Saturday night and on the Sound both days, the excitement seems to be there.

Comment: We are continually reminded how the driving factor to increase participation is event format. If your racing area has seen the pendulum swing toward a steady diet of long days with windward-leeward courses and/or the heightened level of competition is proving hard to keep up with, consider alternative formats that tone down the intensity and the need for “perfect crew work”. – Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt

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