Storm clouds on the horizon

Published on November 11th, 2019

by Don Finkle, RCR Yachts
It is that time of year when most clubs and fleets have their annual awards dinners, at least up north. These are generally some of the best parties of the year, a chance to spend time with your sailing friends and crew while doing so in nice clothes. Surprisingly some of these folks clean up pretty well!

War stories are told and the winners get to pick up their prizes. The rest get to complain about their PHRF rating, the need for new sails, the race they missed that dropped them in the standings, the race committee abandoning the race when they were winning, the protest we lost when we know we were right, all that sort of stuff….”wait until next year and we’ll get ’em”.

While we are doing this we should all take the time to thank all of those who make it possible for us to enjoy sailboat racing, and there are many. Those who make the schedule, the volunteers who man the race committees, the scorers, the people who maintain the RC boats and marks… the list is lengthy.

It is worth noting that most race committee staff now sport grey hair. Some of it may have come from the stress of the job, but the primary reason is advancing age. To be frank, the younger generations are busier than ever and it is more difficult to get them to give up their free time. By younger we mean those under retirement age.

It takes time to learn the ropes so you can be a good race officer or PRO; much of it comes from experience gained through years on the water in all kinds of conditions. Unless we start to train new people and allow for them to be mentored before the old hands age out, we run the risk of running out of qualified people.

To make matters more serious, racers of today are more demanding of good RC work. It is not simply a case of raising flags and blowing horns, racers want start lines that are the right length and angle, courses that are true and of the right distance, and so on. The competitors are much more likely to complain than offer praise.

It is not only the RC teams that are at risk; you can throw in the handicappers, protest committees, and the rest. We all have a hand in this – we can be part of the problem or part of the solution. Think about that for a moment.

Recently my local TV news ran a story about the dwindling supply of referees in youth sports, football and hockey specifically, but it is probably the case in other sports as well. Poor treatment, lack of respect or failure to recognize a job well done could just end up turning off an otherwise willing person.

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