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Being strong, Staying strong

Published on December 4th, 2019

Immense progress in design and material has allowed for modern boats to be faster, but faster does not translate to being better when the focus is about what makes for a successful one design class. Consider the Thistle Class, designed in 1945 by Gordon K. (Sandy) Douglass, and still attracting 60+ boats to their US National Championship.

But class organizations can’t rest on their heritage; constant work is needed. John I. Howell III, Vice President of the Thistle Class Association (TCA), shares the work his class is doing.

When we recently reviewed results from the 2019 TCA Class Survey, the first of two major findings are that the average age of Thistle sailors is between 57 and 59 which means we have less than 10 years to grow the 25-40 age demographic.

If we cannot increase the number of younger sailors by 250-300 members in 10 years, most of the class will age out, and we will be watching the class disappear. Simple math says we need to add 25-30 new members or about 4% per year.

If we assume that half of these new members will come from families, then we need 8 families and 12-14 new single members each year. Since the class has about 60 active fleets, we can meet our growth goal by adding ONE new member to each fleet, every two years. Stated in this fashion, adding 250-300 new members (under 40) does not seem so unimaginable.

The good news is that the class is growing already. Class Secretary Joy Martin reported that as of Oct 15, 2019, the Class has grown from 633 members to 652 members or just about 3% per year. The question is how do we maintain and expand this growth profile in the coming years.

First, we must identify who should be attracting and engaging these new members. Again, the survey results gave us some great input. The principle reasons we sail Thistles are, in order, PEOPLE, BOAT, and COMPETITION.

When we look at the under 40 crowd, they would add a fourth reason being PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO SHARE THEIR KNOWLEDGE. The fact that people are the number one reason we sail the boat suggests that our sailors are the best ambassadors we can have to invite new sailors to join the class.

The December 2019/January 2020 edition of the TCA publication has a theme of how to maintain a strong class… click here.

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