Advice from an award-winning organizer

Published on March 4th, 2020

Sail Canada will recognize its 2019 Sail Canada Awards recipients at the Sail Canada Rolex Sailor of the Year Awards on March 6 in Toronto, Ontario. Receiving the City of Kingston Regatta of the Year Award* is Shelburne Yacht Club for hosting the 2019 Albacore International Championship.

Shelburne is a small town of only 1800 in Nova Scotia and this was their first international regatta, jointly run between the Club and the Town. In total, there were 47 teams competing from Canada, the United States, and Europe. Here is some insight from the hosts:

What classic elements of a regatta did you include so people knew what to expect?

Our organizing committee made sure that the racing element was impeccable. This meant securing the best race committee and judges that we could find and making sure that the racing venue was top notch with well-organized races.

We made sure not to launch the competitors too early in the day (to ensure reliable breeze). We also made sure that there was a full on-shore post-racing program to keep competitors together and interacting with each other.

It was to be our time to show just what we could do when we all worked together. We stressed that we had to view every component from a participant’s perspective and give them everything they could want and more.

What would you say were the significant contributing factors to the success of the event?

The racing conditions were perfect. We are very lucky that Mother Nature cooperated. We had sunshine every racing day and planing conditions every racing day. I think our key was that everybody truly “bought-in” to the regatta from the Yacht Club and members to the Town of Shelburne and its businesses and citizens. We had great sponsorship, an incredible volunteer network and flexibility and generosity of the Town.

We were also fortunate to have the best race management team – thank you Peter Van Muyden, Shelly Vaughan and the on-water judges, they were superstars. Results were posted the minute the signal boat was ashore. This is important to competitors.

On-the-water judging was strict and fair. There were no judging related requests for redress. The athletes themselves were both fierce and respectful. There were no rules infraction-related protests. This made for great camaraderie ashore.

If you could give one piece of advice to a club looking to host an event, what would it be?

If the racing aspect of a regatta is adequate almost no one will remember what happened out on the water. They’ll only remember the racing years later if it was awful (like a four-day drifter or poor race management) or epic (like 7 days of planing conditions). What happens ashore is the make-or-break element for a successful regatta that athletes will talk about for years to come.

This includes little things like dinghy park management, and (in our case) having a launching dolly crew that organized competitors’ dollies so they wouldn’t have to wait in long queues to launch or retrieve their boats. We made sure that there was a nightly gathering each night with daily prizes and activities. Get the shore activities just right and it will be successful!

Lastly, to clubs contemplating hosting a major regatta, the best advice is to build a capable, committed team, plan thoroughly, work like crazy but always have fun. A smiling face and a helping hand go a long way making up for any shortcomings beyond your control.

* Also receiving this award is the Kingston Yacht Club for hosting the Blind Fleet Racing World Championship.

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