Lessons from launching a new fleet

Published on September 20th, 2020

by Shan McAdoo
Doug Trees and I are both getting a little long in the tooth. Time and creeping age forced us to give up sailing on boats that we had decades in and lots of dedication too. Our bodies simply will not let us hike, jump up for the pole, or roll tack. Thankfully, we participate in a sport that will adapt to our situation. This is what brought us to the International 2.4mR class.

We started sailing a couple of years ago in the class’ Florida CanAm circuit in Port Charlotte, but missed our weekly sailing in Marblehead, so after some thought and luck, we ended up buying a fleet of boats (5) Norlin Mk 3 class boats.

With these singlehanded keelboats, we have been incubating new class members and our local fleet. Once we got the boats, we began the process of leveling their performance, getting them in working order, and getting them on the water.

However, in addition to COVID-19, we had to find a home for the fleet and start building interest. For now they are stored in a commercial yard in Marblehead, but with a trailer that handles all 5 boats, we can have an instant fleet anywhere we like.

After the quarantine on organized sailing cleared in July, we literally rushed our fleet to the waterfront and started sailing. We did not have a Race Committee … no problem … find a government mark, sail downwind 4/10ths of a mile and set up a line.

By mid-July we had all 5 boats on the water, both Saturday and Sunday, getting in 5 to 8 races (see photos). No one is keeping score, but some of our numbers are astounding:

• We have introduced the 2.4 meter to 14 new sailors.
• Our youngest sailor was 19 years old.
• Our oldest sailor was 80 years old.
• Eight of those sailors join us on a regular basis.
• We average 3+ different race winners on each race day.
• From first to last, the pack initially had been separated at the finish by almost a full minute but now they are seconds apart.
• By the time we end our season we will have gotten almost 20 days on the water.
• Races were won by old, young, disabled, and able-bodied sailors.

Lessons Learned
Fleet building is hard! We made it as easy as we could for newcomers, we provided identical boats with good sails, easy access, and even water when they were thirsty. Finding people interested in trying the boat was not hard. Finding people that wanted to come out more than once and improve was also not that hard. Our challenge now is to show these people that our fleet and class is and will remain active for the foreseeable future.

After Doug and I funded the project, we kept the sailing free this year, and plan to keep the local sailing free, but looking toward the future, we aspire to charter the boats for events or sell them at cost. We also hope to create a permanent and accessible base next season.

We are amazed at how far we have come and excited about the CanAm winter sailing again in Florida as well as next summer in Marblehead. We hope to have 10 or 12 2.4s at next year’s Marblehead NOOD, and with luck we can build a Tour of New England with stops in Newport and Marblehead.

Learn more about the International 2.4 meter: http://www.us24meter.org/

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