Class strength comes from within
Published on June 22nd, 2021
by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
When I got second at the Melges 24 US Nationals, it early days for the class, but the boat was already gaining rapid attention. Local fleet activity was vibrant, but with sailmakers working hard to improve performance, the level of commitment to excel ramped up too.
It was not long when early owners were tapping out and local racing was replaced by regional and national events. Top amateurs were replaced by professional sailors, and the prominent events were massive occasions which attracted the who’s who in the sport. Winning in the class became a major achievement.
But by the time of the 2013 World Championship in San Francisco, it had all become a bit much. Class activity soon decreased as boats were being sold, with boat value taking a big hit. It was a buyers’ market for what was still a remarkable boat, allowing entry for a more casual competitor to race in PHRF or relaunch local one design activity.
It is a common cycle, and while the Melges 24 Class is again seeing great one design racing in the USA, it is also attracting a high level of competitor. There is always a balance between investment to compete and enjoyment for participation to thrive. When the costs exceed the fun, people pivot toward another form of recreation.
During a panel discussion on the state of one design sailing, Laura Jeffers, the Executive Secretary for the International Lightning Class, remarked how class strength is also a result of member involvement:
“The value of your asset, the boat, increases with the value of the class. By keeping the class strong, everyone’s investment remains strong too. But to do so, it comes down to the community of sailors in the class, and fostering the family aspect within the membership. Class strength comes from within its cheerleaders and volunteers. If you want your local or regional class to be stronger, you need to help make that happen.”
This reminds me of a column I wrote for Sailing World magazine in which I highlighted the importance of involvement for class health:
“Answer this honestly: Are you a giver or a taker? Our sport needs both in order to function, and each of us must be both. If we are only takers, we must consider the impact of our actions. When we are racing in a regatta, most of us are takers. Somebody else organized it, somebody else is running the races, and somebody else is scoring it and hosting the party. We are takers, and all those who make it happen are givers. We can’t be givers by simply writing a check. We must physically be part of it.”
Here is the the panel discussion on the state of one design sailing:
List of Panelists:
• Craig Leweck (Moderator) – Editor and Publisher, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
• Laura Jeffers – Executive Secretary, International Lightning Class
• Chris Howell – Director of multiple J/Boat classes, J/70, J/22, J/24 and more
• Scott Williamson – Director, International Laser Class Association, North America
• Zeke Horowitz – Sales Rep., North Sails and Pro Sailor