Can amateur sailing survive?
Published on November 1st, 2022
Dear Curmudgeon: Is it good how a steady flow of championship regattas show Corinthian teams typically finishing down the results? All the talk about diversity/ inclusion/ youth programs is certainly useful, but when racing as an ‘amateur’ finds you out of the trophies, is participating going to be cool? – Got a real job
Dear Job: The history of professionals in the sport is long, and now with a sailor categorization code, it highlights their presence. However, what has changed in the past 40 years or so is the contribution of professionals.
Known as a Group 3 competitor, they had previously been employed in the marine industry, and often competed in events on behalf of the company and clients. They were in a support role, which is vital for a healthy sport, and were at the top of the results to profess their virtues.
But skill is a performance variable similar to fresh sails and a smooth hull bottom. Sailors were soon being paid at the America’s Cup level, which then trickled down to recreational sailing. Now the Group 3 sailor is an independent contractor that, when hired, can provide an advantage.
Very few Classes or Events limit Group 3 competitors, though special trophies have been created to provide recognition to owners who choose to limit their costs. At the 2022 J/70 World Championship, they had an overall title but also trophies for Corinthian teams and teams with just one professional among their crew.
People in leadership need to consider how to encourage participation, and the cost to compete – both in terms of money and time – influences whether people go sailing or choose another activity. Competition will always influence effort, and with the absence of restrictions, it is hard to criticize that effort though it is fair game to highlight the consequences. – The Curmudgeon
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