October 3rd, 2012
by Glenn McCarthy, Lake Michigan SuRF Newsletter
Put hops, malt, barley and water in four concrete steel reinforced silos and do not mix them, what do you get? Nothing good! Mix them together and you get beer, something real good.
We broke off Junior Sailing /Sailing Schools into their own silo. These programs are growing, everyone involved is enthusiastic. We broke off High School sailing into their own silo. It is one of the greatest success stories in sailing today, more and more High Schools are signing up and competing against one another. Collegiate Sailing is in its own silo. While more mature, it is also growing today. Adult sailing is in its own silo. Just like the Beer example, we leave these four ingredients in their own silos and do not mix them. And what do we have? Nothing good at the end of the day! Adult sailing is struggling at most levels.
There are 300,000 juniors between the ages of 5 and 21 in their three silos in this country. By age 22, 95% of them have quit sailing. Why? It is all about "peers." They see their peers quit without ramification, and so they quit too - no loss (see the related story on growing your yacht club membership through your sailing school, there is a golden lining). We have been justifying that when sailors get out of college they are busy establishing themselves in the working world, changing jobs frequently, getting housing, moving regularly to get better deals, dating, going to weddings, getting married themselves, having children, etc. Wait a moment there, isn't that the exact same stuff we did at that age and didn't we keep sailing? Why is this now an excuse not to sail?
We (I'm a boomer) kept sailing because when we were juniors, we sailed with adults. They were part of our peer group. We saw sailors in their 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's and a few hanger-ons in their 90's who all sailed. We knew that they were part of our peers. We knew that we, too, would be sailing for a lifetime. This cycle has been broken.
It was never an intention to segregate the age groups, we enjoyed racing with all ages on board. I remember sailing on Inferno in the early 1970's, a red C&C 52 owned by Jim McHugh (McHugh Construction Company) when I was about 12. This was the days of RDF, before Loran or GPS. It was a long distance single-day course race in which we were the lead boat. The navigator hailed to the crew "I owe a beer to whoever can spot the mark." I said, "It's right up ahead, a little to the right of our course."
All of the crew looked and looked and couldn't see it and started to disbelieve me. I said, "It is white on top, orange in the middle and white on the bottom." The navigator knew the colors of the mark and said there was no way I could have guessed that and I must be seeing it. We sailed to it and rounded it; it was our mark. The point being, I was helpful to the team at age 12, they understood I contributed to the team, and I became one of them right at that moment, having earned my spot. (To the Inferno navigator: I forgot your name, I'm old enough now and you still owe me that beer. Call me).
If the silo system for young sailors was in place back then, I would not have been on Inferno, I would have been at some Opti or 420 regatta somewhere, with helicopter parents shuttling me around. These helicopter parents are spending tons on boats, traveling, coaches, housing, etc., for what long term purpose? The end result is that their kids stop sailing when they are out of college? No life-long exercise, no life-long mentors (in sailing and in business), and no networking? A huge opportunity for young sailors is being missed. Read On