More Fun, more Participation revisited again
What are some positive ways to move forward for the sailing dinghy scene?
Here in NZ, the sailing clubs are putting their thinking caps on to find a way to get people back into clubs. The racing classes seem to have fragmented the sailing population, young and old, as people have to choose between buying expensive equipment or moving to a different club, or giving up altogether. All of which stalls the participation in the club scene.
I got so much out of sailing dinghies in a club as a junior, youth, and still do as a senior. We used to hold regional mixed class regattas, both at club sailing and for regional regattas. They were popular because they were so much fun. And the best thing about it was you could turn up with whatever boat you had. Fathers and mothers sailed as well as the children. The young sailors saw a variety of classes they could progress to and everyone benefited from the social interaction.
We just got on the water and raced. We raced our boats around islands, stakes, reefs, and markers using either Mark Foy starts or handicapping. By having regattas away from the main sailing centres, people got to travel, which appealed to many. Local economies benefited from these regattas as people stayed overnight. For example, a regatta was held on Lake Rotorua, in the North Island, a town which is very geared towards tourism. Such towns may be even more appreciative now that much travel and tourism has been halted. Is this an opportunity?
There was also less emphasis on high performance, and more emphasis the grass roots. I remember an amazing sailor who was past his heyday teaching us how to use a spinnaker well. He gave up his time for us as it was his passion. Whether anyone reached Olympic level or not, we learnt how to start and race in fleets. We would not have got those skill levels had we not travelled to regional regattas. And for those that didn't reach Olympic level they had great fun, and stored great memories. This will always help the sport in the long term.
So for the clubs, parents, sailing class associations and sponsors out there, perhaps it is time to bring back some of the old ways: more participation, broader experiences, more fun and less emphasis on competition?
Stay safe and have fun on the water
#tiwal #sailing #learntosail
I am a New Zealand sailor who learned to sail in the beautiful Malborough Sounds and then went onto represent NZ at the 2000 Olympics.