Thursday, September 24, 2009

Saving Sailing

If sailing activity is thriving on your home waters, a book titled ‘Saving Sailing’ may not be high on your priority list for reading material. I must admit it sat on my desk for awhile, and only on a recent vacation did I take the time to see what author Nick Hayes had to say about the sport of sailing. As it turns out, he had a lot to say, and it wasn’t all about sailing.

We all make choices on how we spend our time, and Hayes provides some clarity on how these choices affect our lives. Beyond the time needed to sustain a healthy life, including our time at work and spent gathering food, nesting, and resting, the rest is for our discretionary use. Hayes isn’t buying the argument that there is not enough of this time left anymore. Rather, he demonstrates how generational changes among Americans have affected our decisions on how this time is now getting spent.

Like I said, the book is not just about sailing, and it helped me to evaluate how I spend my time in all areas, particularly in critical areas like family and friends. As for the magic ointment to ‘save sailing’, the author is not quick to provide it. Hayes admits the objective is complicated, and is not so naive to think he can readily change the time choices for people. But he does close the book with specific ideas, all carefully crafted from the 1000+ interviews conducted between 2003 and 2009.

I will go so far as to say that ‘Saving Sailing’ is a must read for marine industry professionals, parents eager to share the sport of sailing with their children, and folks who enjoy the sport and are interested in ways to give something back. The book will arrive in select bookstores and nautical boutiques over the next few weeks, or available now online. Also, look for Scuttlebutt’s interview with Hayes next week.

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At 10:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Save sailing? Save sailing for:
Bertarelli and Ellison?
The marine industry that gouges you for mooring and slip space and has a worse reputation than car repair industry for service work?
The racecourse "lawyers" who spend more time trying to bend the rules to their benefit than on seamanship?

I don't care a tinker's damn about them.

Seems to me that the "small time, week night racer" will do what's necessary to keep things going. They will innovate, volunteer and keep the sport alive.

At 5:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This book is a pure vanity. If Hayes wants to issue a white paper, then do so. I tend to travel in circles that sees that sailing is very strong. Does it really have to be popular everywhere and for everyone?

I guess Hayes has not seen that college and high school sailing is the strongest it has ever been.

Match racing and team racing are stronger now than ever.

Maybe he lives in the wrong place. Annapolis, Newport, Long Beach, etc. Does sailing really need to be saved?

At 8:57 PM, Anonymous Gregory Lovekamp said...

Boating overall, and specifically sailing, tend to be in decline in my part of the world. I tend to agree that it is less to do with "people not taking the time to teach their kids" and more with the costs and more importantly litigation that is involved.

Kids used to go down to the river, beach, lakeshore, etc., find a boat, share a friend's boat, whatever, to get out on the water. Now the waterfront is taken up with people's expensive homes and condos that don't want kids on THEIR property, using THEIR lake, sullying THEIR view, let alone the lawsuits that would inevitably occur if the kid drowned.

We are increasingly a country of "whether or not I can afford it, I'm not going to let you have it", and that works both ways rich against poor and vice versa.

At 5:08 AM, Blogger Scuttleblog said...

It is an interesting comment regarding areas of the sport that are thriving. In short, they all seem to be thru funded sailing programs, and not in areas of the sport that require personal ownership.

At 5:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sailing is great. If and when sailing is accessible and affordable people will do it. If it is not A&A then folks won't do it. To have the basics of life has taken a larger and larger percentage of folks earnings over the years. So there just aint enough left over for a 25 to 35 footer in a slip in the marina. Unless of course both Mom and Dad work full time and have great high paying jobs. And even at that a brand new nice boat is too big a stretch. When I was a kid many families I knew of in my area had 20 to 35 foot new or near new sailboats. Now there are only a few young family boats unless the boats are real dogs that they bought for 2000 dollars or less. And even at that the slip rents keep most families from even owning a dog boat. Money, money, money, it's a rich mans world.

At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Derek Bouwer said...

Decline in sailing numbers seems to be world wide phenomena felt by all clubs. Here are a few personal insights into the reasons from a South African perspective:

1. The increasing number of new dinghies on the market dilutes the already dwindling numbers as the sailor spread themselves across all the differing classes.
2. The rock stars jump from class to class to win the different local class champs, which disheartens budding sailors within those classes.
3. The media concentrate on only the "Big Boat" which gives the impression of a very expensive sport.
4. We have too many boat owners and not enough yachties.
5. Prospective boat owners fall in love with the "mystique of sailing" and then buy boats beyond their experience.
6. The Boat owners, due to lack of experience, look for "qualified crew" to compliment their short comings, as they are not competent to show the new crew the ropes nor are they willing to learn together.
7. When qualified crew is hard to come by they lean back and say I cannot find crew.
8. Their expensive boats become floating status symbols at best or floating unkept caravans at worse.
9. Sailing is seen as recreational past time and not as a dedicated sport "so why bother reading the rules".
10. In racing boat owners look for a handicap that takes into account their short coming, rather than looking at the boat’s handicap and sailing to that - win or lose.

On the positive side, it is extremely easy to sail, and to find crew is equally as easy. When you hear someone say, "I'd love to go sailing", invite them. We have a few rules on by boat:

1. If we (Owner, skipper and crew) like you we'll invite you again!
2. If you don't like us then don't say "yes" the second time we ask you!
3. The crew is involved in the running and maintenance of the boat, sailing is not only putting up sails and moving through the water, but everything else from motors to servicing ropes. This is the "mystique of sailing"
4. Then we sail, sail, sail, sail and sail some more, and the strange thing about sailing is, the more you sail the more you and your crew learn. Funny we have had the same crew for three years now.

At 9:26 AM, Anonymous Michael W. Fortenbaugh: said...

There are places in this country where sailing is growing. Figure out where these are and find out why.

At 9:27 AM, Anonymous Bob Colpitts: said...

As a sailor who began in the fifties and then experienced the sailing boom of the seventies and eighties, I must observe that in the peak years, there were an awfully lot of people sailing who really never should have been (still are, I might add). A growth in prosperity fed romantic notions about life under sail that was both escapist and intoxicating, and resulted in a flood to the sport that was unsustainable. Add to that changing demographics witnessed by a drift to more sedentary activities as our population grows older, and I think you have the real reason for the decline in sailing. The wind and water will always be there, and true devotees will continue to sail. The universe is unfolding as it should.

At 10:20 AM, Anonymous Russ Saunders said...

An observation:

I would like to present another perspective which had been mentioned 5 or 6 years back. Derek has formulated his list of reasons from a mechanical or physical perspective and how that may be the cause of the decline in the interest in sailing.

When representing one of the 2000 America’s Cup groups at various boat shows, our booth often brought yacht club officials to inquire about the background of our on-board crew. Since they were interested, and being an active sailing instructor at that time, I asked these various officials from different yacht clubs if they were having success at bringing youth into outreach sailing programs. The condensed version from three past commodores* is: “Our club rejected my efforts to start a youth sailing program totally because the average age of the club members ranged from 45 to 75 and they did not want the noise and commotion entailed with having young people around…”—this is what I have referred to as the Geriatric effect. A number of clubs have addressed this and do have limited youth sailing programs. Not all is lost - yet.

The only way, in my opinion, to increase the interest in sailing among young people AND THEIR PARENTS is to have completely free weekend sailing events where club members will be willing to have a variety of smallish sailboats available for potential “newbie’s” to come down the club and go for a free sail and see what it is like. If you can have four or five dinghy type boats sailing around simulating a race, the idea might be planted that this could be fun, especially if a 20 footer passes one or two “racers” and then, perhaps, a little competitiveness might be the right thing to get someone to come back at a follow up event…this all needs to be organized so that the club could contact the people who tried it out and invite them back. “Hands on” brings excitement—“I didn’t know that I could steer a boat!”.

My very sad and hard learned experience, which I will talk or write in great length about (if anyone is interested), is that disadvantaged youth from the inner city is basically a lost cause…ethnic and cultural values work against you ever hoping to reach this group. We, our America’s Cup organizational outreach program, even used a professional football player who was a sailor as a “hook” to show that everyone even pro athletes can get involved in sailing…to no avail. And our programs involved already organized clubs…Boys and Girls Club type organizations who were delighted to have us. An event was held which was fun for us since we thought we had reached about 12 young people out of a club of over 400, but not one person followed up and came back or expressed further interest.

*One in Washington State, one in Oregon and one in California. One commodore quit his club completely after his proposal was rejected.

So Derek has some valid points but you must go much deeper and spend more time and effort to attract non sailing people to the sport.

Sailors’ children may or may not follow in their parents footsteps but this is not clearly defined or analyzed—they may for a while.

Russ Saunders
San Francisco and Martinez, CA

At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Mike Sharpe said...

All Derek’s references to the ‘decline in sailing’ are spot-on, and they parallel my own experience today at the club level. His article could be easily dated 1974 at which time I transitioned from dinghy racing to offshore racing. In my current racing experience I still encounter the ‘rock stars’ competing at the local Club level, appearing only to compete for the ‘gold’. When I started racing in Sydney in 1959 there were only timber boats. By the late 60’s fiberglass was readily available and along came the ‘cloned’ boats with new class names. Item 1; of Derek’s list documents the dilution of talent in specific classes and because of these ‘new’ boats, the racing talent was weakened and the trend continues today. Too may classes so that the ‘losers’ can always try another class. Now we have 100 footers racing offshore with generated power. What was wrong with the Maxi’s, at 77’ or so? Change the rules to make your competition obsolete is the way of the 21st century, or so it seems. Fewer classes means better competition. The trend of changing the ‘equipment’ seems unique to sailing.

One more item should be added to the list as part of the decline, #11. Too many crew are required to race on offshore yachts and they are just too hard to source. Limit the crew requirements severely, and every-one on board might feel he was a participant in the race, rather than a piece of meat. Stars; Etchells; Finns; and the Ton Classes of the 70’s had crew numbers figured out. Less was more.

Lastly, re: the embarrassment to sailing called the America’s Cup. The SNG group need to become adults and just fade away… please. They are doing themselves personal damage and insulting our intelligence. Where the hell is RAK - really? How do we get there? Who cares? You guys at SNG have got to be kidding! And they reckon California is the land of ‘fruit & nuts’!

At 10:25 AM, Anonymous Capt. Rick Rahm said...

I couldn't agree more with Derek. I raced for over 20 years and enjoyed every minute of it. I soon learned that to have fun you must decide early on what type of racing program you have the dedicated time for and the resources to be successful. Set goals that are attainable and realistic based on your level of commitment.

Get a boat that you can afford to maintain and have a core crew that will race with you on a regular basis. Have 10 people available to call for a 6-7 crew PHRF racer. Work with your sailmaker to have the best sails for your budget and listen to his advice. Make sure your boat is maintained to the highest level for safety reasons as well as not losing a race because of a breakdown due to failure of a component. Sail every race you can and practice if time permits with peoples busy lives. Try to have fun in each race whether you win or lose, be a good sport. Practice your boat handling skills, read the racing rules, all the race instructions and share this knowledge with your crew.

As I raced a PHRF boat I was always defending my rating, fending off challenges because we were too fast or using sails others did not buy or exploiting a rule. But that was part of the racing game. Keep improving your boat to maintain that speed advantage. I stopped racing a few years ago and moved on to other interests. I still enjoy the water, but since I make my living as a yacht Captain I can't complain too much. But I do miss the racing with my many wonderful crew members that I have sailed with over the years and the excitement of winning a big race. And I thank them all for the good times we enjoyed together.

At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Ray Tostado said...

The major decline in sail boat racing is not just about the economy, but about personal power and vanity. And I offer an apology to other sail sport venues who are succeeding in maintaining an open, unbiased playing field and a policy of parity and Corinthian ethics.

Not every person involved in the administrative duties of operating a yacht club and staging races is fully committed to awareness of the traditions of yachting. I would expect that any such duties assumed voluntarily could be executed without harsh self centered posturing. Today's atmosphere in many west coast yacht clubs is a redundancy of business clubs and back room dealing; all with the purpose of self appreciation. It seems that YC administrations are filled with middle level business quality want-to-be-s, using a YC platform to fill their dream of top management power.

It seems like every contact is intended to show disrespect.

When a reserved slip at the end of a race leg is given away and being told to “learn to sail faster.” When souvenir T-shirts are ordered short and not available to all competitors.

Inexperienced committee boat crews.

And when a PHRF rating committee member tells me point blank that my appeal for a rating adjustment for my 45 year old design boat was not approved because I would, “likely strip my boat out after getting the benefit of a 6 spm adjustment” I think this implied I was considered to be a “cheater”.

I won’t be missed. And the sentiments are mutual.


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