"What we've got here is...failure to communicate," said The Captain.
We sure did a lot of "failing to communicate" in our debate about Mommy Boats and related issues of invasive coaching and allegations of cheating among junior sailors. The two camps seemed to be talking past each other. On the one hand we had folk like myself who believe that racing should be all about the individual competing alone without any outside assistance or coaching during the racing day; and on the other hand the people who think that on-the-water coaching during regattas is not only OK, but normal, fair and even necessary.
It struck me that the divide in our attitudes to regatta coaching reflects a deeper divide in the sailing community. The difference in attitudes is a product of two very different styles of sailing institutions to which sailors belong.
I'm going to call these two types of clubs "sailing clubs" and "yacht clubs" for the sake of discussion although, just to confuse the issue, some of the organizations that fall into my "sailing club" category actually call themselves yacht clubs. Perhaps this sociological divide in the sailing world is a US phenomenon only; I'm sure my readers from other countries can let us know whether a similar split exists in other parts of the world. And before anyone challenges me I plead guilty in advance to exaggeration, over-simplification and painting in black and white. I know the real world has shades of grey with many clubs falling between my two extreme descriptions. But hey, it's more fun to exaggerate.
So what are the differences between yacht clubs and sailing clubs?
A yacht club usually has a grand old building and hundreds of feet of waterfront. The building has a dining room and a bar and a trophy room and maybe even a ballroom. There are vast changing rooms with lockers and showers. There's probably a veranda overlooking the water.
A sailing club may or may not have a building. One sailing club I belonged to didn't have one; another just had a shed to store some equipment. If a sailing club does have a small clubhouse it may have been built by the members; it is probably maintained by them.
A yacht club exists to provide its members with sailing and dining and dances and parties. Apart from the fact that it has sailing it is really a part of the whole country club/ golf club industry. Some people are members only for the dining and they never sail.
A sailing club provides its members with sailing and a place to hang out with friends before and after sailing.
A yacht club has a lot of employees to provide services to its members. There is probably a General Manager and an Executive Chef and a Secretary and a Controller and a Banquet Manager and a Maintenance Manager and a Waterfront Director and a Communications Director and guys who mow the lawns and guys who drive the launches and guys and gals who work in the kitchen and waiters and bar staff and... you get the picture.
At a sailing club almost everything necessary to run the club is done by volunteers from the membership.
A yacht club has a junior program. It employs a team of instructors who run classes for the members' kids at the club all summer. The instructors take the kids to regattas where every other kid is part of a team from a yacht club. The instructors look after their kids well at regattas by driving a coach boat to carry the kids' spare gear and lunches, and they provide some coaching to the kids between races.
A sailing club has a junior program. Some of the adult members run classes for the kids at weekends and organize some junior racing. Some of the parents occasionally take their kids to regattas at other local sailing clubs, where they push the kids off from the beach and watch the regatta from the shore.
Do you see what I am saying? There are two totally different types of club; two different worlds. I'm not saying one is right and one is wrong; they are just different. There are friendly, helpful, welcoming people in both sailing clubs and yacht clubs. There are excellent sailors in both types of club. You can learn to sail and make new friends and have a wonderful time on the water in both types of institution.
But they are very different. And, in particular, they differ in the way they run their junior programs, and from that follows our heated differences about whether on-the-water coaching during regattas is a good thing or not.
What about you? Do you belong to a sailing club or a yacht club?