Wednesday, September 09, 2009

How to Sell Sailing

How do we sell sailing? How do we communicate the excitement and fun of our sport to potential new recruits? How do we keep existing sailors fired up about opportunities to continue enjoying the sport?

Our Lasering blogging friend Yarg has provided part of the answer in a perceptive post Sailing: Reports of Its Death Are Exaggerated. Yarg finds that sailing, far from dying, is thriving in his neck of the woods. His local Laser fleet has been growing steadily and he is seeing an "explosion of interest" in the local high school sailing scene.

So what is the secret according to Yarg? It's simply the power of a few enthusiasts to communicate that enthusiasm to others.

He writes...

I find that enthusiasm for sailing is viral, but in a good way. It is spread by person to person contact, and a few carriers go a long way. When enthusiasts spawn other enthusiasts, fleets can grow very quickly.

He is damn right. Yarg, and a few others like him, are doing what is needed to develop and grow sailing in their area, by reaching out to others and advertising their ardor for the sport. Enthusiasts spawn enthusiasts. Go viral!

But how does this work on a global level? How does a class communicate that excitement about their activities on a national, continental or global level? How do they grow their class and continually attract new adherents to their brand of sailing?

Well, of course they use the web. And the reporting on the recent Laser Masters Worlds is a case in point on how to get it right.

Who best communicated the enthusiasm that surrounds the Laser Masters Worlds on the web? The answer might surprise you.

Sure, the regatta organizers did a professional job of telling the story of the Worlds. Regular reports were posted on the regatta website, sometimes while the racing was still in progress, and the results were posted promptly. There was an official photographer who took hundreds of spectacular photos of the sailing action and these photos were posted on the web too.

But remember the E-word? Enthusiasm.

The real feel for the fun of a Laser Masters Worlds and the sense of enthusiasm for the event were communicated by the sailors themselves (and a couple of their wives) via their blogs and some terrific YouTube video interviews.

Kim Ferguson
wrote about the exploits of her husband Scott who won the World Championship in what was the largest and probably the toughest fleet at the event, the Masters Standard Rig Fleet. If you don't think that the top guys can also have fun, read Kim's account of Thursday's racing and find out who Scott called, "Boner!!"

Marc Jacobi was also in the Masters Standard Rig Fleet. He didn't do quite as well as Scott but he had his moments. Check out his account of Day 5 for a gripping tale of how hard Marc made Scott work for one of his wins.

Dr J was sailing in the Great Grandmasters Radial Fleet. He also had his moments. Read his account of Day 4 for a terrific story of why Laser Masters Sailing is so much fun. "My best day of Laser sailing ever!" says the good doctor.

Dave Sliom
was at his first Masters Worlds and so much enjoyed the experience that he is already working out what he needs to do to improve his sailing for the next Worlds in Hayling Island in the UK in 2010.

Finally we have Tracy Usher, the president of the North American Laser Class, who also blogged about the racing at the Master Worlds. The tagline on his blog is much too modest: "Random discussions about an old and overweight guy still pounding the chop of San Francisco Bay in his Laser". Yeah right! Irony works too.

Even better than the enthusiasm transmitted by those five bloggers were the video interviews with sailors and others by LauraLee Symes. Now this is the way to tell the world about your regatta, and how much fun it is, and why you absolutely have to be there to join us next year.

I already posted about one of LauraLee's videos at Hot Laser Masters Worlds Interviews. Little did I know that this was only the first instalment.

In part 2 LauraLee catches up with half a dozen more sailors including a few who have appeared on this blog before such as Susie Pegel - a REAL Laser Sailor, Nils Andersson of Lura pensionärshemmet, dö i din Laser fame, and some incomprehensible Frenchie who looks a lot like my adversary in England Expects and other posts.

Part 3 has lots of laughs and way too much full frontal nudity.

And the Final video seems to be of a bunch of old drunks at a party desperately trying to remember something of what actually happened in the previous week's sailing. But Wolfgang Gerz did reveal the secret of how to win the World Grandmasters: run every morning at 7am, work out in the gym several times a week, sail a lot all year, and win every Grandmasters title in Europe in the year leading up to the Worlds. Piece of cake!

Seriously, these blogs and LauraLee's videos are a superb way to communicate the fun of this event and the enthusiasm that all these sailors feel for the regatta and the sport in general. Remember what Yarg said? "Enthusiasm for sailing is viral."

So this is what the old geezers in the Laser class can do to proclaim their passion for their brand of sailing. Are other classes doing as much, or perhaps even more, to enthuse sailors for their branch of the sport? More the point, what are you doing to sell sailing to the world?


jbushkey said...

Get kids involved. The problem with this is the cost of a sailboat. I think an optimist or an open bic is over $3000. My son will probably end up with my snark or sunfish when he gets old enough because those other boats are beyond my budget.

Another problem is sailing has to be done where there is wind. I took my boat out 3 times this summer. It wasn't so much sailing as it was "canoing with sunshade". It makes me glad my boat came with a paddle. I even checked the weather report the last time and it said winds 6mph. When I got there the water was like a mirror.

Maybe Tillerman can help me talk the wife into a relocation due to sailing goals :D

my2fish said...

tillerman, you do a great job of bringing all these Laser blogs to my attention, so in that regard - you're doing a pretty fine job promoting the Laser (especially to a Sunfish guy).

personally, I've found myself constantly talking with family members, coworkers, etc about sailing, and hopefully my excitement about it will gradually start to win them over.

jbushkey - do you need to buy new? I'm not sure about the optimist or open bic, but used Sunfish can often be found (at least older recreational versions) for a couple hundred dollars.

Greg and Kris said...

well said

Carol Anne said...

Pat and I have 8 (yes, count them, eight) Sunfish in varying states of disrepair. We have paid between $800 (for two 'Fish, one tuned for racing, plus a trailer) and nothing (for a pretty nice 'Fish plus a really rotten trailer). Our goal was to fix them all up into reasonably usable condition and then put kids on them -- Boy Scouts, church youth groups, and so forth.

Ideally, getting kids onto boats and having fun (which they seem to do even when physically miserable, viz. the "little guy") will translate into a) parents and families who get into supporting the sport, and b) kids who grow up and continue to love sailing.

Our current financial difficulties mean we have had to put the boat-repair program on hold, but once we're again figuratively afloat, we hope to be literally so as well.

Pandabonium said...

No worries. In the post-carbon world the only boats on the water will be ones that don't need fuel.

word verification definition - "sablot" - a small sailboat manned by someone who has had one too many.

jbushkey said...

Good point my2fish. I guess the answer is NO, BUT...

I own a Snark I picked up for a song and a FREE($500) Sunfish. It was "free" but so far I have spent about $500 on parts LOL. I also have a FREE($200) trailer that I need to make bunks for.

The BUT part is for the kids to be in racing I thought they needed to have a certain boat like an optimist or an open bic. I guess you could hunt around for a decent used one, but even at 40% of original price it's still not an everyman's sport in my opinion. Compare the cost of getting a child involved in sailing vs soccer, t ball, or even football. Programs like the Boston Sailing Club are great for getting kids started inexpensively. I only know of a few of those types of community sailing programs though.

Anonymous said...

Spot on, Tillerman!

Pat said...

A good answer is lots of local, inexpensive, fun sailing programs close to where kids live.

The challenge is finding people to get them going.

Lee said...

I found this hobby really interesting and to some extent it develops the survival instinct very sharply. I sure hope those involved in this hobby is also paying attention to the environment they are enjoying! Good work, Tillerman!

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