Tuesday, April 30, 2013


At the grassroots level, the sport of dinghy sailing depends on volunteers.

Our sport wouldn't exist if it weren't for all the people who give up their free time to do all the work to run the sport.

Everybody plays their part.

(Well, almost everybody.)

In my time I have been a fleet captain (several times), a sailing club secretary, a sailing club commodore, a newsletter editor, a regatta chairman, a principal race officer, a junior sailing instructor, an area junior regatta series organizer, a class regional representative, and a class district secretary.

I'm not trying to blow my own trumpet in listing the above jobs. All my friends who sail dinghies regularly end up making similar, or greater, contributions.

Some do much more.

One of my sailing friends from New Jersey served as president of his national class association for several years.

One of my sailing friends in Rhode Island ran almost single-handedly (well double-handedly with his wife) one of the most successful regattas on the Laser Masters circuit for many years.

I don't think I've ever run for election (against an opponent) for any of the jobs I've done. Usually it doesn't work like that.

Sometimes I've seen something that needed doing - and it was clear that nobody else was going to do it - so I just went and did it.

More often than not some greybeard in the club or the class, the local "godfather", took me aside and told me that I should be.... the next newsletter editor, the next commodore, whatever.

I've mentioned before on this blog that after I moved to Rhode Island it felt strange that I wasn't doing anything to give back something to the sport.

That feeling didn't last long. About a year ago the Godfather made me an offer I couldn't refuse. Now I have a voluntary job.

Usually when I start one of these jobs I have no idea what I'm doing.

But that's OK. I can always ask my predecessors what to do. I can always find some kind of mentor. If all else fails I can ask the Godfather for advice.

After a while I usually work out what I'm doing. And then I can start trying out new things to do the job even better.

Sometimes people give feedback to the folk doing these volunteer jobs. "You should have done that." "I wouldn't have done it that way."

Sometimes that criticism stings a bit but, if it's meant in the right spirit, it can be helpful. I try not to take it too personally.

The issue of volunteering is summed up well in Laser Sailing: The Rules.

Rule #35 Volunteer. If you see something that needs to be done in your local fleet, club or district and it isn't being done or isn't being done as well as you think it should be done... then don't whine about it; do it yourself.

Rule #36 If you can't think of anything else you can do to help the sport, then be the guy that brings the beer.

Yes, YOU.

I'm talking to YOU

Be the guy that brings the beer.


Baydog said...

Really? It's that easy? Nobody gets down on the guy who brings the beer!

Tillerman said...

Exactly. if you are the guy who brings the beer then nobody is going to twist your arm to do any other job.

Baydog said...

As long as you do it well.

Tillerman said...

See Rule #28.

Baydog said...


Tillerman said...

I need to write more posts about beer.

It's a topic that's not covered enough by most sailing writers.

Baydog said...

Funny how this post went from a very valid and worthy topic to something as simple and mindless as bringing the beer. Wait....

Keep Reaching said...

Excellent post and so true. Scuttlebutt apparently also agrees.

I think the whole volunteer side really sets our noble sport apart. Sure, there are soccer Moms and other volunteers, but how many other sports really so heavily on the participation of the athletes (OK, the sailors) ?

Is it because our demographics mean that our sport is mainly adults (age-wise at least) of all ages, while most other sports are kids and young adults?

No, it cannot be that - if it were only the more advanced average age of participants that brings out volunteerism, then we would see golf clubs run by volunteers - not a common phenomenon.

Whatever the reason, the active involvement of volunteers adds a very strong dimension that easily outweighs any lack of efficiency. How many other sports see competitors going around helping competitors with their equipment, offering tips and being generally helpful?

Not to say that good sportsmanship and camaraderie don't exist in other sports and not to say that sometimes spirited competition doesn't exist in sailing, but I think our sport is different.

Tillerman said...

Oh yeah. Scuttlebutt "syndicated" me. How kind. Thanks for letting me know. I never know when a post will get picked up like this. Sometimes it's the ones that took the least time to write. Like this one. Knocked it off in a few minutes after dinner.

I never thought about sailing being much different from other sports but you could be right.

Although running depends on a lot of volunteers too. Not only at the club level but at every major race.

MYCSunfish Fleet said...

I think I'm getting ripped off. I volunteer AND I'm the guy who brings the beer.

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