Friday, February 03, 2006

Yacht Club Websites

Peter Huston at Buffalo Niagara Sailing had an interesting post a few days ago about Club Communications. The gist of what he was saying was that yacht clubs, in his area at least, do a poor job of using the web to communicate with their members. He was in fact arguing for clubs to use the web to have a dialog with their members and, in particular, for officers to use blogs to achieve this end.

His article started me thinking about yacht club websites and their quality. What do I want from a sailing club website? Well, it depends on what my relationship with that club is. If I'm a prospective member I want current information about their range of activities, some details about membership, and an easy way to contact the club. If I'm planning to attend a regatta at the club I basically want directions or a map, and perhaps a way to contact them to ask questions. And if I'm a member of the club then I probably want to see a calendar of upcoming activities, up-to-date postings of racing results and maybe photos of recent sailing (perhaps even showing myself). Whatever my relationship with the club I will be more impressed with the club if the design and maintenance of the website look professional. After all if they can't run a simple thing like a website properly, then I will start to wonder if their approach to race management is equally sloppy.

So I decided to check out a few websites of clubs that sailed at last year.

First up was the Carolina Yacht Club at Wrightsville Beach, NC where I sailed in the Laser US Nationals in April. I wrote about the experience here. Well, their home page is pretty minimalistic but they do have links to their 2006 social and racing schedules and some notices of upcoming activities such as a tactical seminar in February and an ocean race in April. They even have a forum which should make Peter Huston happy. The forum has some recent for sale ads but only two posts on the general bulletin board since the end of September. Not exactly a hive of member/officer interaction. But there are directions to the club and a map; the list of officers is the 2006 slate and I can send them emails by clicking on their titles; and the club newsletters are online - hey there's even some pictures of us Laserites at the Nationals in the May issue. No obvious information on membership but I guess I could always email the commodore and ask. All in all, not a bad site. I'd give it 7 out of 10.

In June I was racing in our Laser district championships at Island Heights Yacht Club and waffling on about it here. Let's see. Their website home page has a cool picture of the club from the river and some news from December about a fire destroying some members' homes. So far so good. But then a link to some racing results (actually to their local YRA site) gives me the dreaded 410 error; the calendar page takes me to last year's calendar; the photos link takes me to some photos of sailing in 2000 and a golf tournament in 2003; and
the sailing link on the home page leads me to an archive of results from 1999 to 2001. There is a contacts page with the ability to send emails to officers but by now I'm wondering if the information there is any more current than the photos or results; and I see no obvious way to get directions to the club or apply for membership. Lucky I already know my way. Not good. Not good at all. Let's be generous and give them 2 out of 10.

For my last site today I checked out Severn Sailing Association in Annapolis where I sailed in the Laser US Masters at the beginning of October and of which I burbled here and here. First impressions of the site are excellent: a clean, smart professional looking design. There's a prominent link to the 2006 racing schedule and notices of upcoming events such as a rules seminar by Dave Perry in February. On the "About SSA" page there are links to a lot of the stuff anyone would be looking for: directions to the club, how to join, names of fleet captains, phone numbers and emails. About the only thing missing from the website is that element of two way dialog that Peter Huston was looking for, but apart from that they're doing a superb job. 9 out of 10 I would say.

So what do you think? How does your yacht club's use of the web measure up? Know any sites that are a model for all clubs? Or any real lemons? Comments please.


Pat said...

Maintaining/updating web sites can be a royal pain and them some. went through all sorts of hassles when the last webmaster dropped out of the club, then the next webmaster got too busy to maintain the site, and the new webmaster is trying to sort through the wreckage and restore basic functioning to the site. As of a few days ago the RGSC calendar and discussion groups were still not accessible. It's been a tough 3 or 4 years for the RGSC.

The northern NM club has had somewhat more stability with , but still has problems. Most of the info is only two or three months old, and people can eventually find more updated info by going to "community" and then to "blogs". But, only a handful of club members bother to use the site! Also, the webmaster still hasn't been able to set up discussion forums, which we used to have under the previous webmaster. Such is life.

Anonymous said...

Here's a website of a club in Virginia that does an outstanding job using their website to communicate to their members as well as visitors. It has up-to-date information about the club and their events, and has more information about the club than you could read in an afternoon. They also have online registration including the ability to take credit card payments for entry fees. The club has dozens of members who post various content.

And come to the 25th Annual Chesapeake Bay Laser Masters Championship September 9-10 and see for yourself.

Anonymous said...

check out the Cedar Point website

Post a Comment