Monday, July 21, 2008

Where the Hell Are You?

I sailed our Laser District Championship this weekend. The winds each day started light and built up to 15-20 knots by the afternoon, the race committee work was excellent, and the competition was fierce but friendly. What could be better?

The only problem was that only 7 boats showed up for the event. Seven! Our district has the largest membership in North America with around 200 members. We would normally expect at least 20 boats at an event like this, ideally more.

So what's going on? From what I hear, regatta attendance is down in other classes too. What are the reasons? Why aren't people coming out to race like they used to? Help me please. Let me know what possible reasons you would not turn out for the major local event for the class you sail. Here are some explanations I can think of...

  • I would come if it were a one-day event. Two-day events take up the whole weekend and I have other commitments.

  • I heard Tillerman would be there and I didn't want him to humiliate me in his blog.

  • The same three guys win all the regattas round here, so what's the point?

  • I'm not good enough to sail in a district championship.

  • There are too many regattas. I can't do them all.

  • I was sailing on my Daddy's yacht this weekend.

  • I had a bad experience last time I sailed there.

  • I'm too good to sail in a district championship.

  • I don't want to be the only woman there.

  • I was sailing my Force 5 this weekend.

  • It's too far and gas is too expensive.

  • I didn't like the weather forecast.

  • The entry fees are too high.

  • The fleet is all young kids.

  • The fleet is all old guys.

  • I had to mow the lawn.

  • There's no free beer.

  • There isn't a party.

  • I didn't hear about it.

  • All of the above.

  • None of the above.

Just to be clear, I'd like to hear from racing sailors in any class anywhere, not just Laser sailors in New England. Seriously, what are the reasons you wouldn't sail in the major local event for your class?


Anonymous said...

OK, here ya go...

1) It was scheduled in conflict with the Canadian Champs in Halifax.
2) I was burned out from being on the road the last 5 (or is it 6?) weeks, mostly for regattas.
3) I bought a bike in June and wanted to actually try riding it.
4) Where the hell is Barrington?
5) Why weren't you at the ACCs in NJ?

Good enough? :-)

Anonymous said...

1) Halifax is about 12 hours drive from Barrington so I don't think there was much competition between the two events. Looking at the results from the Canadian Champs, there were only two US sailors in the full rig fleet, neither of them from New England, and we don't usually get Canadians at the D7 champs.

2) Too many regattas and burn-out probably was a factor for a number of people. We had a 2-day regatta at Newport the previous weekend and two 3-day regattas coming up locally the next two weekends. I'm only doing three of those four events myself.

3) Biking is good exercise for Laser sailing, Just not as good as Laser sailing.

4) Lat N41° 44.104, Long W71° 17.655.

5) ACCs were same weekend as the Newport Regatta. So the choices for me were....
a) 300 mile drive vs 13 mile drive.
b) Sleep in a motel on LBI vs sleep in my own bed.
c) Be at home when the call came on Sunday evening saying my grandson was being born vs being stuck somewhere on I95.

Anyway good enough. We missed you. Hope to see you next year.

Anonymous said...

There was a time when I wanted to travel to regattas every weekend. But now that I work, I rarely want to get in a car or plane and travel to regattas.

Generally I look for one day events so I have some freedom on the other day. In my opinion it is far more relaxing and enjoyable to sail a local regatta or do some grass roots sailing at the lake.

Probably 2-4 times a year I will participate in something that is multiple days. They are almost always spaced out by a few months.

Tillerman said...

Good point derek. One of the sailors at the regatta also expressed the view that one day regattas are the way to go if you want to increase participation.

Anonymous said...

Not being a Laser sailor or from that District, my initial guess on the lack of participation after reading the post was over-scheduling, which matches the comments. Derek's comments seem to be where most of the "working" racers are coming from.... give them one big regatta a month and you are more likely to see them attend. One day events are more of a Catch 22. Given what the price of gas is now adding to the cost of attending regattas, it is easy to rationalize staying home if it is only a one day event.

We had a sea change in participation in dinghy racing after the short recession of the early 1980's. My observation is we are undergoing another large downsizing in dinghy racing participation.

One bright spot are those clubs that have summer weekday racing or frostbite racing. These short course events seem to have much larger attendance numbers than most weekend club events.

Tillerman said...

Yeah, I'm with you anonymous. If the regatta is near home I'd rather sail two days than one. If I have to drive 3 or 4 or more hours to get there I may as well stay one night in a hotel and sail 2 days. The only situation where I'd prefer a one-day event is where it's around a two hour drive away.

As you say, frostbite racing is enormously popular in New England with huge fleets in Newport RI and Westport CT. Sunday afternoon for 3 hours or so. One guy even drives from Canada to frostbite in Connecticut.

Unknown said...

1 - I would come if it were a one-day event. Two-day events take up the whole weekend and I have other commitments.

2 - There are too many regattas. I can't do them all.

3 - or I was sailing on a 18' skiff!

Pity we can't work 2 days a week and sail the rest!

Zen said...

you forgot:
I heard Tillerman would be there and I didn't want him to humiliate by blowing the sails off me :-)

Or maybe they all went to a keel boat and are doing the Pacific Trans thing with Ed

Lochness fear???

Carol Anne said...

Here in New Mexico, the distance to travel and the cost of fuel are definite factors. The Rio Grande Sailing Club changed the schedule for the spring series racing this year, so the regattas were three or four weeks apart instead of two, and that change seems to have boosted attendance. We also scheduled more one-day regattas and fewer two-day regattas, and that also seemed to help.

Probably the weather forecast is another factor -- who wants to drive 150 miles to a regatta if there's a pretty good chance gale-force winds will cause the event to be canceled? Yeah, that sort of wind doesn't always arrive as predicted, but do you want to gamble $80 worth of fuel, plus another $40 per night for the motel (more if you stay in something better than a fleabag), plus additional money on restaurants, on a 50-50 chance of actually sailing?

Something else the RGSC did was cut entry fees -- we had been getting many requests from such organizations as college teams and high school ROTC programs to waive the entry fee. We finally got frustrated with having to deal with organizations' arguments that their programs were worthy of exemptions -- we would grant an exemption to one program, and then another would come and say it should also get an exemption.

Rather than continue to arbitrate what constitutes a program worthy of an exemption, we lowered the entry fee from $15 to $5 per regatta, with no exemptions. We figured even cash-strapped charitable programs could afford $5, and we would no longer have to be in the uncomfortable position of deciding whom to approve and whom to say "no" to.

I can't say for sure that lower entry fees led to greater participation, but the greater participation has meant that the total of money collected in entry fees has gone up.

Something that you didn't list on your list, but that Zorro, as race committee chair, has posed as a reason for low participation: "The trophies aren't nice enough." I don't know that I agree with him on that. I think the majority of non-professional racing sailors participate because of the enjoyment of the sport, and if they get a nifty trophy, that's a nice bonus, but I don't think the quality of the trophy has much bearing on a sailor's decision to race.

Then there's "the same guys always win." Zorro's inclusion in that category is no longer a given -- Applegal has provided some hot competition, and even I have sometimes come out ahead. I still believe that Zorro is the best skipper in the region, but now that he's got competition, he has to work harder. And that makes for more exciting regattas that people want to show up for, even if they do have to spend $300 or more just to be there.

Something else that might be boosting participation both in the RGSC at Elephant Butte and the New Mexico Sailing Club at Heron is that WE HAVE WATER. We used to take it for granted, but we have had a prolonged drought that had a major negative effect on both lakes. This year, for the first time in ages, the water level at Heron is high enough that people don't have to negotiate a treacherous goat path to get from the parking area to the marina. At Elephant Butte, there's enough water that the RGSC may be able to run its 50-mile Sunrise Regatta race for the first time in nearly a decade.

Yeah, I know, in the ocean, you don't have the problem of falling water levels in a drought. In fact, if global warming is an issue, your water levels will be rising, and your race participants should never be worried about their sailing venue going dry. Tell them to stop whining and be thankful that they actually have a reliable body of water to sail on.

Tillerman said...

Great points Carol Anne. I agree that the quality of trophies is hardly a factor. Except that when I used to race on the SANJL circuit in New Jersey the prizes were often useful things like bags or shirts or jackets and they were embroidered or printed with SANJL graphics.

Now this could work both ways. I was somewhat embarrassed to carry around my bag that said something like "3rd in age group 45-55". But I still wear my wicking shirt with the cool graphics of sailboats that just says SANJL 2004. So if the prizes are something like that, and there are lots of them so I might win one, it is a slight plus in deciding to attend a regatta for me.

Anonymous said...

Carol Anne
I'm glad the RGSC lowered the race fee. It seemed pretty high for New Mexico. The trophys always seemed a bit overboard to me too.

Big issues for me are towing cost adn travel and rigging time. Three hours drive each way plus rigging time means eight hours of work too just look at the pretty boat tied to the dock. I need lots of sailing to make it worth that time. No way I can afford a slip on the Butte, and mast-up storage still requires that I drive the Dodge.

NMSC/Heron is affordable but still 3 hours away. Cochiti would be great if it had an inexpensive marina and they could get the badgers to enforce a rule or two.

p.s. I always spread the word when the "tide is out" at the Butte, it keeps the stink pots away.

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