Class Membership Age Distribution

Discussion in 'Laser Class Politics' started by sidewinder, Oct 25, 2007.

  1. sidewinder

    sidewinder Member

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    I'm pretty new to the class. I've, owned a boat for about 1 year but have been an avid sailor for ~15 years. I read TLF approximately daily.

    Maybe it's just me, but the plot of age vs. members in The Laser Sailor looks really really strange. I'm 31, and It looks like there are maybe 4-6 other members my age (in all of NA!), yet there are 10x as many people at the age of 50.

    I understand the big spike in the late teen years through age 20 due to high school/college programs, but in the early 20s there is a huge drop off. People in the 20-35 range should be out there in great numbers.
    Think about it:
    -You probably have found yourself a real job, or at least one that could support a club-racing program.
    -You have amassed (at least in my case) enough man-fat to allow you to sail a full rig.
    -Any car can tow the laser, any beach can launch one.
    -Fleets everywhere, and all the other mantras that laser sailors repeat....

    Are people in that bracket simply not supporting the class?

    Or is this chart just a snapshot of sailing as a whole?

    Has the graph always showed this trend?

    Is the class going to Implode once the "baby boom" crowd starts leaving the class?

    Is there an existing perception that joining the class provides no real value other than allowing you to race sanctioned regattas?

    I realize that most of these questions are highly rhetorical, and I'm not really expecting much in the way of answers, but feel free to comment.
     
  2. bjmoose

    bjmoose Member

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    I don't think it's laser specific. You see similar trends (observed informally) in yacht club membership.

    For a long time anyone between 20 and 30 was only windsurfing, never sailing. But I don't think that's true anymore.
     
  3. 49208

    49208 Tentmaker

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    Sailing takes a back seat to the pursuit of the opposite sex, which can lead to starting families, which leads to a serious lack of time and/or short leash to do anything. The first two also lead to cash flow issues - all the cash is flowing the wrong way and not much left over for big boy toys.

    One way or another, it sorts itself out eventually, but that has to be one of the big reasons for the dropoff.
     
  4. SFBayLaser

    SFBayLaser Member

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    I think when people head off to college they suddenly discover many new interests including the opposite sex and college sailing. Post college there is the establishment of a career in addition to things like getting married and starting a family. Besides money being tight, I think the demand on people's time is pretty heavy to and if they are probably lucky to get out to do local club racing.

    In some support of this, I was just exchanging emails yesterday with a Laser sailor who has a 10 month old son and has had to significantly cut back on his sailing time. Hey, if I had a 10 month old son I would too, I'm sure every minute spent with kids is even more valuable than the same time spent on a Laser!

    hmmm.... maybe I need to think about that... more valuable than time spent on a Laser.... hmmm....

    Anyway, it is clear they do come back, more and more with each year in age until you start to hit the realities of the actuarial tables.
     
  5. gouvernail

    gouvernail Active Member

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    Somehow, those of us who sail failed to invite people born between 1968 and 1980 out to play. Junior programs which were strong in the 1960s died when the baby boomers parents quit running them.
    The marinas and yacht clubs built between 1960 and 1980 filled and there was no pressure to invite new folks to come share the expenses.
    The sailors themselves still invited and still invite their friends out for rides but, the sailors who were not friends with people born between 1968 and 1970 didn't invite those kids to play.
    The older sailors had more funds and built more amenities at their clubs and marinas and the "cheap entry level" they themselves had enjoyed, no longer exists.
    In 1978 there were over 200,000 new sailboats sold in the US alone. Now hardly anybody builds sailboats (fewer then 10,000 in the US last year) and therefore almost nobody is promoting our sport and selling new sailboats.
    In the early 1970s, the old man of the Laser class were in their mid thirties and they still had fantasies of kicking the kids asses. They invited kids out to sail the new very physical boats just to show the kids "the old men still had it."
    The kids enjoyed kicking their dad's asses and the dad's enjoyed watching their kids learn and take the game to a new level.

    Now, the 30 year olds are all wimps whose mommies still don't let them sail on windy days and the old men who don't have it anymore buy Viagra.

    The good news??

    Kids and grandparents "share a common enemy."

    Kids are now taking up sailing again because Gramps is really cool and he has a boat daddy is too chicken to sail.

    The NA Laser Class needs a new bumper sticker.

    Take Your Grandkids Sailing....That coddled son you raised is too chicken to do it himself
     
  6. sidewinder

    sidewinder Member

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    I got married right after college and have 2 kids. I think gouvernail is right in the fact that sailing took an abrupt turn from a family activity, to something more akin to "dad's poker night." I'll be damned if that happens in my family.

    If it is true that people don't start sailing again until they are 40+, it's no wonder there are no new dinghy classes that can sustain momentum past 100 boats.

    I don't want to go into another "state of sailing/decline in participation" discussion. I think we answered the population question. Let's go back to the rest of my questions and see if there is anything else worth discussing.

    1. Are people in that bracket simply not supporting the class? No- it is agreed that this is a representative sample of sailing as a whole.

    2. Or is this chart just a snapshot of sailing as a whole? Yes - See Above

    3. Has the graph always showed this trend? Anyone? How far back is this data tabulated?

    4. Is the class going to Implode once the "baby boom" crowd starts leaving the class? Anyone? The data from #3 will provide the answer. If the data always showed this relative change, then we'll be OK.

    5. Is there an existing perception that joining the class provides no real value other than allowing you to race sanctioned regattas? This was only out there if the answer to #1 was yes. I think it is worthy of discussion since I know there is a hell of a lot more than 2300 people sailing lasers in NA.
     
  7. SFBayLaser

    SFBayLaser Member

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    But are you planning to sail events above your local club level? I don't think people stop sailing... those that I know redirect their activities to fit their available time. This means sailing almost entirely at the club/fleet level. This is also the level that involves their kids, at least in the beginning.

    A few years ago the 5o5 class produced a similar plot which at one time was on their website (I can't seem to find it right now). It looked similar to the Laser class profile EXCEPT that there was no spike at the lower age end. IMHO, I would be very worried if I saw such a profile.

    The ILCA-NA office updates this plot on a regular basis, it has looked that way since the first time I saw it (sometime around 2001 or 2002). My guess is that it has been this way at least the past 10 years. Unfortunately, the membership database that we have now does not go back more than 5 years.

    I don't think so. The peaks of the two age distributions have not changed since this distribution has been regularly updated. We have a healthy influx of young sailors due to a variety of factors, like the Laser's and Radial's Olympic status, the 4.7 starting to get solidly established, etc. A refreshing trend the past few years has been the increasing proportion of the fleet which is under 18 at major events (which probably explains why the fleets at major championships have been cresting 200 boats - Laser, Radial and 4.7 - on a regular basis again). From what I can tell, a good fraction of the post-college crowd is pre-occupied with life but do seem to start coming back to Laser and Radial sailing as their time and money starts to free up.

    It does seem that in North America (and the US in particular), if they don't "have to" join the class to sail in a championship event, then people want something they can hold in their hands for their money. We do have a nice full color quarterly news magazine which is devoted entirely to Laser, Radial and 4.7 sailors. However, a problem is that this is a publication covering North America in general and I'm guessing the casual club sailor doesn't necessarily find it relevant to their particular case. So... you tell me: what does the casual club sailor want that will get them to shell out their $40/year to support the class?

    Of course, their are many solid reasons why everyone racing a Laser, Radial or 4.7, at any level, should support the Laser Class. At the very top is motherhood and apple pie: that money supports the very infrastructure that is primarily responsible for them sailing Lasers at their local club instead of, for example, Force 5's or Banshees or Sunfish or Lehman 12s or ... which is also the reason why their boat is worth so much when they go to sell it... but none of that matters when convincing people to join...
     
  8. sidewinder

    sidewinder Member

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    I think the quarterly magazine is great. I think there needs to be a little better balance between technical content and club/regatta reports. Last issue had several articles on downwind sailing, which were great. But the current issue has almost no technical articles.

    I'm a big picture thinker and I've sailed other one designs. I have always valued the benefits of a class organization. For me the greatest benefit is Scantling control which leads to sustained resale value. Other than those, I don't know what the club racer expects to get.
     
  9. Deimos

    Deimos Member

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    I have no idea what the US Class Association offer to members and thus how much they appeal to a wide membership. I'm not going to start my gripes again but I'm not a Class Association member because of what my country Class Association can (or rather cannot) provide. I did try and join a Class Association in another country (because they "do more") but apparently this is not allowed.

    A bit unrelated, but I tend to watch the ISAF news feeds - to try and keep in touch with what is going on and they seem to focus in a very very very big way on the elite few at the absolute top levels of the sport. The 99.99% of us mere mortals are just not relevant. Thus, I suspect if people could subscribe to the ISAF, their membership would be low as they offer little to the "normal" sailor. I'm using the ISAF as an example here - not being critical of them.

    In a similar way, if significant percentages of the Class Association funds are spent on organising World and National Championships, etc. many might get the feeling that what they are actually doing is subsidising these events (when many of those attending probably have massive sponsorship deals and coach boats, etc. anyway and really don't need subsidising by somebody struggling to afford a class legal sail).
    (Notice the clever way other threads are brought into the discussion here <<insert smiley face>>)

    Ian
     
  10. Ross B

    Ross B Guest

    College is a big cause for decline in the age group. I know I'm racing A LOT less than I used to, I just don't have time, so many papers to write, and places to go for class. There just isn't enough time.
     
  11. gouvernail

    gouvernail Active Member

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    Not buying the college excuse. While I was in college there was a huge peer group sailing with me. I mostly paid my own way through school and therefore had a job all summer and whenever there was time between semesters....But I was also the measurer for a couple classes, district measurer for another, district secretary for one of those and class president of another class.
    My contributions to the game and my activity on the course both locally and at regattas was not even close to being "way out of line with everybody else."

    I was just one of many doing the same sort of stuff.

    At the regattas there were tons of sailors who went to college and also sailed actively in two or three classes.

    I believe the ONLY difference was the availability of lots and lots of brand new boats at lots and lots of dealerships where the dealers wewre as fascinated and enthusiastic about the game as the kids and adults ( who acted like kids) who were grabbing up the brand new toys.

    Also, The other difference...The boats generally sucked compared to today. The equipment sucked. The transportation sucked. The gear sucked. We only makde $2 per hour at those summer jobs and lots of adults worked for $3 to $5 per hour and they sailed.

    Boats are a lot cheaper now than they were in the seventies.
    Sailboats used to cost almost as much as the far more popular powerboats. Now Laser sailboats cost about 1/10th what it clst to get a simple runabout and way way less than ski boats.
    Powerboats still sell like crazy!!!

    The problem??? Nobody is inviting friends out to try the "BRAND NEW FYLIBMO!!!"
    which is my fault. So I guess I need to build some.
     
  12. Deimos

    Deimos Member

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    Interesting and I agree but also I think local variations play an important part. In France it seems each year most clubs (round me anyway) have a "Fete du Nautism" - basically an open weekend where everybody is invited to come along and have a go. Loads of publicity and fliers pushed through letterboxes, etc. and people do go to them and have a great time. Add that many schools seem to have sailing classes during term time (the kids love it despite teachers being there) and during the summer holidays kids have training courses (all day, most weekdays) and they have a really great time. Trouble is that for them to continue as they become adults involves so much paperwork, so many rules and bureaucracy - it just becomes more effort than it is worth for many. It is the typical way things are often done in France. For example, my Laser and my sailing have to be covered by 4 separate insurance policies, I need a medical each year between 1st Jan and my first sail, but only after I have purchased my sailing licence (valid from and available from 1 Jan). Then, although the licence is stamped and signed by your doctor, you also need a separate medical certificate, etc., etc.. Enough to discourage the most determined person.

    Ian
     
  13. GBR 134

    GBR 134 Member

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    It may be off message but your post just supports the justness of the Anglo anti French bias! Come back top East Anglia ASAP!
     
  14. sailchris

    sailchris Member

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    Wow. You need a sailing license(!)...and what the heck are the 4 insurance policies for?
     
  15. GBR 134

    GBR 134 Member

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    That's the French for you!
     

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