Dear Charleston's James Island Yacht Club, Come on.. It's time for some changes..

Discussion in 'Laser Talk' started by nateowens, Jun 3, 2009.

  1. nateowens

    nateowens District 12

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    Hi Folks,

    Over the weekend I visited SSA in Annspolis for the first time. I was amazed. I was awed. I fell in love. [yes, despite the very strange wind conditions and 300 degree wind oscilations]

    It was just about everything I am looking for in a club. It inspired me to do one of two things.. Move to Anna's Polis, or to make something like it in Charleston. Here's a letter I am drafting to the James Island Yacht Club in Charleston. If you have any thoughts to share, I would love to hear them.

    If the sentiment resonates with you, feel free to contact me and we can start a gang or maybe a sect of some sort.

    Cheers,

    Nate Owens
    There's strong,
    Then there's D12 Strong.



    Dear Charleston's James Island Yacht Club,

    My name is Nate Owens. I am an avid sailor with an overwhelming frustration for Charleston and its sailing scene. I moved to Charleston last year to support the southern sailing mecca. However, in six months I came to find there is a lack of small one design racing, practices and organization. The sailing scene leans heavily on the big boat PHRF racing which is prohibitively expensive for the younger generation of sailors.

    In order to stay competitive a young person coming out of the junior program, high school or college needs to quickly join a large boat. They lose track of the essential skills developed while dingy racing and become a foredeck, trimmer or simply rail meat. High quality sailing is not done in Beneteau Firsts or arguably J120’s, it is done in dinghies through fast action and big fleets. A great example of this is the 470, 49ers and Laser Olympic Classes.

    The James Island Yacht Club is an amazing club for sailing one designs. Your location directly on the harbor is perfect for small boats. Your beach is perfect for quickly launching large practices or regattas. JIYC has plenty of parking, a great place to watch the races and easy transport to and from downtown.

    The three major sailing/yacht clubs can be broken down. Carolina is for rich big folks where sailing is secondary to their elite status symbol of a club. Charleston YC is for the midrange sailors in terms of boat expense and yacht club expense. They are a stout group and heavily support boats in the 20-35 foot category. Where does that leave JIYC? What is your identity?

    I would like to compare JIYC to Severn Sailing Association who describes itself as the one design sailing club. They have hundreds of boats in an area half the size of JIYC parking lot. There are numerous J/24, J/22, Melges 24, Jets, Thistles, Lightnings, 420s, lasers and other one design fleets. The crowd is amazing. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday guarantees a fleet races or beer can races. There are consistently over 30 J/24s on the start line. There are more than 30 lasers out and about on any given series night. They have a strong frostbite series. They have become known worldwide for their regattas and their strong series. As a club they developed the strategy to support one design sailing. It is easy to become a member. Membership requires folks to contribute to the racing or help run races. They have many people join because they love sailing so much. Sailors in Charleston are begging for somewhere to call home like SSA.

    The one thing that plagues James Island Yacht Club is that it is prohibitively exclusive. A two to three year waiting list will turn anyone away. Your two to three year waiting list turned me away. I don’t have the time or to wait and follow my passion. All I need is a place to store my small one design boat and a club that supports me. JIYC can provide it if it weren’t as exclusive. I would otherwise be a young, excited and dedicated addition to your club. You are losing potential lifetime members, you are losing strong sailors who can run races, practices, contribute to the renown of JIYC as well as share our love for sailing.

    What is there to wait for? My focus is sailing and racing. I never saw more than 8 lasers or sunfish during the six months of trailering my boat into JIYC for “open” series sailing. I am not going to wait three years for a disappointing turn out. The strong sailors don’t want to come out for to mop the floor with the competition. They want to race against a large fleet of competitive boats. I want to get my friends to join and sail with me. They want to be able to learn to do better starts, mark roundings, boat on boat maneuvers, racing tactics and chalk talk forums discussing performance. This is not possible with a small fleet and it is not possible at JIYC in its current standing.

    The potential of JIYC to be the heart of the southern one design racing is frustratingly not possible with your current membership strategy. If you want to experience quick yet sustainable growth then you will need to develop a membership strategy encouraging sailors like me. We don’t care about the social scene as much as we want to sail. All we need is somewhere to dry sail our boats. Sunfish, Lasers, Jets and the like. I would recommend creating a sailing membership category. This would allow folks like me to join. The cost would be lower, the membership would be more open, membership would include a rotation in running series races. You will need to establish facilities that allow for additional storage or more organized storage.

    This is JIYC's change to do something exciting. With a membership strategy like this in place you will lay the groundwork for a revitalized sailing capitol of the south. A two to three year waiting list is for powerboaters. They can wait as they are a dime a dozen. In the mean time, you are losing sailors and lifetime members.

    I want to move back to Charleston. I do not want to move back as long as there is a stagnant small boat racing scene. If you like this idea, but don’t know how to accomplish it, then I’ll do it but please don’t let me wait three years.

    If you would like to talk about this in more detail, please let me know.

    Kind regards,

    Nate Owens
     
  2. Rob B

    Rob B Active Member

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    Hi Nate,

    We talked about this over dinner at the Masters at CYC. The letter is good and I'd send it to see what happens. You have a great idea and you may even want to send it to CYC-SC as well, (just take out the big, rich, socialite part!). As you're probably aware and I think we discussed this at dinner, CYC-NC has this program and it does work well.

    I'll just warn you not to get your hopes up. JIYC has always been a "strange bird" and they seem to like being that way. In the traditional south "change" is not looked favorably upon. If you check out the grounds at JIYC you'll notice it probably has not changed 1 ounce in 20 years.

    JIYC does have a great beach, (except at low tide) and ample lawn to spread a bunch of dinghys out on.

    Keep us posted on your progress.

    Rob
     
  3. Flipt

    Flipt New Member

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    Very well written note, Nate. I don't know anything about any of the clubs you mention, but I hope that the folks in JIYC can hear your passion for the sport and figure a way to make something happen.

    I had the incredible good fortune to relocate near the Austin Yacht Club, which has a very active one-design fleet with Laser and Sunfish races every Wednesday evening from May through September. The sailors are similarly passionate about the one-design (and specifically Laser) sailing here (do they come any more passionate than Goubernail?).

    If the folks in JIYC don't respond. . . Austin is a great place to sail (and to live!).
     
  4. mjbhawg

    mjbhawg Member

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    Nate,
    I was a member back in the mid 80s if the old guard is still there, like Rob said
    don't like change. I can't say for now its probably a motorboat club I hate to bust
    your bubble. Good luck and it would be a sailing mecha if it would open up. Mike:mad:
     
  5. mjbhawg

    mjbhawg Member

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    Let me add also I was the grounds chairman, a one man show for a year. All I got
    was grief from members cutting grass when they were sunbathing outside the club
    house. At meetings they ?????? cause upgrades were needed at the motorboat
    ramp and I would bet that ramp is first class now.
     
  6. Wavedancer

    Wavedancer Upside down? Staff Member

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    I am not a member and don't live nearby. But the fact that the club will host the Sunfish Nationals this month indicates that dinghy sailing is supported.

    But I sympathize with those wanting to sail but have to face long waiting lists. There are other clubs like that. Typically, they have extensive social programs, a pool, restaurant, and other activities. In some cases, newcomers need to find sponsors as well.

    What you need to push is a 'quickie' dinghy only membership. Good luck; I think you will need it.
     
  7. torrid

    torrid Just sailing

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    When they have regattas in Charleston, don't they have to clear it with the Coast Guard and close the harbour? I thought I read this somewhere.
     
  8. Tillerman

    Tillerman Member

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  9. torrid

    torrid Just sailing

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    Yep, need to watch out for those tour boats too!

    [​IMG]
     
  10. bheussler

    bheussler New Member

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    i've gotta say, being a local of annapolis... having SSA there my whole life has been amazing
     
  11. Wavedancer

    Wavedancer Upside down? Staff Member

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    Note that the Spirit of Charleston has 'killed' four Lasers, two Sunfishes and two Lightnings. Be forewarned! :D
     
  12. tclndcrz

    tclndcrz New Member

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    I've lived in Charleston my whole life (23 years) and understand your frustration. I've sailed out of Carolina Club and JIYC for regattas, pleasure, and practice. JIYC is indeed a strange bird and the people who are members like the way it is. Us southerners like that things change very slowly. We dont want a bunch of new people changing our scene. This is just how things are. Now considering how inexpensive JIYC is and the relatively short wait time (2 years) to become a member there is not much to complain about. It would be nice to see a bigger one class crowd in Charleston but i dont think it is just up to the yacht clubs to make this happen.

    I hope you get some attention from JIYC
     
  13. nesdog

    nesdog Member

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    Very well written note however I agree with earlier posts; chances of anything happening are slim. It takes vision and an 'inside' person to champion changes like this. Find someone you know who is a member. Offer to head up the programs for them for free.

    (We have a local yacht club on a small lake here. They have kids programs, racing, etc. and I thought it would be fun to join. Ha! Ha! Ha! Multi-year waiting list and then it turns out the price is 3K+. Good thing the ocean is close by.)
     
  14. Rob B

    Rob B Active Member

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    When you are between the ages of 20 to 30, (and have lived is several places and are opent to the possibility of moving) 2 years can be a lifetime. In today's economy clubs are loosing members and it's a great time to open up with a recruiting program for new and young members. While it's true Nate will need to champion any class he wants to push at a club he gets into it is aggrivating to see clubs with so much sailing potential like JIYC choose to stay idle. I know people don't like change, but you can see the adverse affects of that mentality and the detrimental outcome it brings to long time business icons like GM.
    There are many times in life where change is good.
     
  15. mjbhawg

    mjbhawg Member

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    Very well written Rob, I can see Nates frustation I know I used to put up with that
    bunch many moons ago. There was one sailor there who owned a boat company
    and he was a good salesman. Then again with this econemy there will loss of members
    cause it becomes a luxury, so now might be the time. Nate I will PM you as to some
    members who are still there they were really pro sailors and well respected.
     
  16. melges419

    melges419 New Member

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    some great points. i have a great passion for one design racing in Charleston also. i race j24s on Wednesday nights which is the only one design fleet to race in the PHRF races. We had 9 out last week. Not bad. I sailed against 10 sunfish last Wednesday at JIYC and I can tell you at least 5 of them were very good sailors. This week there will be even more good ones as some of us are getting ready for the Sunfish North Americans. I think this shows that the club is open to one design, wants one design and supports one design. Our sailing committeee has agreed that any Laser can show up any thursday night and race. We are willing to give you a seperate start if enough of you show up. It is open to members and non members on this special night. this gives anyone like you the opportunity to help build your fleet and bring some people and show the other club members there is a need.

    I suggest you let the sailing committee know your thoughts. (I think they know now). Tame it down a little because big pushes will just meet resistance. JIYC is a great club with a very diverse membership and it is both power and sail and you have to live with that but it is the best location on the harbor and good for much more than sailing. Keep up the talk and come meet me on a Thursday night and after I would love to talk to you about it. and we will buy you your first beer(if you are over 21).

    The Club also lends($10) Sunfish and 420s out on those nights on a first come first serve basis. Members get first right but we have never not had enough boats. Hopefully we do some day. They are really reaching out. Sunfish tends to be a more competitive fleet right now but that does not have to stay the case. Show up and I will know who you are and start a dialogue.
     
  17. Rob B

    Rob B Active Member

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    This is great. Way to step up Melges419 and offer to open a door. Nate, what happens next is what you decide to do with it. I hope you revitalize the Charleston Laser scene. Work with this guy and ask Glenn and Doug for e-mail/contact info on D12 folks in the Charleston area. Pick a Thursday evening and have your first, (of what could be weekly) evening racing scene. Let us know what happens. Great networking Laser Forum!
     
  18. IntensitySails

    IntensitySails Member

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    Your best bet may be to skip the YCs altogether and just gather a group and sail out of a launch ramp to get established.
    For the past 4 years we have had a group ranging from 4 to 20 sailors show up Tuesday evenings in Bristol RI and do rabbit starts until dark. No organization to deal with (no cost either) and beer afterwards. It is the best of all worlds. If you can find the sailors and get it started one of the clubs may even want to adopt you and your fleet. Truth is you are probably better off keeping it loosely organized.
     
  19. torrid

    torrid Just sailing

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    You've got to watch the older membership of an existing club. They really don't like change.

    Several years ago I was part of a fleet a club which rapidly grew from 4-5 boat to 20+ boats. Brought a lot of new membership into the club. The existing membership was uncomfortable with it.

    Their beef? When we would come in from sailing, we'd wheel our boats onto the lawn and rinse them off. We blocked thier view of the water, and that really upset them.

    We also launched our boats from dollies instead of backing trailers in the water. That seemed to bother them too.
     
  20. Rob B

    Rob B Active Member

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    No. Most courses stay well clear of the commercial traffic lanes. We do file our regatta plans with the GC for each season at the beginning of the year. Lastly, all recreational boats are required to stay clear of commercial traffic.
     

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