Regatta Participation

Discussion in 'Sunfish Talk' started by derekcjackson, Mar 29, 2008.

  1. derekcjackson

    derekcjackson Member

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    The attendance at the recent Int'l Masters (32 boats) and Midwinters (40 boats) surprised me. While I recognize our numbers have been dropping, this years' decline was significant.

    Ignoring the decline is not going to cause the problem to go away. It has to be a matter of concern in the class. I am surprised nobody has brought it up for discussion. Silence is not the way to learn and implement change.

    A few years ago regatta attendance was briefly discussed publicly here:
    http://www.sunfishforum.com/regatta-attendance-t3068.html?t=3068

    I know for myself, the regatta dates were a problem because of a new job, and family commitments. What were the factors that influenced the decision to attend or not attend for other people?

    For those that were eligible for both events but only attended one, what was the reason? Historically we have tried to market the winter events as a package deal for those that are eligible.

    I would guess for some of those that did not attend, travel costs were probably a consideration. Gas prices are obviously out of our direct control. There are things we can do to help reduce the costs. Would creating a ride and/or boat share board on the class website help this?

    What else can we do to make these regattas more accessible and attractive to our current and potential new members?
     
  2. ewagman

    ewagman New Member

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    I am sure everyone has personal reasons, for me a factor was that both mid winters this year were pretty far north, considering possible early to mid March temperatures, while it could be nice and balmy, it might not too. I've already "enjoyed" a 40 degree mid winter's further south in Sarasota, so I hated to invest a thousand mile drive each way, with the greater possiblity of a cold regatta in the panhandle, I can stay home and sail in the cold (in my dry suit).

    If a more northern club is hosting a mid-winters, a few weeks later timing could reduce the possiblity of a cold regatta, possibly helping attendance from us northerners looking to get a break from winter.

    I prefer to drive my motorhome, tow the boat, and stay on the regatta site, not all venues can accomodate this, but this is also a factor for me, even though 6 to 7 mpg from Pennsylvania add$ up, and makes alternitives more cost effective, it's my preference to stay on site.

    Also for me, the finances of a kid who will be going into her unplanned (for me) 5th year of college and another starting this fall, both at expensive private colleges, plays a large factor for me for a while. I might be really poor next year!!

    Ed
    77318
     
  3. billmcinnis

    billmcinnis Member

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    I went to both events and was surprised at the light turnout. Given the way they scheduled the two events to make it easier to attend, the attendance should have been better. I’ve gone the last three years and each year the numbers have dropped significantly.

    I’m sure that the cost was a factor for some, although the lodging in these areas is more reasonable than further south. I know of a few who sailed in the Masters who had family commitments and couldn’t make the Midwinters, but, that’s probably always the case. I don’t know personally, but, I heard some comments that quite a few of the more southern Florida sailors weren’t coming because of the cool panhandle weather and the distance. The Masters, in particular, turned out to be cooler than cool.

    I’ve been in the class for only a few years so I don’t know about the normal ups and downs. However, I attend about sixteen regattas per year and it’s clear to me that since I joined overall attendance has definitely slipped.

    The first major regatta I attended was the NA’s at Lewes. I thought it was a great regatta and it would be a good one to emulate.

    Except for the lines sometimes being much too short, the racing is usually good. I think it’s important to make the regattas user-friendly and to enhance the social aspects. Even though it’s not always possible, some of the on-shore things that are nice to have are:

    - Coffee etc. in the morning
    - Lunches and water
    - Beer and soda after the racing
    - Dinners that people will attend
    - Camping

    I don’t think that regattas should lose money, but, I don’t think they should be making money either.
     
  4. jsdeimel

    jsdeimel Member

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    - Coffee etc. in the morning
    - Lunches and water
    - Beer and soda after the racing
    - Dinners that people will attend
    - Camping

    These + cheap housing should be in Erie for the NA's.:):)
     
  5. derekcjackson

    derekcjackson Member

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    This reply is from Joe Sullivan. He was having problems posting, so I am doing it for him.

    -----------------------------------------

    I bought my first Sunfish 40 years ago and have competed in hundreds of regattas over the years but unfortunately never the International Masters' or the Midwinter's. While working, I could never take off the app. two weeks needed to make the trip from NYC, and since I retired and started coaching the Fordham University Sailing Team, the March dates conflict with the College Sailing spring season.

    I knew that attendance at Sunfish regattas was down but I was shocked at the numbers this year. I can only conclude that the cooler locales adversely effected attendance. If I were going to make the trip south in March, I definitely would want to sail at a warm and preferably hot venue.

    But I suspect that Derek is asking us to address the bigger picture of attendance decline throughout the Class and not just at the Florida events.

    Certainly, the growth in popularity of Optis has hurt the Sunfish as a junior training boat. But that's the nature of capitalism. You lead, follow or get out of the way.

    I love the Sunfish. It has given me four decades of enjoyment and I've met many terrific people while competing on the national circuit. All four of my children learned to sail on the Sunfish. It is still a great product. But for the Sunfish to be resurrected as a viable training boat for children and an enjoyable competitive boat for adults, smart, dedicated and creative young Sunfish sailors, who are passionate about the boat, will have to step up and create a new business model, and I hope that it is not too late.

    Today, the Class operates much like it did 30 years ago. It's worked for us, but times have changed. Different competitive pressures exist. We have the product. What we need is the leadership to create a five to ten-year strategic plan for the regrowth of our Class. No current way of doing business should be sacred. Everything should be examined...Regions, Governance, Regattas, you name it. There is no need to throw the baby out with the bath water. We have a terrific product; passionate, albeit older sailors; virtually national distribution; a wonderful Class newsletter; PanAm Games representation and very good, competitive regattas leading up to a North American and World's Championship. There is so much good upon which to build, but we're in a downward spiral.

    Our Class needs three or four qualified and competent people, who are committed to the task and willing to pick up the ball and run with it. They will need our support, encouragement, input, collaboration and perhaps most of all our flexibility to accept change for the good of the Class. Can we do it? Absolutely! Will we? Time will tell, but there is not much left.

    Just my 2 cents...

    Joe Sullivan
    US 21681
     
  6. imported_foxy

    imported_foxy 79255

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  7. Blockhead

    Blockhead New Member

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    I think Joe Sullivan's post is very good. I think we are fortunate to have Andres Santana as our ISCA President. He is doing a lot to strengthen the class. He has developed and is implementing a strategic plan which includes marketing and outreach to juniors, he is working to build our relationship with the builder, etc. We will need to help implement the strategies and introduce appropriate tactics in the US to help the class return to growth. I don't think the class is as healthy as it was, but it is not violently ill. It is more like it has a fever and we should try to get it healthier before it gets really sick.

    Participation is down some at the midwinters, and this year was a big drop. That said the last two years we had 74 boats show up, so this year could be the anomaly. However, I do have a couple of comments:

    - A lot of midwinters participation has been coming from Florida. If the Floridians do not support it, the turnout is going to be down. Obviously it is not healthy for the class to be relying on one state for the bulk of the fleet.

    -Gas prices could be influencing things. On the other hand, the Thistles had 53 boats (so about 159 sailors) show up a few weeks ago in St. Pete for their midwinters, and those boats came in from all over the country. Maybe Thistle sailors have more money for gas, but that does not seem likely.

    - Scheduling of our regattas. Personally, I have a job that makes it hard to take a lot of time off. I don't understand why we schedule regattas to run Thurs-Sat for the midwinters, and Weds-Friday for the NAs. For people within a 6-8 hour drive from the midwinters, or those flying in and chartering, a Friday-Sunday regatta means you drive or fly in Thursday after work, and get home Sunday night. One day off for a 3 day event. If you drive a long distance, it is 3 days off. The way it was this year, the midwinters need 2 days off if you fly or drive a short distance, and 3 if its a long distance. The , NAs a full three days off even if you live next door, and 4 if you drive a long distance (if it was Friday-Sunday, long distance drivers would only need 3 days off.)

    - The class is aging. Lasers get a lot of youths at their events, we do not, but we did "back in the day." On the other hand, the Thistles are not sailed by a bunch of spring chickens, so it is hard to say if age is having an impact on us or not.

    So I have not really provided much in the way of solutions, but it looks like its possible for classes with older sailors to pull in big fleets, so there should be a way for us. Brazil is thinking of making the Sunfish the logical next step for youths coming out of Optis who do not have the right biotype for Lasers. Too bad that is not happening right here in the US. Perhaps our meetings with the builder can help influence marketing strategy.

    Andres Santana has been writing good columns in the Windward Leg about plans for the class which are being implemented so check them out if you have not, the class website is 2,000% better than it was a year ago, and the NAs are back up in the North for the first time in a few years, so hopefully we will start seeing a turnaround but all of us need to think, rethink, suggest and get involved to get us back on the path to growth.

    Chris
     
  8. zenpirate

    zenpirate New Member

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    For mem the aging and 'retiring' of the sailing population kind of scares me. I'm 25 and have been sailing on and off my whole life. I was lucky enough to have a father who used to sail, so I was lucky enough to be introduced to it. I've turned on 5- 6 people to sailing through my college boat rentals, but things need to be done on a bigger scale.
    I don't think sailing is as understood my the "Average" person my age as it should be. If it's not in a beer commercial or otherwise on TV, we don't know about it. Sailing is something rich people do in the bahamas and the only racing looks like the americas cup....
    Although our clubs are everywhere, they are usually not very high profile. If we want sailing and sailing sunfish to include a larger group of people, we needto attract them.
    My club and I are starting a U.S. Sailing Small boat school in order to create a means for people who have never toucvhed a boat to enter the sport easily. Next we are going to seek out people who don't understand that sailing is something everyone can get into and most people end up loving.

    Sports today need to be flashy, exiting, dangerious, have an element of sex, and be cost effective to be involved in.......Sailing can be this in hte public eye.

    I show videos of lsaers in gales and hydofoil moths in my engineering class and kids get exited about it. Sun fish are almost as exiting and WAY more accessable. I want to know why they are not advertised as such.

    Laser performance(Vanguard) needs to show the sunfish as a racing boat. they show the lasers throwing spray and people buy them for that. they show sunfish sailing off into the sunset and resorts buy them for that. Why not show the Pro boat as a spray throwing planning extreme vechicle? Sell them as the two boats they are....the Rec boat for rec and the Racing Fish as a way to get into cut throat racing and exitement on the water for a dime.

    And would it hurt to but a few bikini girls hugging a guy in a spray top next to his sunfish?

    Of course thats just my opinion, I could be wrong...
     
  9. erichughes

    erichughes Eric

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    Ed
    If I learn anything this coming season, I will ride with you for next years and share gas costs heh heh
    Eric mechanicsburg

     
  10. Susan Mallows

    Susan Mallows New Member

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    The most effective method I have found to improve regatta performance and get people into the boat is to work at the grassroots level - talk to as many people as possible about the class, the very nice people in it, how easy the boat is to sail, how you can find one cheap (and direct them where to go), and how there are tons of people willing to help and then make sure that they do. As a fleet captain I try to send inexperienced people to our expereinced skippers to ask questions about rigging etc. This helps them get to know other fleet members and makes them feel like any question can be asked. I offer to sail with anyone as a buddy who wants to improve their skills and will invite anyone who shows the vaguest interest to come and try a boat.

    I encourage all of our members to attend our local regatta's held on our home lake. If they are really new and not up to sailing they can come and help with RC, if they can sail upwind I emphasize how they will not be in the way, how they will meet new people and how much it will help them just to interact with the people sailing.

    For away regatta's I try and talk people into trailering, have gone over trailers with people to make sure they are roadworthy, provide directions, tell them who they know is going and emphasize the adventure and fun and minivacation aspect.

    It takes ALOT of encouragement to build a fleet, and even more to get people to travel. I find most people just feel it is a little overwhelming at first and need someone to help them get over the hump. We need to make regatta's more welcoming and easy for people.
     
  11. PMagnani

    PMagnani 36474

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    There are hundreds of reasons people cannot make any given regatta however don't look too far into a bad Midwinters or Masters. I agree more is needed to keep up with whatever else is out there for kids and adults to do or sail but we need to look at the regattas at the local level too. You guys at SANJL have amazing participation. MAYRA in the Mid-Atlantic holds it's own every Sunday of the Summer and those guys in Texas do real well too with their circuit. Out West...well...that's a different story. The point is, if there was a huge decline during the sailing season, then I'd be worried but as long as the regions do well themselves, I think the Fish will survive. The Regional regattas are well attended right? I wonder what the maximum distance a Sunfish sailor would drive to get to a regatta....

    How many would drive out to Colorado for a regatta....? How many would be from OK, TX or KS ?!

    Just my 2 cents - a good discusion topic
     
  12. Cindy Taylor

    Cindy Taylor Member

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    I live in east central Florida and it would have taken me about 10 hours to drive to the events to the Florida pan handle which if I would have done it I would have to break it up into two days. I get sleepy when driving long distances. What prevented me from attending was time off of work. I recently changed jobs and now am lacking in the time off benefits. I also sail a Laser and in February there were Master events held over a week that were closer to home and actually cheaper since I could stay with friends or stay home. One day I would like to sail at the Florida pan handle though.

    I also help out with a Sunfish classes at a small yacht club in Titusville. The club has old Sunfish club boats that are not setup for racing with pro Sunfish. We try to get people interested in buying a racing boat and attend friendly local regattas but people are hesitant in spending money on something they are not sure they will like. The club tries to make the Sunfish available for members to sail but not many take advantage of it. The club house has access to an area of the Indian River Lagoon that is north of a low swing bridge that will not open for non-motorized vessels. This area north of the bridge is small.

    Titusville also has a wonderful sailing area to the south of this low swing bridge but no real sailing club to store boats with access to the sailing area like Sarasota Sailing Squadron or Martin County Sailing Center. I do have a boat Kennedy Point Marina and use the Kennedy Point Park to launch my Laser ( and sometimes Sunfish). We sail on Wednesday nights out of Kennedy Point Park but not many sailors take advantage of it. The numbers vary from 2 to about 10 at the highest. It seems like we get college Laser sailors who do not mind trailering their boats to the park for the evening sail. Maybe the Sunfish needs to get into college programs??? I started with a Laser at 40 but bought a Sunfish because I saw that the Sunfish sailors were generally my age.

    I also help out with catamaran regattas in Daytona Beach. They are having the same problems with reduced numbers participating in regattas. The Daytona Beach area has a nice community sailing center (Halifax Sailing Association) on the narrow Halifax River that has a fleet of small boats that seems to be building.

    The numbers are just not there any more. If there were sailing centers on the water that made it easy for kids and adults to get sailing then I believe that we would have more participation. In Florida property with water access is too valuable and the development has taken a lot of land/marinas. If there were more community sailing centers I believe there would be more kids/adults interested in sailing. But that takes volunteers, water access, and a fleet of boats. All of these can be hard to get. People seem to be busier now days with work and other sports.
     
  13. ClintonEdwards

    ClintonEdwards New Member

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    The schedule for Masters/Midwinters was designed for a person who could attend both events to take one week off from work and participate in both events. It looks like not many people took advantage of this opportunity. Sunday was scheduled for those to drive home. I did hear from the local teachers who would have attended if the F/S/S format was used. Can't please everybody.

    Housing was offered at both events, but not many takers.
    The PRO in both events were qualified Race Officers recognized by USSAILING.
    I was on the RC for Masters on Sat/Sun. Had to work on Monday.

    As for the weather, the front that made it cold for Masters made it as far south as Tampa. Weather is not excuse. For a few years in a row, every MW lost a day to weather. Weather is something we can not control. Yes, I agree, that when the FL Panhandle host these events, it would be advisable to push the dates. Remember, we are not the only game in town. I will start working the 2011 Masters/MW and attempt to have them push back to the end of March. Guessing, but I can only think of 2 NAs in the last 10 that completed every scheduled race.

    Driving...with state of economy, I can only assume that many people are tightening their belts. Gas prices are a factor. Entry fees will go up. As Regatta Chair for my club (10 yrs now), I can no longer expect those who user their personal boats to cover the costs of fuel. When gas was $1, no problem. Over $3, big problem. I need to cover my expenses. My regattas only make money when you drink at the bar!

    I heard this formula years ago about attendance: 40/20/20. Forty regulars (die hard/every year), 20 every other year, and 20 locals.

    About rotations...Chris please don't consider Dallas, TX the South. It is probably an insult to the Texans. It is a 10 hour drive from the MS Gulf Coast. I can drive to Disney World in ten hours. Where would I rather be??? All in good fun....In hindsight, FYC should have taken the Worlds and let BBYC keep the NAs as scheduled. Oh, well!

    As with Chris, these are only observations.

    Solutions:
    1. The Class needs to enforce the formats stipulated by our Class. If we don't enforce them, then lets change/improve them so that they work.
    2. Not sure of the ramifications, but do we change our ISAF Category for our regattas to allow advertising on personal boats to help offset the cost?
    3. Start carpooling!
    4. Really promote the housing/camping aspect. If a club can't house then should we let them host?

    A few more things to think about: How many of you are members of USSAILING? What will happen if the movment to require every skipper that races to be a member of USSAILING comes true?

    haven't sunfished yet this year
    Clinton Edwards
     
  14. derekcjackson

    derekcjackson Member

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    Clinton Edwards wrote:
    "What will happen if the movement to require every skipper that races to be a member of USSAILING comes true?"

    This is the first I have heard of this. Who is pushing it and what is the reason? In the past, the only connection I can remember is a $5 discount at regattas to US Sailing members.
     
  15. jsdeimel

    jsdeimel Member

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    Derek,
    It was on the front page of SA last week.
    US Sailing - Mandatory Ignorance
    By Peter Huston

    US Sailing's recent announcement of mandating membership for helmsmen has inspired a lot of conversation. It seems that US Sailing has somehow tied itself to a winning America's Cup team by employing their same strategy - that being the Swiss team Alinghi announcing a really bad protocol prior to consulting with their primary customers, the other teams. Alinghi lost in a court of law last week because of their lack of candor. So too did US Sailing announce the mandatory membership initiative before even gauging the interest of this idea from their customers, sailors around the US. US Sailing lost in the court of public opinion last week. Rather than fight them about this bad idea, there is another solution...

    Read On

    2008-03-27
     
  16. imported_chucktowncolie

    imported_chucktowncolie New Member

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    This was my first foray to the midwinters. I drove down with David Loring, and he's been to a couple before. We had a good conversation on the way home about why this race dropped 30 people from last year to this year. Personal stats: I'm 33, married, one kid, one on the way, live in Charleston, Public School Teacher/Video Producer/Professional Musician. I list all my "occupations" because you need to know I'm not a doctor or someone of extreme wealth.

    Here's what we discussed:
    There's actually a good group of 30 somethings in the class. We're gonna stay put, we love the sunfish. We all had a good time b/c of something that might have scared some people away - college spring break in panama city. We were far removed from it at the yacht club, but it might have had an effect on hotel prices etc. I honestly thought we were going to be up to our knees in college spring breakers, which I was looking forward to ;), but that might have been a deterrent.

    Gas - I'm not a wealthy man, but gas hurt me a little. I split with Dave, we drove his Jeep, and I filled it up twice at 65 bucks a pop. Brian McG, I feel for you on this one.

    This next one is HUGE, and I haven't seen it mentioned yet. No Charter boats. This would have helped out people like Lee Montes, who fortunately found a boat to use somewhere, it also would have increased the attendance of people from elsewhere. Think about it, the guys from the Bahamas, South America, etc. couldn't charter a boat, plus it's easier for them to fly in to south florida. People who fly need charter boats.

    Lattitude - Driving from Chucktown we went down 95 then turned west for three plus hours. If we had spent that time driving south, I would have been warmer on the water. I was well equipped and ok, but being splashed by water that was five degrees warmer would have been nice.

    Free Beer. There, I said it, just like everyone else. Even cheap beer is good, even a club you can brown bag without feeling like you're a hoodlum is o.k. The yacht club that hosted was awesome. The karaoke friday night was hilarious (1-900 chips alot), "here's a bottle of wine that you can't drink on club property" in our registration bags was a new thing for me.

    I had a blast at midwinters. If it's in Florida, which it always is, I'll be back next year.
     
  17. KarmaFish

    KarmaFish New Member

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    I am new to the class and the 2008 Masters was my first experience out of District in the Sunfish Class. Be carefull not to draw too many conclusions from a low turnout as I really cannot argue with the Sunfish formula for success in the long run.

    Friendly people who are willing to help newcomers + extremely competitive racing + affordable boats for every price range (typically costing less than the price of a keelboat headsail).

    Isn't 2008 the year of the Sunfish with COC's, O'Day trophy, NA's and Worlds all easily accesisble in the US. Priorities change for sailors ability to attend each regatta but I've joined the class because your values and formula for success endures. Even in a economic downturn the local fleets in our area (MI) are growing because people realize the formula works. Can we get better? Sure... but two events shouldn't upset the formula for success.
     
  18. bill_k

    bill_k New Member

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    I am a new member to this website . I don't know what's been done in the past to promote the Sunfish class, but if you want to attract new members (young and old) you have to go and find them. As simple as that sounds, for example, I think you have to set up a booth at your county fair, make a float in the 4th of July parade, sponsor or co-sponsor some event at a school, offer free sailing lessons or do what ever that can spur the interest of an individual or family to find out how affordable sailing a sunfish can be.

    Bill
     
  19. KarmaFish

    KarmaFish New Member

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    Great post... You cannot discount the basics. This Saturday we are putting a boat in the local Mall with a colored sail up for attention with laptop displaying cool photos (Paul and Girlfriend included).


     
  20. odegaard

    odegaard cAPTN oDIE

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    I only attended the Masters due to a conflict and I was sorry to see few Florida folk that made the trip. I'm thinking, too long drive/too cold for Floridians.
    One suggestion regarding future Masters/MW's: several other classes have had success by hosting "feeder" regattas prior to their midwinters. How about scheduling one or two regattas on the way to South/mid Florida (like Charleston-Lake Dora, Fl., etc.) so that participants driving South have more events to attend so to make the long trip more worth while? Even a combined Grand Prix series of 3-4 winter events might encourage more Northerners to make the trek.

    Regarding Sunfish racing participation in general-we are obviously loosing the Opti kids to brand L due to our image problem. We need to hire a professional PR firm to work with us to change our image from off-the-beach-fun-boat to a serious racer. Vanguard will not help us, we need to work this ourselves. Ads in the marine media; heavy air flicks; racing articles, etc. etc. is needed for years to change our image. It will be costly, sure, but if we don't start soon, we will all age out and the Class could dwindle! Let's do it.
     

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