Weekly Racing Costs and Admin

Discussion in 'Laser Class Politics' started by Kurt H, Sep 28, 2010.

  1. Kurt H

    Kurt H New Member

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    Our club (CYC Seattle) provides excellent weekly racing April-Sept with a professional PRO, 2 whaler drivers and a scorekeeper. We get up to 4 great races in some of the best (albeit coldest and deepest) waters for Laser sailing. We get together at a floating YC clubhouse for beer and not so good food and a view of the sun setting behind the Olympics.

    What's not to like? Well, the cost.

    As the fleet captain I've been trying to build participation and have run headlong into the costs. For four series (each 6 nights) the cost for racing is approx $250. That's OK. The problem is the club requires membership, which is $650 plus an initiation fee of $275. When people start adding up the costs, Laser racing is a non-starter for most. We can't get the club to budge on this.

    I've found several other "cheap" informal programs in the area (and broadcast their existence) but none have taken off. Our fleet is down to about 10 regulars. There are signs it could grow if things were less expensive.

    As a fleet we're exploring other possibilities for running races, from staying with what we have to running our own.

    We'd love to hear how other fleets do it. What works?

    Who runs your races, how much does it cost, what's the schedule, how many boats do you get, how many races do you run, do you ever rotate venues. All that stuff.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Eric_R

    Eric_R D10 Secretary

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    Why does the club force membership? It should be treated like a regatta so anyone could sail but they are paying for food and drink (or it's part of the entry fee).
     
  3. Rob B

    Rob B Active Member

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    You could always go less formal and dump the paid help for fleet volunteers. The volunteers rotate each race day. BYOB for after sailing story telling.....
     
  4. Kurt H

    Kurt H New Member

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    The basic answer there is that the club leadership sees access to the racing as the primary club benefit. They're afraid by opening it up they're going to lose membership dues (which they would) that would not be made up by extra participation. I happen to believe the only way out of the mess is to do whatever it takes to increase participation, but the powers that be seem intent on hanging on to their current membership requirement.

    To give you an idea: Once upon a time there were 6 or so classes out on Thursday nights, and maybe 50 boats total. About 8 or so years ago we'd have 25 boats on the line. Now it's just about 10-12 Lasers and occasionally 5 or so Stars. We tried some free promotional nights this year and had 25 boats out, yet the club leadership doesn't seem to want to open up the weeknight racing. The same issues apply to PHRFers on Puget Sound and other classes.

    Basically, we have some influence on the club, and our efforts have forced them to pay attention to us, but there appears to be no flexibility on the membership issue. There are a lot of loyal CYC members in our fleet (myself included), but our primary goal right now is building up Laser sailing, so we have to examine all the options.

    Anybody out there have a good independent working model for us to copy?

    Thanks.
     
  5. Deimos

    Deimos Member

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    Those costs are quite staggering. Maybe what is surprising is that you get anybody joining-in !!

    I have been a member of several UK clubs over the last few years (as I have moved around a bit). The most expensive (and really very high end) costs £200 (US$300) with a once off joining fee around 30% of the annual membership. All racing included in those costs (Wed evenings when daylight permits and Sunday racing through March - Boxing Day). Another cheaper club I sail at costs half that all racing included (similar program). The 3rd club I'm a member of costs £25 (US$40) per year, again all racing included but tide access limits program a bit (maybe miss one Sun in 5 and no Wed evenings). All charge a nominal fee if you keep your boat at the club (max £70 (US$110) per year). Basically, once you are a member all the sailing/racing/training sessions/launching fees/etc. included (except Open Meeting/Regatta).

    Club racing is organised by members, normally on a duty rota. When you are doing your duty you sign in for racing as OOD and get average points for the series for those missed races. Normally you are asked to do one day duty per year.

    I know of one commercial operation (i.e. a business rather than a club i.e. makes a profit for the owners) that offers dinghy racing and they charge £100 (US$150) per year, no joining fee - all racing included. Or you can just do a single series (typically 9 days, 18 races) costing £30 (US$50) no membership needed.

    Ian
     
  6. TonyB

    TonyB Member

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    It sounds like you're doing everything right. You just have negotiate and find the common ground where the sailors and the club are both benefitting.

    My sailing club is quite expensive (AUS$850 for membership, plus a joining fee then $150 extra for six months of Saturday racing), but the list of benefits is long too. The racing is generally well run, no RC duties for sailors, excellent facilities, a good bar and restaurant. I know the cost keeps some away, but then the club is always trying new ideas to bring the sailors in.

    For example, our winter racing is open to non-members, but the summer racing isn't. They've just brought in a 10% discount on all food and drink for members, and the food is generally very good. The juniors get greatly reduced membership ($175) and their racing is free. There is financial support for the young hotshots travelling to regattas. The club just spent a big chunk of money upgrading the launching ramp. There are volunteers at the launching ramp to help with trolleys. A playground for the little kids. They bought a bunch of gps units and race tracking software so we can play back our races after the event. And so on. Because it's a nice place to be, we'll often go to the club for a drink or a meal on non-sailing days. All of this added together makes the membership worthwhile.

    I can understand why your club would insist on membership, it would be their life blood, but they have to come to the party and find ways to make the membership worthwhile to sailors. Maybe some of the things in place at my club would be good suggestions for them. If all they're offering is race management, the sailors will find alternatives, or worse still, give up the sport.
     
  7. Kurt H

    Kurt H New Member

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    Very interesting. Yes, your club has a lot of benefits. In particular I like the idea of opening up certain segments of the season. Are there Laser only fleets in your area that run their own events, or are they all through established yacht clubs?
     
  8. TonyB

    TonyB Member

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    In Australia, racing is always organised through clubs and the clubs have to be affiliated with Yachting Australia, the national sailing association. Sailors in turn have to be a member of an affiliated club. Very different set up to the US.

    The only way a fleet could go their own way would be for them to set up their own sailing club. It does happen from time to time - all that's needed is a place to launch from and a committee of some sort to collect money and organise things. It's a lot of organising though. Other classes have done it in the past, but the Lasers seem mostly happy with the status quo.
     
  9. gouvernail

    gouvernail Active Member

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    Wow!! Your fees certainly are low.

    I think you should be promoting how super inexpensive the fees are rather than listening to the unemployed and homeless people who for some reason you have been attracting.

    Do you suppose the real reason these guys want to come to your facilities is to set up tents in the parking lot and shower inside??

    Don't listen to the ignorant knuckleheads who try to tell you these low fees are keeping out new players or driving people from the game. Your feels are dollar for dollar lower than those charged by many clubs where Laser sailing, and sailing of many types, prospered in the seventies.
    Since the seventies, the decimal has moved one place. People who work at McDonalds today make more dollars than degreed engineers made in the seventies.

    People who worked at mcDonalds couldn't afford to race sailboats in teh seventies and they won't be playing today.

    on the other hand, just as in the seventies, someone with a real job, even fresh out of college, can easily afford to buy a fancy bike, hot shot sound system, or laser.


    Life hasn't changed much. if you cannot afford a laser and to join a club where you can store it and play, you need to go get a decent job.
     
  10. Kurt H

    Kurt H New Member

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    There's a different take. Tell me more.

    What's your fleet's setup?
    Fees, schedule, facilities (dining) , open vs. closed, participation, growth or deciline
     
  11. Deimos

    Deimos Member

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    With clubs charging fees like Kurt H's or Austin, makes you wonder why in the US so many people cannot afford to e.g. join the Class Association or e.g. use a class Legal sail. why bother to save a few $100 when you are paying out around $70 per month just to be a club member !!

    We seem to (rightly) get so angry about being ripped-off by "the builder" when it seems the real villains taking our money are elsewhere.

    Ian
     
  12. torrid

    torrid Just sailing

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    I can understand the club's take on it, especially with formal racing with a professional PRO. It sounds like what you need is more informal beer can racing with the racers rotating through as crew. In my experience, a more low-key approach builds comradery. That is the key to long-term fleet growth.
     
  13. gouvernail

    gouvernail Active Member

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    You guys need to understand. The Puget Sound is 1200 feet deep. Setting marks properly is not something everybody can just go out and do.

    My prices rant above/?

    seriously folks. I don't make much money at all. The Austin yacht Club costs something under $100 a month and ahs 38 acres, a clubhouse, showers, storage for sailboats and the committee boats consist of three 19 foot aluminum workboats and one 23 foot workboat. ( Powerboats cost real money every day. When the powerboats get used teh cost skyrockets)

    The cost of taxes, boat and grounds maintenance and a cub manager and caretaker eats up the budget,

    Our 400 paying members share a $25,000,000 facility. The fact we manage to do it for under $100 per month each is incredible!!! If the lands were not donated fifty years ago, it would not be possible.


    Our Wednesday sailing is open to prospective members. it is an honor system but the invitation is "If you decide you love us, we expect you to join and pay your fair share.

    We work hard to make the newbies love us. We need them.
    ( The guy who doesn't accept help mentioned above is one of our newest members and, even though he gets cranky sometimes, he is a great guy and we spend hours and hours helping him acclimate to the game)


    Our Wednesday night Laser and Sunfish races are a loss leader for bringing in new members and teaching polishing sailing skills for all of us..

    Most of the people who visit Wednesday sailing join the club within a few years. Nobody has sailed ten years without joining the club ( except for one schoolteacher who has sailed inour Sunfish fleet for about 20 years and sunfish and has long since worn out her welcome...but we ahven't asked her to leave as we keep hoping she will join.))

    Membership in mpost sailing clubs isn't just once a week sailing 20 days or evenings a year. membership is comraderie, a place to keep the toys and the chance to race sailboats as much as time allows.

    The idea that keeping a boat at a place where you can just go play whenever you wish is worth less than a couple bucks a day is...

    Well ludicrous.

    why??

    Well first off without a sailing club...you could never buy the space that cheaply.

    because were it not for the special recreational non-profit tax status of places like Seattle's Corinthian YC and Austin YC, the taxes alone would exceed the dues charged by the club.
    Our oldest Yacht clubs sit on wonderful waterfront property coveted by condo developers and those who run the most expensive marinas. The value of places like Erie yacht Club on teh shores of protected bays and a short walk from teh most expensive homes in teh region can never be recovered by dues appropriate for laser sailors. The second a dinghy sailor enters the Erie Yacht Club gate, somebody else is subsidizing his fun.

    There IS NO rip off of the members by the clubs. The real expense.....is the value of the property and the school taxes based upon those values makes having a sailboat place somewhat expensive.

    And...two bucks a day ??? That's nearly nothing for access to a place that has a value in the millions

    Seriously, if the cost of having your boat parked at a club seems too much, check what it costs to keep a powerboat at a shoreside facility or even a sailboat in a marina that is for profit.

    Around here, $10 per month per foot is the going marina rate...They don't host weekend races and the $240 it would cost to keep my J-24 at a marina exceeds the sum total of my cost to keep a laser and J-24 and be a member of a club I partially own.

    Sailing is still way cheaper than Golf or being a member of a polo club.

    My customers with fiberglass bodied race cars spend way over $1500 per weekend for their use or racetracks and car races.

    The Laser costs only $7000. Yes that is as much as a Hyundai car and way the hell too m uch for such a simple product, but Jetskis and fishing boats cost much more than lasers and both Jet Skis and fishing boats are far more popular than lasers.

    Expepense is not the restriction holding down our nembers.



    Cost is NOT the issue we need to fix.

    The problem is perceived value.

    we need to impress folks with an understanding of the value of the game versus the time invested.

    And that means...show them how to have fun.

    On the recent wednesday night Eric faust and I and two newbies were the only ones who showed up, we didn't simply teach racing skills. We taught the newbies how to make their boats reach back and forth with water splashing in their faces.

    Yes...Somebody really does need to teach most folks how to have fun...or they might never figure out how.
     
  14. Deimos

    Deimos Member

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    A bit off-topic but I am very surprised by the apparent costs of participating in the US. I gave my own UK examples of club membership earlier but e.g. last Open Meeting (Regatta) I did had an entry fee of £5 (US$8) and that included parking, launching, racing, coffee and bacon sandwich on arrival, showers, evening meal after racing, etc. (you had to pay for bar drinks) - and all that for both helm and crew (it was in a double handed boat). Admittedly it was only a one day event but still it seems costs in UK are significantly lower than US.

    I did do a more expensive series last year as a visitor to a club I was not a member of. 9 Sundays with a cost for the series £30 (US$50). Admittedly this did not include bacon sandwiches nor meals, nor drinks (but everything else: parking, launching, boat storage in dinghy park, racing, changing, showers, all the stuff you'd expect).

    Ian
     
  15. Kurt H

    Kurt H New Member

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    Yes, racing here sounds rather expensive, though our friend from down under who commented above had some pretty high prices as well. There's a huge and sometimes irrational disparity. One thing is that in regattas it's become the goal of many organizers to make as big a production as possible. There's place for that. I also think there's a place where people should be able to start, or just do low-key racing at a reasonable cost that works with today's insane schedules and demands on time.

    Gouv-Thanks for the info on your club. Your absolutely right about CYC's challenge on the deep water. I've been a member for 20 years and have the utmost respect for the PROs and systems they've developed. There are major costs involved, and worth every penny when one is doing a big event on the Sound.

    There are a couple significant differences between CYC and a lot of other clubs. There is no storage at all at CYC, not for boats, not for equipment. That's a whole other layer of expense for sailors, and it too is not cheap. Many of us trailer. The only ramps are public facilities.There are no dining facilities. On race nights one simple, sad little entree is offered along with nachos or a hot dog from a small kitchen. It's enough for some (me), but not enough for others. The bar is only open on race nights and the costs are no different from a commercial bar. Basically, the only time the clubhouse is used is on race days, there's no incentive or benefit otherwise. You're absolutely right about a club needing to be more about camaraderie. Over the decades this club has become one of offering a "service," i.e. race management. This is sad but true. Very few of us have volunteered to do things for the club and the fleeting attempts at social programs have always foundered. One thing about club expenses: The clubhouse is floating, which means the moorage costs for it (and the RC boat and Whalers) are extremely high. And maintenance costs are quite high as well.

    The Seattle Laser Fleet does have a sense of camaraderie, and we love sailing CYC's program. The reality is that the program will likely be radically changed as the club tries to right itself. The other reality is that the costs prohibit the folk who are only going to come out a few times a year, or want to try it out. Hence the SLF is staying engaged with CYC but looking at our future in case things go pear-shaped (as they say in the Commonwealth). We have run and are running a successful winter series independent of the club (taking turns doing RC), and the only SLF regatta (Frigid Digit) is also independent.

    What I'm hoping to hear from other Laser fleets is discussion on costs, race management, fleet size and so forth to get a sense of what works best. Whatever happens with CYC, we'd like to see the SLF move forward with strength.
     
  16. Sailorchick

    Sailorchick Member

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    You've obviously never looked at Hayling Island SC membership costs - now that is expensive.

    But otherwise I agree with you that US costs seem very high. My present club membership is about £140 (family) plus boat storage costs of around £55 per laser (we have 2). We're looking at moving next year to a different club as it has a better laser fleet and its actually cheaper.
    For my club membership I expect that to include all costs associated with sailing at that venue (excluding open meetings hosted by my club that I take part in). I would never consider joining a club that charges you on top of your membership to actually sail!

    Are US clubs all run by paid officers? Maybe that could be the difference as most UK clubs are run by volunteers so we all do race officer/safey boat/office/galley duties throughout the year to keep our clubs running. A few of the larger UK clubs will have paid staff but not that many.
     
  17. Deimos

    Deimos Member

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    All the examples I gave were for just me (not family membership). I agree Hayling SC is expensive and they don't get very good turn-outs to their dinghy races (from memory Lasers always sail in one of their Handicap fleets).

    I think that the fastest way to kill-off a Laser fleet is to merge it into a handicap fleet. It can be difficult to keep a separate fleet when numbers decline but that move from Laser fleet to be part of handicap can ensure numbers drop further. I suppose what is needed is for people to detect the decline before it comes critical and start doing something before it's too late (as Kurt is - despite the hindrance from his club officers).

    The more expensive of my current clubs actually has a couple of employees plus employed bar and catering staff but the racing is organised on a club rota. Most other clubs I have been members of tend to have start and end of season work parties a couple of weekends before racing starts to get everything sorted ready for sailing.

    Ian
     
  18. Eric_R

    Eric_R D10 Secretary

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    No way. Many are volunteer run. My club doesn't have any paid RC, it's all done by volunteers. Regattas are run by volunteers as well no matter how big the event.
     
  19. torrid

    torrid Just sailing

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    Except for high-level events, race committees are pretty much all-volunteer. Suprisingly, there seems to be a large pool of certified PROs and judges. I see the same people at many regattas for different classes, spending more time running races for us than sailing their own boats. We should be quite thankful to have them.

    As for running the clubs themselves, I see three tiers.

    You have "sailing clubs", which are minimal cost and appeal mostly to dinghy sailors. Dues are $25-$50 a month, and the club runs on "sweat equity". Everyone is required to put in a certain amount of work to keep the club running.

    The next leveli is a "yacht club". There may be some dinghy sailors, but it mostly caters to keelboats. Dues are $100-200 a month, plus slip fees. There is probably a paid club manager, and maybe a couple of support employees. The emphasis on the club is still racing.

    The next I would call a "country club". The fees are such that if you have to ask, you probably can't afford to join. There is a restaurant, bar, pool, tennis courts, etc. There may be more power boats than sail boats. They may host one or two major regattas a year, but it is mostly a social club for affluent people.
     
  20. AlanD

    AlanD Former ISAF Laser Measurer

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    I've been a member now of 6 clubs and also a university club that didn't have it's own facilities. Most Australian dinghy clubs are run on a volunteer basis, and facilities vary from organising racing and boat storage through to running canteens, learn to sail programs etc. It's only the yacht clubs like Tony's and the "Skiff" clubs that have paid employees, restaraunts (skiff clubs these days are more social clubs which are financed by poker (slot) machines, whilst they may originally have been about sailing, many members wouldn't know what types of boats are sailed). Typically, membership fees for the dinghy clubs vary from $AU100-$AU500, on top of that you need to pay for racking ($100-$200), Laser Association membership ($45) (some clubs make this compulsory) and the compulsory Yachting Association membership ($70).

    Just on the membership fees component, one club I belong(MiHASC) to this season cost $400, has a self serve fridge using an honor system, puts on a BBQ a few times a year and we are rostered onto the start boat to run the days racing with one other. This club only sails lasers and it's facilities are essentially a simple shed. The other club (DAC) I belong to cost $120, has a full canteen, provides a PRO and manned rescue boats, we're rostered onto assisting putting away the rescue boats and equipment and canteen.This club runs multiple classes, including lasers, it's a modenrn two story building with racking downstairs and a hall & canteen upstairs. In the past most of my other clubs have been similar to this, but with different fees and varying facilities. I have been a member of a skiff club, membership fees were $10, but they also paid your YA and LA fees, subsidised your regatta costs etc. I've also been a member of UK club (Grafham Waters who's fees were the equivalent of about $AU400 at the time), I remember it having a full bar, but but I can't remember what else it had other than a huge yard to store boats.
     

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