White Sport?

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I am just wondering why sailing is such a white sport? This topic is perhaps not related specifically to the Laser-class, but since for many the entry into this sport occurs through (or on) a Laser, we laserites might have to think about this issue.
I know a few hispanic sailors and I have ONCE seen ONE black person on a committee boat. Oh, and I know a black couple with a cruiser that, as far as I know, has never left the harbor. Other than that, all the sailors that I know, and all the sailors that I don't know but that I see on all kinds of sailing boats, and specifically on boats that race, are predominantly white. It is true that sailing is not cheap and it is true that the poorest people are mostly people of color, but many blacks and hispanics are part of the middle class or upper class. Besides that, one can crew on a boat without spending more than a couple of hundred dollars on some clothing. Beer and lunch are provided if you find a decent skipper. You don't need to be a millionair to sail a laser either.
Thus, I wonder, why have many blacks taken up golf (which I consider as a much more elite sport than sailing) but not sailing. Do we need a Tiger Woods to inspire the multitudes? Yet, where is this Tiger Woods coming from?
I know this is a delicate question, but I wonder:
(1) if others find it troubling and puzzling that sailing is a white sport,
(2) if we should do something about it,
(3) if some people have tried to do something about it.

Or am I wrong?

I totally agree with your points. It's a perception thing more then cost - I think sailing is perceived by most non-sailors as an elite yacht clubby sport (or pastime). Most are unaware of it being a "sport" which requires athletic ability and smarts. The equipment costs a lot of money, more than hockey or tennis or running or whatever. There are public venues to do it in, but you have to get there and haul the equipment. Are there youth programs that encourage all kids to come out and use boats for free, with classes available? Seattle Parks & Rec had Lasers and II's for classes, but not free, and with very limited class sizes.

Half of our 30 mile long lake is in an Indian Reservation - why are all the boaters, homeowners, and business owners white? I've wondered how hard it would be to put together a free sailing day or program for kids with no access to things like sailing. Newcomers might discover it's a beautiful sport that totally connects you to the elements.

Also, sailing is an obscure sport generally. They don't show Olympic dinghy racing on network TV. Unless you're near water, you've probably never thought about it.

Zillions of people play golf, and there are icons like Tiger Woods to look up to. Ask someone on the street to name a world champion sailor (or bike racer for that matter!)
Georg W.F. said:
I am just wondering why sailing is such a white sport?
The population of sailors is a mix of people whose grew up around sailing, plus an infusion of new people who take up the sport.

Because of that hereditary factor, when you look at sailors as a group, their demographics are going to look more like "who had the wealth 2 generations ago" than like "who has the wealth today". 2 generations ago wealth (in the US at least) was heavily concentrated in the hands white, anglo-saxon, protestant people living in the northeast.

The distribution of wealth has changed since then; it'll take the sport of sailing another generation to catch up.


Active Member
It took 23 years for the first black customer to grace the doors of my boat repair shop. He owns a powerboat whose bottom lost a battle with a stump. It also happens there is a good story to go with the experience.

Our shop kitty stowed away on his boat. Three days later, she popped her head out when he was out on Lake Austin fishing. They had a great day together. He had beer. She had tasty bait and lots of string.
We now count the cats before any boats leave.

The answer for involving more people from ANY group into any activity is the same.

Personally take a member of that group along and demonstrate how YOU have fun. Sometimes the other person will share your interest.

Translation? Getting more "fill in the blank" into sailing is not something any association can do. The way you get more "fil in the blank" involved is to set up an opportunity and bring the members of the group.

Note: You must also set up a clear roadmap which can be followed to continued participation.

Example: Austin Yacht Club invites new sailors out to play on the old fleet of Southcoast 21 sailboats. The Southcoast fleet happens to be our largest weekend fleet.

Unfortunatly, no one has built a new Southcoast since 1976.

The new sailor cannot just write a check and get a spanking new boat. In fact the new sailor would have to become some sort of instant expert to choose a decent used boat.

Buying an old Southcoast is a lot like buying an old car at the junkyard. There are people capable of refurbishing either. There is a subset who want to sail. Then there is a subset of those who are willing. Then there is the subset who actually follow through. A really tiny subset.

Maybe the null set.

As a result, many people who had the money and would have loved to have one of the nifty toys, just go away.

And they don't soon come back to try sailing as sailing was a frustrating experience.

Staying in Austin>>> We do lots better with Lasers, J-22, J-24, J-80, Catalina 22, and Sunfish and because we keep lists of available functioning boats and help people into those boats. There is financing and training and dealers with store fronts. Those fleets continue to bring new sailors to the game.

Sorry about digressing into "anybody" as opposed to minorities but the same rules apply to all "new blood." Make them feel welcome and then continue to make the experience enjoyable.

Sailors are a lot like a small outboard motor. Sometimes you put in the right gas and pull until both your hands hurt and your result is nothing.
More often, you pull a few times and it runs, stops, needs another pull, runs longer, stops, needs a pull, finally runs on its own or burns out and quits. No matter how well it seems to be running, sooner or later it will need a little gas and another tug on the cord.