Sailing Clubs throughout the world could do worse than take some of the lessons from a recent 'Sail America' conference. Changing demographics, changing marketing strategies, even changing sailing boats made the list of issues confronting those who wish to keep the sport and lifestyle of sailing flourishing.
By far the cutest question raised is whether leisure sailors in sailing clubs these days are still 'male, stale, and pale'?
Club Sailing in Thailand - what are the demographics? - .. .
Most countries have their minorities, which, it was acknowledged at the conference, were under-represented in sailing clubs. However, with encouragement from the clubs this could - and in some cases was - already changing. Once these groups discovered sailing they could add greatly to the take-up for sailing in general - if they were represented across the spectrum of sailing involvement - the kids, the families, even the yacht agents and promoters.
Club sailing in Perth - booming but why? - .. .
Female sailing also came under the spotlight. Nick Hayes, author of Saving Sailing, explained how his local sailing programs in Milwaukee had experienced signal growth in female membership and that nationwide the traditional male-female ratios of engagement in the pastime were tilting toward the 'mature female'— that is, women ages 25-plus.
Hayes backed that up with figures showing that among sailors over 50 the ratio of men to women entering the sport is 7-1, but in the 25-to-45 age group the ratio is now an extraordinary 1-1.5. Women, he said, are more inclusive than men, are twice as likely as men to share their experiences via social media, and 'selfies' and videos of their friends having fun on boats are a powerful factor in luring women to learning to sail. The future, he contends, is far from male, stale or pale.
Sailing in Mornington - is the east coast different? - .. .
Then there are all the new opportunities for sailing that don't include having to purchase a boat of your own - boat share and even sharing the boats owned by the local sailing club (See Sail-World story
). All these new initiatives have one thing in common — getting people onto the water who might not otherwise have an entry point, either financially or because of the time commitments involved in boat ownership.
Club Sailing in Humpybong - where? - .. .
Another speaker asked how could it be that the main youth training dinghies, the Optimist and 420, are respectively 68 and 52 years old while a raft of new, exciting designs that could inspire youngsters goes ignored by clubs and schools?
The popularity of catamarans, the value of social media for communication instead of traditional promotion, and the continuing resistance of yacht clubs to being inclusive were other issues addressed.
Much food for thought there - how do you rate YOUR sailing club?