For the last week I have been checking out some cool sailing projects in the United States one of which is Sail Newport, which was just fantastic.
Pacer racing - Try-A-Boat-Day - Chris Kameen
They are doing an amazing job of introducing thousands of people to the sport of sailing, and were more than happy to share their blueprint, something that we at Sydney Sailing School want to emulate which really got me thinking. Sail Newport is all about giving community access to the water, no need to join a fancy yacht club, no need to own a boat, no need to go racing if you don't want to. The difference in Australia is that I would say that most clubs would think of themselves as accessible to the community with a few exceptions that I think is completely fair. The difference however in Sydney is that the clubs are accessible to people that want to do their kind of sailing... racing International Classes, the Skiff Classes, or whatever niche the club has carved out. If the club doesn't have a dinghy that you can race with your wife or child then you need to go somewhere else. I understand that the strength of a club is usually based around the strength of their class racing and wouldn't necessarily advocate a change, but something has to, in order to enable more people to get access to sailing.
I'm not anti-racing - I love it, but I recognise that we need to develop a healthy base of sailors, some of whom will aspire to go racing, the majority may just want to go for a cruise or a blast. This I believe was the basis of success at Sail Newport and one that we should learn from. At Sail Newport anyone with a boat or a desire to go sailing is given the opportunity - you just need to get yourself there.
As part of our drive to give more people access to the water and to sailing, we are hosting our own try-a-boat day at St George Sailing Club in Sans Souci, Sydney on Saturday June 7th. Either get down yourself or tell your friends! Event website
Try A Boat Day - Chris Kameen