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How do you boost participation in the sport? Mix it up

by Harken 21 Sep 09:00 PDT
Chicago Regatta uses a variety of different racing activities to raise money for charity © CYC

Chicago Yacht Club has been searching for the sweet spot. This year's Chicago Regatta is proof of concept. CYC flipped the switch on the traditional format and is At The Front of a new line of thinking.

The Chicago Regatta is not two days of racing with a dinner party squeezed in between. It's distance racing, buoy racing, casual racing, remote-controlled Dragon Force 65 racing, a dinghy poker run, a silent auction, a powerboat aspect, and a tour of the beautiful 104' yacht Whitehawk - all leading up to an incredible gathering of all kinds of boaters at the regatta party.

And all for the benefit of three charities who improve the lives of kids in the Chicago area. To the team at Harken, this seemed like a winning combination to bring more participation into the sport. So we spoke with Event Chair and Past CYC Commodore Greg Miarecki. Here's what he had to say...

"Our sport is multi-faceted. We have people who like buoy racing, others who like distance racing, and still others who really are just looking for a reason to get out on the water. The standard windward-leeward format simply doesn't appeal to a lot of boaters, nor is it suitable for some types of boats. The Chicago Regatta was designed to be inclusive, and for that reason, we tried to offer a wide variety of formats. And our experience is that sailors are looking for more than a race when deciding where to spend their valuable time. They're looking to have some fun, to do something different and interesting, and to be able to connect with other boaters.

"Did this work? I'd say yes. We saw more than 40 boats on our distance race, 30 in the buoy race, and 15 in our casual race, and more than 400 people at the post-race party. We raised approximately $150,000 for our three participating charities. We saw lots of people and boats that we don't normally see on the race course. I think that tells we are on the right track with the Chicago Regatta format."

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