Please select your home edition
Edition
Hyde Sails 2021 - Basic LEADERBOARD

The great grass-roots revival?

by Mark Jardine 10 May 2020 14:00 PDT
Philippa Danks during the RS Aero Australian Championship © Alex McKinnon Photography

We've all been missing our sailing during lockdown, but the months we've been off the water have given us time to reflect on what it is about sailing that we really miss most. Sailing can be regarded as a sport, recreation and pastime - and sailors are a diverse bunch so understandably our reasons for wanting to sail are many - but we are all united by our passion for being on the water.

Today I'm looking at some of the types of sailor, starting at grass-roots level and moving all the way up to the yachting professionals and Olympians.

Our network of worldwide clubs is the lifeblood of sailing. Nearly all sailors are a member of a club and proudly represent that club at events, or just use the facilities of their club for the entirety of their sailing. Club memberships vary from the low hundreds to many thousands, with fees varying in a similar way.

Clubs, though, provide much more than facilities; they provide the community in which to socialise, to compete and to grow as a sailor. Many become life-long members of a club or grow up in a youth system at a club, only to move away for education and a career, but return later. Many young sailors who have grown up with a club sailing upbringing regard their days on and off the water with mates as the time of the lives.

Over the past twenty years, the increased emphasis on regional and national squad systems has pulled many young sailors, and their parents, to qualifiers and ranking events far afield. While the standard is undoubtably high, the time spent towing to events and the pressure on the sailors has led to a high attrition rate. As many will know, I'm a firm believer in letting kids love sailing before being thrown into the cut and thrust of serious competition, and I'm thankful that national governing bodies worldwide are now recognising this and putting more emphasis on supporting club sailing and structures.

Open meeting sailors, or 'weekend warriors' as they are affectionally known, gain their sense of community from the class that they sail. Without an opening meeting circuit, these sailors will fall back to their local club for their sailing when restrictions allow. This, in the short-term, will further bolster the local club scene.

Both yacht and dinghy racing may be some way off for the majority of us as social distancing measures will preclude a large gathering of crew on a single vessel if they are not from the same family, but hopefully antibody tests will make a huge difference in this regard. We are assured that these tests will be available in the coming weeks, but how many weeks that is remains to be seen.

Professional sailors have been in a tricky predicament since the Covid-19 crisis. Racing on yachts is the primary source of income for many, and without this racing their income has dried up. This group is often one who falls through the cracks of the government income support schemes. Some yacht owners have decided to help their professional crew with retainers, others have not.

The top-level sailors and Olympians that I've spoken to seem to be amongst the group who are missing sailing the most. They are literally chomping at the bit to get back out on the water and are playing a huge amount of Virtual Regatta. Every time I speak to them, their passion for the sport shines through.

For the foreseeable future our travel is going to be limited. Crossing national borders is going to be far harder than it has been in the past and national events will be limited. I believe this is the opportunity for 'the great grass-roots revival'. A time to reidentify with our local club and appreciate what we can do without the need for travel. The community spirit in strong and well set up clubs has been evident throughout lockdown with regular eSailing, online quizzes and many other projects. It is this community which happens throughout the age groups and is a key part of making sailors for life.

Every year thousands of kids are introduced to sailing, but many will drop out of the sport as they progress through squad systems, only to find out at some point that they don't make the next grade. The community of a club provides both the structure to nurture good sailors and let them love sailing. As lockdowns are gradually reduced and the restrictions on our day-to-day life are removed, it is time for us to reflect on the importance of our local club in making sailors for life.

I am sure some will decry my words, wondering how it is possible to develop world-beating sailors without pushing kids through the squads and taking them to events every weekend, but having chatted with many of the top sailors, be that Olympians, professional sailors or those involved in the marine industry, the vast majority of them grew up 'messing about in boats'.

The Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com team have been writing and sourcing some gems lately so please do take a good look through the websites for some superb entertainment. I highly recommend listening to each of the Happy Hours with Stretch & Stirfry, the latest guests being Vasco Vascotto, who gives an unprecedented insight to Luna Rossa's America's Cup campaign, and Volvo Ocean Race sailor Emily Nagel. Sharing your capsize photos has been a real hit and we're now up to part 5 of this series. John Curnow's regular editorials and David Schmidt's Reflections on a Life Afloat have been achieving extraordinary readership, and Richard Gladwell is always on top of everything to do with the America's Cup.

Last, but certainly not least, we'll be hosting eSailing's equivalent of The Ashes. This will truly be an event not to be missed!

Take care & stay safe.

Mark Jardine
Sail-World.com & YachtsandYachting.com Managing Editor

Related Articles

Kites flying high
Over the past couple of weeks 138 of the best kite foilers gathered in Sardinia I'm not going to lie; I was disappointed when the International Olympic Committee raised concerns about the Mixed Offshore Doublehanded event at the Paris 2024 Olympics. Posted on 19 Oct
A Q&A with Mark Wheeler on the 2021 J/111 Worlds
An interview with Mark Wheeler on the 2021 J/111 Worlds Sail-World checked in with Mark Wheeler, regatta chairman of the 2021 J/111 Worlds, via email, to learn more about this One Design championship. Posted on 14 Oct
Spain SailGP debriefing, U.S. Youth Championship
Latest newsletter from Sail-World's David Schmidt in the USA While early October is always a great time for racing in North America, last week's sailing news cycle was dominated by the Spain SailGP event, which unfurled off Cadiz, Spain, on the country's southwest coast. Posted on 12 Oct
Jumbos rule
B&G gave us Nemesis, and this was a pretty cool piece of kit indeed. Not all the world's jumbos got retired and parked in the Arizona desert at the beginning of 2020. Boeing's venerable bus had served us all - so, so well… Later on that same year, B&G, gave us Nemesis, and this was a pretty cool piece of kit indeed. Posted on 10 Oct
Nancy Pearson and Buttons Padin on the Viper640 NA
David Schmidt checks in with the event co-chair and class administrator Sail-World checked in with Nancy Pearson and Ed “Buttons” Padin, event co-chair of the 2021 Viper 640 North American Championship and Viper 640 Class Administrator (respectively), via email, to learn more about this One Design regatta. Posted on 5 Oct
What's happening in America's Cup land?
Like it or not, it is the pinnacle event in yachting A lot is written about the America's Cup, and a huge amount of it is speculation. Like it or not, it is the pinnacle event in yachting, and for those who try to win it, it becomes an all-consuming obsession. Posted on 4 Oct
Hinman Trophy, offshore sailing, and Mini Transat
Summer may have handed the baton off to autumn, but the sailing scene hasn't been cooling off Summer may have handed the baton off to autumn, but that certainly doesn't mean that the sailing scene has been cooling off in North America, at least not yet. This past weekend gave the sailing world multiple great events to follow and participate in. Posted on 28 Sep
Hooray for the hundredth!
Here is our card to the J/99, which will soon enough have 100 vessels sailing all around the world. Now if you're a British subject that means you get a letter from HRH QEII. If you're French, maybe you get one from President Macron. Certainly POTUS does to US citizens. Posted on 26 Sep
James Keen on the Screwpile Lighthouse Challenge
An interview with James Keen on the 2021 Screwpile Lighthouse Challenge I checked in with James Keen, chairman of the 2021 Screwpile Lighthouse Challenge, via email, to learn more about this exciting regatta. Posted on 23 Sep
Square peg, round hole. Round peg, square hole.
One thing is pretty clear with fluid dynamics. Smooth and flowing wins the day. If you think about fluid dynamics for just a second, one thing is pretty clear. Smooth and flowing wins the day. Posted on 23 Sep
Lloyd Stevenson Catalyst 45 728x90px2 BOTTOMCoast Guard Foundation FOOTER 3Selden 2020 - FOOTER