Please select your home edition
Edition
Highfield Boats - Sailing - LEADERBOARD

The great grass-roots revival?

by Mark Jardine 10 May 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

Happy Days
Getting out on the water this week was superb Getting out on the water this week was superb. The winds were a little bit variable, and at 5 to 10 knots they were hardly going to set the world on fire either. Posted on 20 Sep
Crafty Keith - The definition of 'Legend'
Contender and 505 World Champion gracefully retires To describe someone as a 'legend' means that they really have to special, across a number of disciplines and a protracted period of time. One man who is special enough to be worthy of that term 'legend' is Weston SC's Keith Paul. Posted on 15 Sep
Charlie Enright discusses 11th Hour Racing's plans
An interview with Charlie Enright on 11th Hour Racing Team's recent transatlantic passage I checked in with Charlie Enright, 11th Hour Racing Team's skipper for the 2022-2023 edition of The Ocean Race, via email, to learn more about the team's recent transatlantic crossing and their preparations ahead of next year's circumnavigation race. Posted on 9 Sep
Nirvana. Utopia. Atlantis.
Three vessels really made an impression this month, and all were very different yet compelling... Three vessels really made an impression this month. All very different, but each one offered all the necessary peaceful, tranquil, magical, inspiring, beautiful, mythical, and legendary qualities to bring about the heading you see here. Posted on 9 Sep
Celebrating a different kind of Labor Day Weekend
Celebrating a different kind of Labor Day Weekend racing While it's safe to say that North America's 2020 sailing season hasn't exactly defined anyone's idea of a great time, the good news is that organized racing has successfully unfurled, despite the stiff headwinds presented by the ongoing pandemic. Posted on 8 Sep
Going down the mine
It would be easy to go bow down, and let the greenies swamp you up to the mast It would be easy to go bow down, and let the greenies swamp you up to the mast during the course of the last passage of time. Posted on 6 Sep
Alan Baines on the 2020 Around The Island Race
A Q&A with Alan Baines on the 2020 Around The Island Race I checked in with Alan Baines, chairman of the Conanicut Yacht Club's 2020 Around The Island Race, via email, to learn more about this classic circumnavigation race. Posted on 3 Sep
Doing something different
An adventure course, a dark lord and sushi! I'm a great believer in the philosophy of learning something new every day and this weekend has given me ample opportunity to do exactly that. Posted on 1 Sep
Ray Redniss on the 2020 Vineyard Race
An interview with Ray Redniss on the 2020 Vineyard Race I checked in with Ray Redniss, principal race officer of the Stamford Yacht Club's 2020 Vineyard Race, via email, to learn more about this classic New England distance race. Posted on 1 Sep
Fear of flying
Two other crucial Fs that apparently need their own article In the recent massive missive on having fun courtesy of the scow hull form, 'All the Fs in sailing' there were a few other Fs that were missing. Posted on 31 Aug
Cyclops Marine 2020 - FOOTERHenri-Lloyd 2020 HLRC FOOTEROfficial-Team-Gear-Navy 728x90 BOTTOM