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Your club needs you!

by Mark Jardine 31 May 2021 14:00 PDT
Saluting the committee boat, 'Reel Extreme' Denis from yacht Pretaixte © World Cruising Club

The incredible surge of growth in grass-roots sailing, and boating in general, relies on the life-blood of our sport, the myriad of sailing and yacht clubs around the world. Without them, both recreational and competitive sailing would be incredibly hard to do.

Every club has its volunteers, but often they are a small percentage of the total membership and give their time to the club day in, day out, with little recognition or recompense. There are the obvious roles of Race Officer and Support Boat crews for club racing and open events, also those who run various club programmes - such as junior, youth sailing and Get Sailing groups - but behind the scenes are those who help maintain the boats, dinghy parks and the club itself, man the bar (where legislation allows), run the club accounts and administration, all those who help attract new members and many more.

Without all these people giving their time clubs simply wouldn't exist, and sailing wouldn't just be poorer for it, the sport would be under existential threat.

The fact is that volunteering can be extremely rewarding. It makes you feel an integral part of the club community and it is certainly true that the more which is collectively put into a club results in everyone getting more out of it. Once the ethos of volunteering and the nature of the roles is understood, those who give it a go often come back regularly to help again, and in turn become more active members of the club.

What is it that prevents people from volunteering? I've talked to various members at my local clubs and find often it's a feeling of being 'under qualified' for a role, or not understanding what it entails. Both of these reasons can certainly be issues, but effective communication, role definition and mentoring can break down these barriers.

At the beginning of the year I watched a couple of refresher courses on support boat duties (yes, inevitably on Zoom) which were really informative and gave many less-experienced and newly-qualified powerboat drivers more confidence to offer their help. Going out as a RIB assistant initially, together with an old hand, can help build confidence and provide the all-important 'local knowledge' which otherwise can take years to acquire.

There are always multiple ways people can help ashore, and email newsletters to the membership can be used to describe the ways people can volunteer their services and what is needed. Again, those who are experienced in each role can guide those who are coming forwards for the first time. That first step can often seem daunting when seeing the regulars doing their thing at the club, so being approachable and understanding that can make all the difference.

Personally, I find volunteering at my club highly rewarding. Running the junior sailing, seeing kids take up the sport for the first time, is something I've written about before; I've been buoyed up by the approach the parents are taking, with a real interest in what they can do to help, and in the process becoming part of the fabric of the club. Locally, we've seen many non-sailing families join, wanting to introduce their kids to sailing, but soon learning to sail themselves, which is hugely encouraging.

Then there is the all-important publicity: sending the yachting media the reports from racing, news of open days, collating the photos and results, updating the club's website and social media. We love reading your reports and urge you to keep sending them in. We have seen the correlation between good club reporting and increased club membership or class attendance. It's a truly vital role for a healthy club.

Today I was race officer at my local club for the final races of the long May weekend event. The wind was shifting, and the warmth was resulting in a South Easterly sea breeze developing. I had to be on my toes with resetting the course and I'm absolutely sure that the thought processes, and seeing things from a different angle, help with my regular sailing.

Sail-World's Australian editor John Curnow has often observed what goes on behind the scenes at events: "Unsurprisingly, I do not get to do much volunteering any more, but I did always find it very rewarding, and not just because I learned a lot. These days when I am at events, I actually see all the people who go together to make it all happen, and I guess this is why I mention them specifically when I am commentating. So, to all of you who do put in, thank you, and to anyone who would like to find out just how rewarding it can be, just give it a go. At the very least, experience and knowledge await you..."

David Schmidt, Sail-World's North American Editor, added: "While it's easy to celebrate racecourse winners, it's often the grassroots-level volunteers who are sailing's biggest unsung heroes. While it's great to give a wave to the RC when you're finishing a race, it can be an even better idea to help out by volunteering for this, and other, duties around your club as time and scheduling afford."

Sailing has a huge opportunity here: to turn those who are trying out sailing for the first time into sailors for life. I echo John's thank you to all who do so much for their clubs around the world, but let's all do our bit to take the load off these stalwarts. It is enjoyable, it is rewarding, and it will result in us all having a better experience on and off the water. A no-brainer really.

When you're down at your local club keep an eye out for those who do the less-visible roles and please give them a thank you. I'm sure they'll appreciate it.

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

North Sails Open Day

North Sails Open Day being held their Sydney loft in Mona Vale on July 3rd from 10am to 3pm. It's an informal gathering to show people how sails are made, there'll be several dinghies displayed, like Finns, and OKs, North Sails kiteboarding gear, North Sails technical gear, and some talks - OD panels and crusing seminars, as well as big names dropping in to add further colour, also sail repair demonstrations, including vacuum bag 3Di sails, and sailmakers talking directly with interested parties as they move about the loft, all in a low-key manner. Even food trucks and other amneties have all organised. RSVP here...

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