Friday, 19 December 2008

FTBD (13) & National Classes

Thursday 18 December 2008 23:59 (in my mind, anyway)
With a little back timing, I'm able to post Flog The Blog Day #13. One Year, One Month, (One day). You know what to do. (If you don't, try searching with FTBD as label)

The reason I'm so late in posting, is that I just returned from a meeting at the national office of our MNA: the "Watersportverbond". Where a heated discussion was held with representatives from (national) class associations, race organizing clubs and the sector committee for racing. In order to stem the tide of ever increasing diversity of classes against a decrease in numbers who race, we discussed a proposal of the committee to reduce the number of recognized national classes. In that proposal they suggested raising the number of boats at which a class could be recognized as a 'national' class from 50 to 75. Number of measured boats that is. And if a class dropped below 20 measurement certificates, it would not even be a class anymore. They would be reduced to some sort of third rate boat, still able to race, but only with a handicap - factor (rating), calculated from a simple set of measurements (sail area, length, depth etc)

A lot of classes who were either on the edge for national class or at the border of being dropped showed up, to show their worry about this development.

We could all agree that something must be done to get healthy classes again and more people in boats racing. But to reduce some classes to 'unmeasured' with the stroke of a pen, was a little to much. The proposal was withdrawn, with a a firm understanding that we need to get new ideas to get people sailing.

Personally I would applaud a simple rule that lets any boat compete. That way I can also accommodate that recreational sailor who wants to participate in my club's annual regatta. We need more freedom to let people experience the joy of sailing in a friendly competitive race. If we only allow one design classes, I loose potential 'customers' at my club.

One of the discussion points was the rise in 'factory' build classes. straight from the rack who are available for low cost and are popping up at sailing schools, recreational areas and the like. boats like Bic and Picco. Smart from a commercial point of view, but not very helpful for getting bigger fields at a starting line.

We also need more attractive racing for people in the age group of 18 till 35. The time people start going to higher educations (students) until first job, start of a family and then coming back to racing. If we look at the curve they are the age-group who have a sharp drop in racing.

I was wondering how these developments were handled in the rest of the world. I imagine that something similar is happening in other countries. Do you have any ideas how to get better attendance in one design classes? (national or international) Please leave a comment how things are done in your country.
And tell me something about the number of (only) national classes, and their rise or decline in recent years....


  1. We all have the same problem and here in the UK we have probably more classes than anyone else!

    Clubs ; They race OD and RYA Portsmouth yardstick to get numbers up. Some clubs have and adopted class policy of only racing agreed classes to increase numbers.

    RYA : only have in squads the Youth Classes and grants only available for sailing these classes. They run the Portsmouth yardstick scheme.

    Club Development : Has to be undertaken to hold before numbers can increase.

    Race Management : Choose the days the competitors want, short racing lots of series many discards.

    There is no real answer, but there is a big quality disappointment from those dropping out of the elite youth squads when they are confronted with normal club racing. The Factory classes add something with their circuit here.

    sorry no answer

  2. We all want to encourage participation in racing but sometimes the steps to achieve that may appear counterintuitive...

    1. At the club level I am convinced from observing many clubs in diverse locations that the secret for growth is to race a small number of diverse one-design classes. It may seem harsh to tell someone, "You can't race your Swooby Doobie 13 here," but it's more fun for everyone to race in a large fleet of similar boats, than to have a fleet of half a dozen one-offs. So, strange as it seems, the way to grow your club is to ban the Swooby Doobies.

    2. Handicap racing sucks.

    3. When I started racing I never thought I would compete internationally, but even though I am of only average ability, that's one of the things I enjoy the most now. I love it that I can go so Spain or South America or Australia and race in a class I know. International classes are the future.

    4. What's wrong with "straight from the rack at low price"? Isn't that exactly the kind of boat to keep the busy 18-35 year-olds in the sport? Most of them don't have the time for endless hours spent doing boat maintenance and tuning. They just want a boat where they can launch and go.


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