Yacht designer Gary Hoyt gave the keynote speech of the Sailing Business Seminar for the second year in a row. Adopting a restrained manner in comparison to the fire-and-brimstone toungue-lashing he delivered to the inaugural seminar in 1990, Hoyt challenged the sailing industry to "clear the decks of attitudinal debris."
Hoyt urged the industry to focus on the difference between the sport of sailing, which is growing modestly and the decline of the industry. The sport of sailing is doing just fine and wasn't likely to make major changes necessary for significant industry expansion. Change must be directed by the business of sailing, he concluded.
Hoyt drew an analogy to the skiing industry, which prior to the advent of the ski lift was a completely different sport. Skiing purists, he claimed, were horrified at the introduction of lifts because for them a big part of the sport was climbing the hill. Only by redefining the sport of sailing, he suggested, can we make room for industry expansion.
Stating that the "the sailing business should be attentive to, but not mesmerized by the present parameters of the sport," Hoyt then proposed "workable ways to promote industry growth," including a suggestion that the solution to the problem of too many cheap used boats is to make them inexpensive entry tickets to a new market of sailors within and without the industry to increase the number.
I agree with Mr. Hoyt that the sport of sailing is doing just fine. Yes, we do want more people involved, but for me climbing the hill is part of the fun. I am not interested in skiing because spending the day waiting in line for the lift and being jammed on a mountain with a few thousand other people is not my idea of a good time.
If Mr. Hoyt ideas mature and the industry begins the direct the sport, the last refuge for sailors will be blue water sailing and the private yacht club.
For many years, The Thistle Class was kind enough to send me a copy of their newsletter, the Bagpipe. It is a professionally published newsletter with over 30 pages and lots of photos. I know quite a few sailors in the Thistle class, so I get to keep up with them. But the real enjoyment I get from the Bagpipe is the continuous stream of articles on the one-design philosophy and how they are attacking the same problems that all O-D classes have, growth and promotion.
Allan Gowans of South Carolina wrote a monthly column for the Bagpipe titled Growth and Promotion. I once had the chance to shake hands with Allan and to thank him for his insights on the subject.
The basic promotion message is to play the numbers. If you keep asking different people to sail, a few will and a few of those will become active fleet members. Have some fun, ask the question and ask it often; Will you be my sailing date?
With that thought in mind, I want to share with you one of Allan's columns that included an equation for fleet growth.
Stickers are defined many ways, but we all know who and what they are and what they contribute to sailing over the years. They are the ones that can always manage to find the time to sail, even though they may be the busiest people you know. They are also the people that have the time spend with new sailors, run club programs, travel to out of town regattas and support sailing in many ways. Stickers make up the core of any fleet. Every fleet should have the maximum number of stickers allowed by the laws of demographics.
S is where we want to get to, so try this for size!
P = the general population in a given area
X = the population interested in water sports (10% of P)
Y = the number interested in sailing (30% of X)
Z = the number interested in racing (50% of Y)
W = the number interested in Windmills (10% of Z)
S = the number of stickers (10% of W)
S is 15 for each 100,000 people or about 3,375 for the U.S. If this formula is right, we can recruit 3,000 more Windmillers. Even if this estimate is way off, we still have a lot of room for growth.
For the class to stay healthy, we must stay healthy at the fleet level. We are all competing against soccer, swimming, baseball, tennis, motorboats, not to mention drugs, alcohol and couch potatoes. Most of these activities are traditional, well run events that involve in one way or another, money and peer or parental pressure.
Sounds to me like we have a marketing problem. We have made a stab at identifying an available market and we have an excellent product. What then is our plan to bring our product face to face with W so we can get S?
If we were taking over a company that needed some help, probably the first thing we would do is hop in the company jet and visit all of the sales managers. These are the guys and gals in the trenches; these are the people who know their market, their program and their potential. These people are our Fleet Captains and District Commodores. This group of Sparkplugs can help develop and implement a real marketing plan. In return, the full resources of the class should be made available to the fleets as needed.
Fleet Captains I thought the need for a Fleet Captains handbook to be so important that I have developed version 1. It's 50 pages contains the duties of fleet officers, how to host District and National events, race management guidelines, tried and true ideas to stimulate fleet growth, how to measure boats and sails, how to write regatta articles, how to join the WCA, various forms that are used in a regatta and more. [It's now a part of the WCA Yearbook].
If want your Class to grow, why not start asking people Will you be my sailing date?
I will leave you with one Mr. Gowan's truisms: So goes the fleet, so goes the class.
In a prior article, we made a stab at determining the number of sailing prospects and stickers in a given area. We found that a fleet could reasonably expect to recruit a maximum of 15 stickers per 100,000 of the local adult population.
The Presidents Commission on Americans Outdoors had a market research firm poll 2,000 adults to figure out what kind of parks, beaches, campgrounds and other outdoor recreation areas will be needed in the coming decade. The profile they came up with meshes nicely with the previous prediction.
Like all good market research firms, they divided Americans into five clusters based on recreational values and lifestyles. If you like being reduced to a stereotype, find your cluster.
About one-third of us are Health-Conscious Sociables fond of picnicking, sightseeing, attending sports events and other outdoor activities, motivated mainly by a desire for physical fitness and social companionship. Members of this cluster have no desire for excitement, competition or risk, say the analysts. The median age is 49 and about two-thirds of the cluster are women.
Get-Away Actives, a third of the population, look to the outdoors to be alone, study nature or both, but they are not anti-social. (??) They are the group most involved in quiet in-the-woods-and-water sports like backpacking, tent camping, and canoeing. The group has many baby boomers, a median age of 35 and is divided about evenly between male and female.
The Fitness Driven participate in outdoor activities almost totally to keep fit. Many run or jog but even more merely walk. About 10% of all adults, this cluster is at the top of the socioeconomic scale, older (median age of 46) and slightly more female than male.
|Unstressed and Unmotivated||8|
The Unstressed and Unmotivated are characterized by a lack of motivation to do outdoor recreation at all. Split about evenly between males and females, their median age is 49 and together account for about 8% of the adult population.
Excitement-Seeking Competitives, median age 32 and two-thirds male, have little interest in being alone or studying nature. This 16% of the adult population looks for excitement and competition in ball games, water and winter sports, hunting and fishing.
Guess which cluster we have to recruit stickers from?
I happened to read an article by a sailing and marketing expert on all the things wrong with sailing! The article kind of irritated me. One thing wrong with sailing is that too many people are trying to make a buck off one of the only amateur sports left! Gary Hoyt wrote a marketing article and is under the opinion that sailing is for everybody (I don't agree) and listed four things which people do not consider fun and therefore should be changed so everyone has FUN!
1) Getting ready to sail is not fun! The 30 minutes required to rig and launch is a turn-off. I have a hard time with that. Mr Hoyt did, however, take care of the situation, by designing a boat that allows the mast and sail to be raised in 30 seconds. However, the boat looks like a Sunfish on steroids.
2) Heeling is not fun-everybody panics! Not so, I recently took some real novices out. The wind was blowing, the boat heeled, we hiked, feathered the boat and released the sails when necessary. The novices did not panic, but gained a good insight of what makes a sailboat go and how to control it. Heeling is part of sailing and lets you know something is happening. If heeling really bothers a person, they would be more comfortable on a sofa. (Here is one for you. Cats are fast. Cats go slower heeled. Why do the ads for cats show them heeled?)
3) Going slow is not fun! Everybody craves speed! Obviously Mr. Hoyt has never steered a Windmill off a large wave with 25 knots of true wind behind him. We know what a great job Hobie Alter did on marketing his speedy cats. How many potential stickers bought cats and found out they are fun for a coupla hours at the beach, not the local lake, there is no local fleet, few local regattas, and no strong national group. In my area, there are many cats for sale, not sail, both in the papers and in local boat yards. After someone has invested $2-4K in a boat for a few hours of speed and then finds there is very little left to offer, are we going to be able to get these people to buy into another sailing program. I think not. The quest for speed has thinned the ranks of potential stickers.
4) Watching sailing is not fun! Not much argument from me on this one, but then I don't like to watch anything.
The point I'm trying to make is that there is an emerging industry out there trying to promote sailing and make a buck at our expense. The sailing they are promoting is not going to help one design sailing or more importantly, bring more stickers into sailing. They want new boats that are fast, don't heel, are easy to rig and will sell. There are already way too many boats on the market. If Detroit had as many cars as there are boat designs, we could all drive one off cars. You can well imagine the resale value and the dilemma of finding out how a car would hold up after even one year, if they were all different. I think the multitude of designs being offered in the quest for speed and fun offer nothing for the current or future sailors. You can brand me an old fudy, say I don't believe in a free market or progress; but I do believe the quest for speed will leave the sport of sailing entirely changed and it will not be pretty. [12/97 - Sadly these words have proved to be true. The Gary Hoyts are winning].
Yes, it takes 30 minutes to rig and launch our boats, no, they will not go 50 mph, yes, they heel and watching us race is akin to watching grass grow. But, I always have a great time.
We have to get people into one-design sailing before they are corrupted by Mr. Hoyt. We must do it not only because we need them, but to save them from succumbing to the vices of speed, which can only lead to an abbreviated sailing life.
This article was plagiarized from Allan Gowans, Thistle Class Growth and Promotions VP. It was published in its original form in the Bagpipe. I fully agree with Allan's points and apologize to him for the liberties I have taken with his article.
by John Burnham, as published in Sailing World
What does it take to turn on a sailor to one-design sailing? First, it takes a boat design he or she can love, one a sailor can look at and see beauty, character, speed, or all three. Second, the competition available for that boat must be up to a standard the sailor cares to match. And third, satisfactory levels of humor, sportsmanship, and good fellowship must be present. The result, for the one-design sailor, should be a very personal and also very social experience.
Most sailors will tell you they want to win, and that's why they're racing, of course. But think about your own racing, one-design or otherwise, and be very honest. Doesn't it all boil down to whether or not you're having a good time? Whether everyone is getting along on your boat and no one is going home mad? Whether there are enough interesting people to socialize with after the racing? Whether or not, as a whole, the experience is more enjoyable than whatever else you could be doing on a given afternoon?
Sure, the boat is important, and so is the level of competition: but by far the most important aspect of one-design sailing is that the sailors enjoy themselves as human beings a species which is, by nature, much more complex than a simple competitive organism dedicated to finishing first.
The basic unit of organization within a given one-design class is the local fleet, which is run by volunteers. How you choose to involve yourself with this unit can make or break your experience in a given class. There are many articles devoted to improving your finishing position once aboard your boat; this article has some tips for upgrading the less tangible aspects of your one-design experience.
1. Begin by taking a job within your local fleet. Volunteer for a committee, or help to run an event. You no doubt have skills and enthusiasm that make you ideal for a number of jobs. What's the pay-off? Suddenly your self-image will improve dramatically as you begin to make small, but important contributions to others in your fleet.
2. Participate in fleet functions: Bring your family and crew members to every fleet function you can. Don't just take them sailing although that's usually an important thing to do. Make sure they show up at the seminars to do some learning on their own (might be a welcome change from your ever-gentle advice). Then take them to the parties as well.
3. Contribute to your fleet newsletter. If there isn't one, help get one started. All this takes is somebody with the gift of gab and somebody else with a typewriter and the race results. The combination can produce an informal, humorous, occasionally informative newsletter. Communication within the fleet is critical, if only to make sure everyone knows what will happen when. And then it's easy to send the newsletter to your class higher-ups so your fleet will get recognition at the national level. (And don't forget that if you contribute, you can be sure you'll get all the right names mentioned!)
4. Go sailing with other skippers and crew in the flee. Whether you're at one end of the fleet or the other, you have something to offer sailors you don't usually spend time with your friendship. You may teach them a thing or two, and you may learn something at the same time (at the very least, what not to do). You can also gain practical experience seeing how the rigging and deck layouts work on other people's boats. But most important is the fact that nothing makes friends faster than spending time together on the water.
Winning is important to many sailors, but not everyone gets the opportunity to do it regularly. There has to be more at stake for you to commit yourself to a one-design sailboat. What does it take? Simply a willingness to contribute to your fellow sailors in your local fleet. If you've got that, you'll find that the rewards for the time you spend in your boat will multiply.
I first met Denis Colby, DC, at the 1990 Southerns. When we arrived he was still rigging his new boat. After several trips to the local marina, sufficient parts were obtained and #5105 and her skipper made their Windmill debut, assisted by an experienced one-design sailor (Bruce Eubank) as crew. Since then DC has become a regular on the Southern circuit. DC sees life a little different than most of us and it is a welcome difference to me. He wrote the following on his dues form and I wanted to share it with everyone. DHM
The Midwinters were fun, thanks! The hospitality and camaraderie were superb. The wind sucked, but, hey. I brought down an experienced, one-design, ex-collegiate, full of himself, semi-serious dude, who reminded me of something we take for granted. What a great bunch of people, he said, and went on to praise our diversity, manners, sense of humor, taste in women and so on. Ain't we grand? He also liked the boat, didn't find it uncomfortable or tender although he weighs 190 pounds. Call it mid-life crisis; but hearing an outsider volunteer such praise, sort of revived me. Around Nashville the 'Mill is rumored to be tipsy, wet, agonizing to sail and favored by weight-lifting dwarfs. I see now that only the most cynical slothful sailor could ever think that. The Windmill is truly excellent and so are the people who sail them!
All written/edited by Don Malpas, except as noted, and previously published in the Windmill Class Association newsletter, The Jouster . Republication with credit to the Windmill Class is granted.