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Decline at Key West Race Week
Team McLube



Jan 25, 2011, 7:52 PM

Post #1 of 3 (15967 views)
Decline at Key West Race Week Log-In to Post/Reply

Much discussion on Scuttlebutt about how Key West numbers are decreasing, and efforts to get an event sponsor to help boost attendance. I am struck by the stark dropoff of IRC fleets, (Four boats??? Seven??) while OD and PHRF numbers seem much more robust. Are IRC owners finding out that they can't afford a new boat each time the rule gets adjusted to penalize their "rule-beaters", and are dropping out because they can't buy First Place? If their numbers were ADDED to the PHRF fleets, instead of reducing the number of competitors, wouldn't it help to create a critical mass of focused racers that would build interest and attendance in the event?

The Publisher

Jan 26, 2011, 9:42 AM

Post #2 of 3 (15952 views)
Re: [PaulK] Decline at Key West Race Week [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

From Scuttlebutt 3265:

* From Chris Bulger:
This was our first KWRW despite many years of racing - my first Block Island Race Week in the 70's. For the record - we had a great time sailing last week despite the light air and our own performance. We are new members of the J/80 class; it was a pleasant surprise to see 16 boats in the class despite the fact that many regulars took the year off to recover from the 2010 Worlds campaign. It was also impressive to see strong turnout for the J/105, Melges 24 and Melges 32. These four classes totaled 74 boats - that's one hell of a turnout for a week long sport boat regatta at the end of the earth! Throw in the Farr 30's and RC 44's and you have almost 100 boats!

This turnout defines a wildly successful regatta from a sailing point of view. But, all week we couldn’t help but stumble into conversations about the regatta's poor health and uncertain future. Clearly KWRW's financial model was optimized for large IRC programs where the regatta budget for a single boat dramatically exceeds the burn rate of the entire J/80 and J/105 classes combined. The big IRC boats burn upwards of $100k for the week, they feed many vendors and demand high end services and big trophies - you might even say that they spend like drunken sailors.

Early in the decade these big budget programs were as plentiful as new condo developments and job offers - and it made sense to gear KWRW for these "customers". But 2011 is different and we don't need to consult with Ben Bernanke to forecast that $100K per week IRC programs are on the endangered species list and likely to stay there for a number of years. But why throw the sailors away with the dirty bath water. If Peter Craig isn't interested in a KWRW for a more modest budget - I would like to volunteer J-Boats and Melges to take over the event. I can't believe that an 80 boat week long midwinter regatta isn't a great success worth defending from these builders point of view.

=> Curmudgeon’s Comment: No argument that big budget programs contribute significant sums to a lot of sectors, but I don’t think you can say they’ve ever been the core customer for Key West. Here are three samples from the past decade:
2000 -
2005 -
2010 -

* From Chris Groobey:
I am a long-time J/105 owner and frequent local and national fleet officer. I have participated in numerous Key West and other “travel” regattas on our J/105 and prior boats. And I have known and respected Peter Craig and his organization (Premiere Racing) for years. But I have to say I was startled to read (in his interview with Scuttlebutt) that Peter views it as the one-design fleets’ responsibility to help him market his regatta.

Peter has clearly forgotten that he dis-invited the J/105 class from his Miami regatta a few years ago, preferring instead to focus on bigger boats, and I am sorry that he has also forgotten the contributions that the J/105 fleet made toward the Whitbread/Volvo stopovers when he was running those events too. It’s not that the fleets are not doing their job, it’s that Premiere Racing has never been about the little guy and Key West stopped being “fun” or (more importantly) “worth it” to many owners years ago.

It’s nice to be wanted again but, as class officers, our job is to serve our members, make racing easy and keep participation high, not tell our fellow owners how to spend their money. My guess is the days of for-profit regattas are numbered even as one-design racing continues to rebound strongly. We owners know where we get the most value for the money and will continue to vote with our feet (or, more accurately, trailers).

=> Curmudgeon’s Comment: I asked Peter Craig of Premiere Racing if could respond to Chris’ letter. Here is his reply:

“My point in the interview was not about telling class members how to spend their money, but rather the need to communicate class plans and interest. The J/105 class with Nelson Weiderman (previous Class Secretary) used to do a great job with this, listing owners and intentions well in advance. In doing this, they successfully addressed one key factor with owners looking to make their decision to commit - the level of competition. The J/80 class has done that over these recent difficult years along with an effective “race week on a budget campaign” and the result for this cost conscience class was over 14 or more entries from 2009-2011.

“I’m disappointed by the ‘Key West never being about the little guy’ comment. The decision to continue awarding daily trophies (1st-3rd) for five days plus series and special awards is a very costly ‘little guy’ decision. Again this year we had a separate circle with 6 and 7 boat PHRF classes, an 8 boat multi hull class and the J/80s as we attempt to keep the ‘little guy’ engaged during these difficult times. We lowered all fees for 2011, also something that matters more to the non-grand prix programs.

“There is no question that Key West is expensive and time consuming for both owners and crews. Participating in any regatta is a value proposition and a decision made by the individual owner. I’m just looking to be upfront with boat owners, sailors and the industry about where things stand with the Key West event. We do need involvement from the classes and owners as we try to determine a way forward.

“I certainly didn’t intend to slight the J/105 or any other class during my interview. I’m sure there are more than a couple of statements that might have been phrased better or may be interpreted other than as I intended. Whoever said I forgot the contribution of the J/105 class - and for that matter hundreds of Chesapeake Bay sailors - during the Whitbread/Volvo races there? For the record I still do appreciate the tremendous volunteer effort for those 3 stopovers, but I’m not sure how that translates to class involvement for our Key West regatta.

“Regarding the Miami regatta… in 2005 the J/105s had 18 entries and in 2006 there were 7. A dramatic drop with no indication from the class of that trend turning around. More to the point, immediately following the 2006 regatta, the Miami Beach Marina retracted their guarantee for 100-120 race boats because of the fuel price increases (resulting in powerboats signing annual leases). Their new guarantee was dockage for only 50 boats… hence 1 race circle instead of 2 or 3. It’s worth noting that there was renewed J/105 interest in the Miami event this year by a few, but only one would commit.”

The Publisher

Jan 27, 2011, 6:18 AM

Post #3 of 3 (15891 views)
Re: [The Publisher] Decline at Key West Race Week [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

From Scuttlebutt 3266:

* From Travis B. Weisleder, Layline owner:
I personally think Key West is getting a bad rap for various things, but most people still don't really and truly understand the real budgets of doing it; it's less than they think. For instance, my housing for KW this year cost me $2,450 for 8 days and 4 bed rooms in Truman Annex (two condos). That’s cheap.

I think where the issue really comes for most people who have small keel boats is that there is no real YC in KW. Think about it. You grab your boat, hitch on your car and go. You pull into the YC and there is a crane to hoist your boat and dockage at the YC to keep it for free. So for the small boat guy that expense for KW "seems" expensive. It costs ~$1,000 just to do that. If you pull that out you can do a M24 campaign for under $2,800 not including getting there. That's $466 per day...not too bad.

All owners and crews need want to make their money count, so they are watching numbers on the new online registration systems and waiting and waiting and waiting to see who else joins the party. So my comment to all owners thinking of doing any event is REGISTER! It doesn't cost you a dime to register, only when the fee is due and then that is the point of reckoning.

Numbers breed if you think you can make it, fill out the registration form to let others know too. Show your support because there are more people on the fence out there doing the same thing and if they see a critical mass forming then they will also jump in and the snowball begins to form.

* From Ted Mahoney, National T-Ten Class Fleet Captain:
The T-Ten Class, like many other classes, is struggling with declining membership and regatta participation. We still get 30+ boats at most NAC events (not bad for only 378 boats built back in the 80's), but local participation is declining. The level of competition is better than ever as owners rebuild 25 year old boats and increase their sailing skill, but we see fewer boats on the starting line than ten years ago.

As you know, we are a 33' one design boat with density in the Midwest class - mostly on Lakes Michigan, St. Clair and Erie. Our class is trying to do our part by increasing the quality of our newsletter 'Tenspeed' (linked on the front page of the website) and we recently updated our website ( with more color, content, photos and videos. We also try to cover non racing articles like rebuilding, rigging, training etc. to attract every owner and crew.

This year we are bringing back our T-Ten Midwinter Championship which is going to be held during Charleston Race Week. Seven boats are signed up to trail in from the Midwest!

It might be a good idea for Scuttlebutt to create a directory of One Design Classes along with links to their respective websites and newsletters. This would give participating One Design Classes additional exposure and possibly bring more people into the sport.

=> Curmudgeon’s Comment: Good idea on the OD class directory, but I would prefer that the national sailing authorities do the heavy lifting. Therefore, I have added links to these organizations in the Sailing Suppliers & Resources page on the Scuttlebutt website. I did take a look at the US SAILING website, and while they do have a page dedicated to OD class information, it is in dire need of details. If you are a U.S. OD class, you need to take a look to see if your info is complete. Here are the links:

Scuttlebutt resource page:
US SAILING class page:

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