Mar 3, 2010, 3:02 PM
Post #1 of 27
Published in Scuttlebutt 3038:
DECLINE OF SAILING: NOT WHAT SOME WANT TO HEAR
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Nicholas Hayes, author of “Saving Sailing”, has studied why sailing is in the decline, and is sharing his findings (and they’re not what some want to hear). Here is a recent interview he did with U.S. SAILING:
* Amateurs often compete against professionals… Some believe this is great for the sport. What is your take?
NICHOLAS HAYES: I don't know many amateurs who think it is great. (I know, snarky... but true.)
Seriously, let's start here: sailing is only a sport when sailors race. It is better defined as time spent on the water with family or friends. Racing is just one format, and it represents about 20% of sailing (in terms of time.)
Secondly, I like to race, and I like to take home a flag when I do... but the majority of sailors know that a race is meaningless except in the friendships that it secures and the memories that it makes. This perspective is shared by 99% of sailors, and applies to 99% of starts. Frankly, pros have no place in the vast majority of sailing as it is done today, and I don't see that changing much.
I go to lengths in the book to explain how sailing as a profession doesn't sync well with sailing as a pastime. I've come to conclude that if someone is able to convince someone else to finance their fun, so be it... but the progress in technique or skill isn't worth the costs in the whole. I hope your readers will consider the evidence that I present and decide for themselves.
* You believe we should be honest about our sport. It is difficult, time consuming, frequently changing and sometimes risky… Are you concerned that the sport is being sold under false perceptions?
NICHOLAS HAYES: Sailing is most certainly being marketed incorrectly in many places: Compare it to soccer or video gaming, and it takes on the thin veneer of a something only for kids. Or dumb it down for adults, and it loses its grand allure. The fact is that good sailing is hard, but it is almost always worth it. That said, I like to distinguish between easy and accessible at the point of entry. I don't think we should call it easy, but we can say that it is within reach, because it is (at community sailing centers and clubs all over the country).... and we should challenge each other and our friends to try it, and to then get better at it.
Let me add: I don't think anyone should be "sold" on sailing. I think it should be presented as an option, and a great one, given its grand benefits (freedom, experience and friendship), and then the person should decide for themselves.
Saving Sailing won't happen by making it popular. It will happen when people chose to do it well and for a long time, and when they share their contagious, authentic enthusiasm for it with others along the way. Often, it will start with a simple invitation: "Hey, you want to go sailing?"
* Do you believe that sailing is the ultimate family sport if organized and run the right way? If so, why?
NICHOLAS HAYES: I do, and I know many sailors who concur. It's hard to imagine a grandma, son and grandson all playing soccer together, but it's easy to find them playing together on a sailboat. There are many examples of this happening now all over the country. -- Complete interview: http://tinyurl.com/yhh6ley