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Forum Index: DISCUSSION: Dock Talk:
DECLINE OF SAILING: NOT WHAT SOME WANT TO HEAR
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The Publisher
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Mar 3, 2010, 3:02 PM

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Published in Scuttlebutt 3038:

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





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Mar 3, 2010, 3:03 PM

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Published in Scuttlebutt 3039:

From Russell Painton:
I would like to add my vote in support of Nicholas Hayes' observations regarding one big reason for the decline of sailboat racing. I have been racing for some 50 plus years, and have watched with dismay the increasing presence of professional on board. I have seen owners, who have not contributed one thing to the first place "they" have "won", have the nerve to actually walk up and receive the award, as if they had actually done something themselves. Imagine the reaction of a new racer, who is even further back in the fleet, when he sees this. He evaluates what his chances are forever winning a race against these odds, and soon loses interest.

One also reads about the huge successes that fleets have had when they simply forbid any pros on the boats at all. I am unaware of any other sport in the world where pros are routinely allowed to compete against amateurs. There is obviously a reason for this. Why are we any different?

For those that insist they really like to try their skill against the pros, let them pick the pro am races and go for it. For the rest (vast majority) of us, let's save the sport before it is too late.


The Publisher
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Mar 3, 2010, 3:04 PM

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Published in Scuttlebutt 3040:

From John Lambert:
On the subject of Nicholas Hayes’ observation of the decline in racing (in Scuttlebutt 3038), which I believe is probably greater than suspected, there are still some bright spots. Different from adult racing, the following areas have continued to grow; Opti and Club 420 racing (I do not know enough to comment on Laser/Laser Radials but I suspect that they also are growing), high school and college racing, and adult team racing. Unlike most adult racing, each of these areas has the advantage of the boat and its gear being largely irrelevant to results. In adult racing, seeking a competitive advantage through gear is encouraged; a sentiment that would be deemed almost unethical in any other sport with the possible exception of auto racing.

The next generation of sailors leaving college will, for the most part, have less time and money than prior generations. So long as racing sailboats continues to reward competitive advantage obtained with gear, participation will decline. To not just stop the decline but to grow adult racing, a new division of the sport is needed that discourages arms races and applies Rule 69 as forbidding efforts to gain competitive advantages through gear. To not move in this direction is to consign racing sailboats to an increasingly marginal existence, only for the really affluent. Sailing could truly become a national sport; starting a high school program is cheaper than building a ball field, and the maintenance is also less. But the participation declines if the next step is simply joining an arms race.






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Mar 3, 2010, 3:07 PM

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Published in Scuttlebutt 3041:

From Jim Champ:
Doesn't it depend on the professional? This dinghy sailor is delighted to sail with friends who are industry professionals, be it boat builders, rig designers or whatever. We are all friends who enjoy racing sailboats. If the pros have access to trade discounts, then they also have to work for industry incomes, which don't compare favourably to those who work in the finance business... If they want to practice sailing all week it has to come out of their holidays or out of their income generating time like the rest of us. Its as level a playing field with them as it is with anyone else.

People who are sponsored full time sailors with equipment supplied and time to practice every day are a different matter I suspect. I haven't sailed in a class where this happens, but I can imagine being uncomfortable. There the playing field is not remotely level. There isn't a clear boundary of the course, and the days of "amateur" sailing demonstrated that no-one has ever come up with a way to distinguish the two, which I imagine is why the ISAF classification doesn't attempt to.

A couple of examples to consider the difficulties...

"LK" wants to sail in my class. He is not short of personal finance. He would turn up and sail in a boat that prepared and rigged by a full time professional team, new sails every event, new hull and rig every time his pro team doing full two boat tuning every weekday identifies an improvement. I think everyone else is going to be distinctly discouraged, because it feels as if no-one else has a chance with such a slanted playing field. Yet surely no-one would argue that he's anything but an amateur.

"AD" wants to sail in my class. He works in the industry full time on big boats, doing a mixture of technical design and on board development sailing. He's going to build his boat himself in his spare time. He'll gets to do less dinghy sailing than the rest of us, as he lives in hotels following the big events for half the year. There will be odd bits on his boat made from scraps from big boat projects he's been involved in, brackets made from titanium rod rigging offcuts maybe, or some end of roll carbon offcuts. His annual income is about two thirds of the class median. He's completely on a level playing field with the rest of us, if not actually disdvantaged, yet surely no-one would argue he's anything but a professional.



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Mar 3, 2010, 3:08 PM

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Published in Scuttlebutt 3041:

From Nicholas Hayes, author of ‘Saving Sailing’:
My statement to US Sailing and reported in Scuttlebutt a few days ago (Issue 3038) apparently ruffled some professional sailing feathers. I said, "Frankly, pros have no place in the vast majority of sailing as it is done today." I meant what I said, neither critically nor presumptively, just as a fact supported by data: more than 99% of sailing is amateur.

Consider that today so few people make a living from sailing that the entire market is barely a rounding error on just one state’s annual pension obligation. Or that all of the sailing pros in the US could fit in the bleacher seats of a high school football field. Meanwhile, in sailboat racing we have a higher ratio of pros to amateurs than in any other sporting pastime, which means that pros must fight ten times harder for much smaller scraps, while the larger market that they depend on is shrinking at an ever-quickening pace.

Pros should take solace that the book explains that they are among the victims of the debacle and not its villains. Saving Sailing isn’t a call to save sailing from pros. It is a call to fix much larger problems than these. And it offers practical and time-honored ways that any sailor, whether a pro, amateur, competitive or leisure can contribute to sailing, starting now.


Presuming Ed
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Mar 4, 2010, 3:14 AM

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Jim is ignoring the big area where the input of pros can have a negative impact on sailing.

We need a further example - "DS"

DS is an owner of a big boat, which he races. He is cash rich and time poor. He wants to get better results. There are, at the extreme, 2 choices available to him:

1) Strengthen from within. Look to improve the skills of the existing crew. Practice more, with input from coaches etc.

2) Buy success. Replace half his crew with a paid driver, pro trimmers, pro nav, pro bow. He'll do better, but at what cost?

Cost escalation kills classes.


jimc
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Mar 5, 2010, 12:56 PM

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I'm not ignoring it: I think its been well enough rehearsed. I'm no offering any solutions here: indeed I don't believe there are any universal global solutions, I'm just pointing out some different potential problems...

Half the trouble I think, with all of this, is that we try and address symptoms rather than the real problem... In your example the problem is cost escalation: pro sailors could be a part of it, but so could be megabucks sails that only last a regatta or unobtanium hull finishes or whatever...

Consider owner driver rules for instance. When I sail a two handed boat I sail forward hand, but I own the boat and do all the tuning and pre myself. As the helm I pick the most talented youngster I can persue to do a season. But an owner driver rule would catch me just as comprehensively as the guy who hires Ben AInslie to steer the boat and a team of industry pros to do all the boat preparation, and this is not really what's intended.

The Elephant in the room with all these attempts to retricts costs, or pro sailors, or anything else is that history shows quite clearly that sailors and teams will do everything they can evade such rules, even if it involves deception or even straight out lying. That's why (or at least one of the whys) the ISAF categories don't attempt to distinguish between industry pros who sail as weekend warriors just like the rest of us, and those who are out there for a payday.


Bruce Thompson
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Mar 6, 2010, 9:22 AM

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The March issue of Sailing World has an article on the U S Sailing Championship of Champions regatta. As a volunteer, I would amend Drew Daugherty's observation to make it "more of a friends and family regatta".

One of the easiest ways to check whether an event is family friendly is to look for the presence of women.

A simple review of the results will reveal that every team that made the podium included both family and women.

1st Skip Dieball, Jody Starck, Tom Starck (Sister & Brother-inlaw)
2nd Greg Fisher, Dan & Tobi Moriarty (Husband & Wife)
3rd Allan & Katy Terhune (Husband & Wife), Dave Perkowski

In an era when one of the most popular websites is called Facebook, one thing I noticed about SW's pictures was the lack of good pictures of the amazing women sailors that participated. Jody is hidden behind the jib, Kristine Wake is behind the mast, Allison Webber is looking away. The only one who isn't obscured is Amy Linton.

As to family relationships there were also a father-daughter (Ted & Emily Dickson), mother-son (Carol & Tal Ingram), father-son (Talbott & Tal Ingram).

To demonstrate the intergenerational aspect, there were skippers Paul White and Christopher Williford ages 72 & 14.

With all the concentration on the Olympics, I wonder why we don't examine "The human drama of athletic competition" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNqps7GN7CA We've been exclusively focused on "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat". I'd bet that most Americans now know the name, Joannie Rochette, even if she was once an obscure Canadian. Sailing ought to take the hint.





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Mar 7, 2010, 1:19 PM

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Scuttlebutt 3043

From John Alofsin, J World:
Regardless of which side of the argument you favor, you have to keep in mind that the definition of a professional in sailing is completely different than ANY other sport, and is in my opinion part of the "problem" being discussed.

I manage a sailing school that happens to teach racing as well as cruising and learn to sail. I do not teach myself and I haven't raced on a sailboat in many years.

Despite the above, I am considered a professional. This is akin to the manager (not the teaching pro) of a golf course being deemed a golf pro because he is affiliated somehow with competitive golf. This is also like the president of Wilson tennis rackets being considered a pro despite never stepping on a tennis court.

In EVERY other sport a pro is someone who collects prize money for winning or (sometimes) is paid directly for coaching. Even some paid coaches are not considered pros - the distinction is appropriately made between coaches and athletes.

In sailing, those who are ALREADY good sailors gravitate to jobs in the industry. They should not be penalized just because they stitch sails, lay down carbon fiber or run a sailing school. Let's change the definition of a pro to match the rest of the sports world. There are very few people who are true pros in sailing, and I'm sure they will not be upset at being limited to certain competitions where they can earn a living.

info@jworld.necoxmail.com>
J World, The Performance Sailing School
Newport & Key West Offices
800-343-2255 toll free
401-849-5492 phone
401-849-8168 fax
www.jworldschool.com


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Mar 8, 2010, 4:39 PM

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Scuttlebutt 3044

From Keith Kenitzer:
Regarding Nicholas Hayes comments about pros in sailing (Issue 3038), I would tend to agree. My other recreational passion is ice hockey. Over the years I have had the opportunity to take the ice in various pick-up games with a variety of very talented players with NHL, Olympic and NCAA experience. While it's fun to say I skated with so and so, especially when they were on my team, the reality is they are so much better than the average recreational player, like myself, that even when they "take it easy", they can still make me look ridiculous. I am sure the same can be said on the race course. While it's fun to say we raced against the best, the reality is, in most cases, they are just so much better than most recreational sailors.


I think in most sporting endeavors, athletes want a relatively level playing field with the same chance of success as everyone else playing the game. Guys that go to a fantasy baseball camp have a great time for the week they are competing with the pros, but if A-Rod, Derek Jeter and several other pros were regulars in their weekly league, they'd probably look for another league to play in. I am not sure why sailing would be any different. Of course, when the pro is calling tactics or guiding your boat across the finish line first, things might be a little different. I guess it's all a matter of perspective.




The Publisher
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Mar 9, 2010, 9:22 AM

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From Doran Cushing:
It is an observable fact. A well-sailed "average" boat will perform better, often much better, when a "pro" is aboard. It is observable in that the boat usually sails with its steady crew. But maybe a new sail purchase, or prospect of one, can bring aboard the local sailmaker for a race or two and the results will usually be significantly different. Covering sailing events in FL for some 10 year as a publisher/ journalist, I observed this phenomenon time and time again. A mid-pack boat would suddenly show up up front in a regatta. When I inquired about the crew, "oh yeah, Ethan (or Tom, or Nick, or Kuli) was sailing with us." It's not wrong, it's just the way it is.

It gets complicated when a rock star pro owns/leases a boat in an owner/driver fleet made up of just your average good sailors. You can look at the results from 2010 St. Pete NOOD and see exactly what I'm talking about. Is it unfair? Not in my mind, but you have to concede that it is a huge advantage. If I'm playing best ball or scrambles in golf, I'd like to have Mickelson or Wie on my team. Solution? In the amateur ranks that most of us compete in there is little reward besides a hunk of plastic and peer recognition. It's not so bad to say "I finished second to Paul Cayard (or your local sailmaker that everyone knows is a speed merchant)."

Ban pros? The sailing bodies can't even agree on what a pro sailor is.... Sail/jog/ski/canoe/whatever to the best of your abilities. Isn't that satisfying enough?




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Mar 9, 2010, 12:28 PM

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Scuttlebutt 3045

From Fred Roswold:
I don't think Nicholas Hayes is speaking for the majority of sailors.

I disagree with him that racing is meaningless or that we just do it for the friendships. We don't race to make friends; we race for the competition and the chance to win. I know most of my racing friends feel this way too because we talk about it in the clubhouse after the race. Racing, for me, is a challenge and an opportunity for Judy and I and our crew to try to exceed and improve in many disciplines: boat preparation, crew organization, crew training, tactics and strategy, helming and so on. If we succeed we might win and that feels great. It’s fun. Even if we don't win we have fun and feel really good when we know we sailed really well. Yes, we also enjoy the friendships we form among our crew and among our fellow competitors, but that’s not why we race.

And Pros can have a place among our kind of local racing if they are doing it for fun. We like to have them in the fleet and we can measure our performance against the best sailors whether they are pros of just good amateurs. We think it is great to compete against them. Now if someone hires a pro to sail with them in a local race it becomes a job for the pro. That’s OK too but if we, as amateurs, doing it for fun, are constantly outgunned by someone willing to spend a lot of money on a pro, after a while we might tend to stop trying. This is why there are limitations on pros in the sailing instructions.

To me, one of the great things about racing is that I can watch the top levels of sailboat racing, even America’s Cup, and I can relate exactly to what the sailors are doing. In my own little way I can say, “that’s the same way we do it, or should.” I like that. I don't get that feeling watching a soccer game. I guess that is because sailing is my sport, not soccer.



payattention
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Mar 9, 2010, 9:15 PM

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If pros are responsible for the decline in sailing then why haven't the non-pro fleets grown?

Perhaps people aren't sailing because mostly, sailing is boring:
  • You "race" at speeds that wouldn't even come close to receiving a speeding ticket in a car.
  • You mostly have to belong to a yacht club to participate in this sport and the further you travel east the stuffier and more insular those clubs get.
  • Children are supposed to be EXCITED to sail alone in a shoebox and aspire to graduate to a bath tub in order to climb the ladder set by tradition.

I'm tired of people fixating on professionals as the cause of the problems in sailing. Frankly it's a scapegoat from labeling the real problems of the sport:

  • Most boats are boring.
  • Most venues have an old-minded commitment to slow boats.
  • Most upper level decisions in sailing are made by a generation of sailors for whom the slow boats were the gold standard.

People need to face the facts:
  • Sailing fast is fun.
  • Sailing fast is attainable for all body types and ages.
  • Modern design and technology has benefited sailing by making boats easy, fast, and fun.

I propose the following:
If people loved to sail then Sailing would be loved.

I'm tired of people trying to force everyone into some prescribed definition of what sailing should be (without pros, with limited pros, with family members, in slow boats, etc). Seriously, get over yourself. You are not that important and we still have some freedom in this country to determine for ourselves what we do with our free time.


jimc
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Mar 10, 2010, 3:27 PM

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In Reply To
People need to face the facts:
Sailing fast is fun.
Sailing fast is attainable for all body types and ages.
Modern design and technology has benefited sailing by making boats easy, fast, and fun.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yet here in the UK the popularity of trapeze doublehanders appears to be at the lowest point its been for I reckon getting on for 40 years, just about all of the new wave high performance classes have collapsed, and sailors at my club who got top ten results in 29er worlds in their teens a few years back are now sailing slower boats. I don't pretend to understand why, but that's what's happening. My International Canoe is now the fastest boat at my club...





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Mar 10, 2010, 7:24 PM

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Scuttlebutt 3046

From Jim Key:
Keep things in prospective! Pros make our sport what it is today - top notch. They make us all go faster if they're on your boat or if you're just sailing against them. It's their job. Remembering that, I think back to a Port Huron to Mac race with a light air start. We were on a 68-foot heavy cruising sailboat, all crew on the low side trying to get the boat to heal over. Talking and watching boats all around us. Having a fun time at the start of the race. A 70-foot racing boat with an almost all pro crew came by to windward of us. All crew hanging off the high side. As they passed us, we all waved and commented to them how fast they were going. Not one remark came back. Not one smile. One of our crew members commented, "They're not having as much fun as we are, it's their JOB!" They live with the pressures that jobs put on us… demands, performance, expectations, time away from family. We need them in our sport. I want to race against them. I want to beat them. But, the main thing is, I want to have FUN. It's not my job; it's what I do for RECREATION.


chris_bulger
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Mar 11, 2010, 9:17 AM

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Having great sailors who are tough to beat isn’t the problem with professionals in the sport, it is the dishonesty. I don’t mean the fake engines and cheater sails kinda rule breaking, every sport has cheaters with or without professionals. I mean the kind of lying they do at the Mall.

When I started racing in the 60’s with my father, boats and regattas were filled with people for whom the sailing and the sea was an escape from their commercial grind. There was intense competition, but there was also a real camaraderie built on shared joy and an escape to sea. CEO’s and carpenters (yes it was mostly men) wore the ugly clothes their wives tried to throw away, skipped shaving, swore and drank as though they were back in the Navy – and generally enjoyed themselves in a way that is unique to a group whose only connector is shared passion.

Today’s regattas feel more like a trip to the Mall. A walk down the docks or through the party is like walking into men’s department at Saks Fifth Avenue. Instead of having a clothes salesman tell this balding, pudgy, middle-aged guy how fabulous I look in this year’s $2,000.00 sport coat that was made for an anorexic teen - I have a 100 salesmen extolling the virtues of this year’s “one-design” which is soooo much fun BUT..........BUT...... “we need to throw away the keel and rudder and get proper foils (+25%), the silly lines supplied by the factory go in the trash too (+10%), the sails that we need are made of plutonium and only last a week (+100%)....which is a good thing, cause I can only be your best friend and join your Corinthian program if you buy a new set from me once a month, but of course I am not a ‘paid hand’ so if you want me to like you I expect to be flown first class and don’t look for me to help you wash down the decks.....as a matter of fact if you want to “win” we really need to hire a guy to hire guys to wash the boat etc ....oh and one more thing – old friend – about 11 months into the program we need to start planning for the next boat or I need to find a new best friend........

I grew up in a golden period of sailing formed by a great depression and World War that had sunk professionally crewed ostentatious J-Class boats in favor of amateur crewed modest 12 Meters. We have experienced a great recession and a war on terror which for the moment has partially sunk the STP65, TP52 etc. .... those professional crews have all amassed on the Melges 32’s – the last remaining profitable class in the US - to sell sails, keels, ropes and hours. These are well sailed fast boats and the competition looks great. They may also be melting remnants of an ice berg that I will call the “Fashion Period” of sailing supporting a culture that may or may not survive this climate change.

It would be interesting if we saw a decline in the number of people promoting sailing for profit and a reciprocal increase in the number participating for fun.


Nicholas Hayes
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Mar 11, 2010, 7:36 PM

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Well this was fun. Thanks, Craig, for getting it started.

Now that that the question of PROS been beaten to a pulp, and given that none of this matters if amateur sailing continues to decline, I suggest we focus on the larger issues and with some plausible solutions. Here is a simple idea:

Manned by a pro or not, I propose that all sailboats in the US should be leave the dock on Thursday evening with neighborhood families as guests.

Call it THURSDAYS ARE FOR FAMILY SAILING. It’s a simple idea that can catch fire community by community. All it takes is one family to ask another, and then some good old word of mouth. See if you can get it started in your town.

To share ideas, or to network with other people who are making it go, join the Facebook Group by the same name. http://www.facebook.com/...091242522&ref=ts

Just in the last 5 days, we've enlisted 150 boats for the 2010 season. You in?

There's no money in it. But I'll better the reward is better than money in the long run.

-ndh


vietorsa
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Mar 12, 2010, 4:15 AM

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drandywest
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Mar 12, 2010, 9:41 AM

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pro sailing.... I was a florida cowboy running skinny cows thru the bush, the only difference between my friends and me was that grandma had a beach house and I learned to surf and found the sea.. My last year in college I met Annie Gardner and then a guy with a boat called Imp..... I went sailing with them and after, was on the boats that won or placed in all the regattas of the world...later a company callled Hawwaiian Tropic decided to sponsor me to sail catamarans,,,, after that I made my life with very little money but paid indeed, to sail transatlantic, around Europes around Britain and Ireland, trans pacs, trans meds and although not a rich man I had fun fun fun and am very, very happy because we had fun... and on the immigration forms of all the countries that I visit I write; pro sailor.. thank you SAILING


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Mar 14, 2010, 3:39 PM

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Scuttlebutt 3047

From Craig Fletcher:
Yes, pro sailors add to sailing, but what they mainly add is cost. Dividing pros and amateurs would save the majority of us a lot of money and I guarantee as the fun factor increases the number of sailors will as well.


The Publisher
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Mar 14, 2010, 3:39 PM

Post #21 of 27 (24756 views)
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Scuttlebutt 3048

From Laurence Mead:
I can’t believe how often this one comes up. For everyone who decries the pros in our sport I think there are 10 more who like the fact that in this sport we can play alongside the "Tigers" of this world...OK, maybe I should have said compete alongside! If you want to race Russell Coutts, the best sailor of his (this) generation by a mile, you can race Farr 40's against him (or pay him and sail with him - how cool is that!) or if you want to race good guys but not too many pro's come sail Etchells, and if you want to race at less serious levels there is EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING down to the non-spinnaker classes and Wednesday night beer can racing....Please, let's not pick on the Pro sailors or the structure of our sport as the reason it's not on TV, not growing, or not "cool". There are loads of reasons but pros aren't one of them.


Weekend Warrior
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Mar 14, 2010, 8:35 PM

Post #22 of 27 (24667 views)
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Laurence Mead is exactly right. Sailing against pros is fine, how else can you improve? I've raced Farr 40s with and against them and they always raise the whole crew's game. I own an Etchells and have enjoyed sailing on a level playing field against some of the legends in our sport in those boats too.

You can't play golf with Tiger Woods or get driving lessons from Michael Schumacher but you can sail against the best!

If there is a problem with sailing these days one is too many one deisgn classes and of course is the economy.
G. E. Kriese
www.OceanRacing.com


EaglesPDX
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Mar 14, 2010, 9:16 PM

Post #23 of 27 (24650 views)
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Probably the biggest issue is the need for crew in order to sail most boats. And the only person who really gets to have fun is person on the helm. Everyone else is a worker or passenger.

Compare it to the growth industry in boating which is wakeboarding where everyone gets to play and it is much more athletic.

I live in a marina and inevitably, the sailboats sit for lack of crew while a steady parade of "boarders" with boats loaded with friends and family putter around. Only exception to this are the windsurfers but that is the other extreme, very athletic and inevitably solitary.

And then there's the learning curve to sailing and the somewhat insular social barrier to learning.

Don't know that there's much that can be done about it.


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Mar 15, 2010, 4:36 PM

Post #24 of 27 (24148 views)
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Scuttlebutt 3049


From Ryan Hamm, Charleston, SC:
In response to Laurence Mead, I concur completely. We too often try to find fault with our sport and talk ourselves into reasons our sport is in trouble. I have been on both sides and have raced against Russell Coutts and Dave Ullman, and countless other pros. They beat me pretty handily (most of the time) but it sure was great to be near them on the line and see how the good guys do it.

That was in Melges 24s where many of the best have competed but the class also scores the Corinthian division inside the same event so you race against the pros and not trophy but if you beat the other amateurs you still have a chance to be in the silver. I have also sailed against Joe the plumber, and countless other everyday “Joes” in regular Harbor races in Charleston and surrounding waters.

Both sailing against the pros and “Joe” are great and you can choose which way you want to go in our sport or you can do both. But whatever you do don’t leave the sport because you don’t want to lose to the pros. Sail against Joe if you want some silver and can’t beat James Spithill, Bora, John Bertrand or other greats. I like it both ways. Either can makes you a better sailor depending on what you put into it. Sail fast, often, and have fun! But don’t quit on account of a few pros.


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Mar 16, 2010, 1:38 PM

Post #25 of 27 (23646 views)
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Scuttlebutt 3050

From Doran Cushing:
The "pro sailing with amateurs" debate likely is not to be resolved but I'd like to add two personal tales. Sailing in the Bitter End YC pro-am event some years ago as a guest journalist, I happened to be aboard with Paul Cayard. In short, Paul missed getting inside the pin end of the start line. I had to suggest that maybe we should have taken that mark to port...priceless.

In the west coast of Florida PHRF and one-design fleets there was a true competitor we'll call Barber Bill. He and his buddies/crew moved up from the S2 fleet, usually PHRF, to the Melges 24 one-design fleet. With probably less than two year of experience in the boat, BB and friends entered Key West Race Week. It was the same year some youthful rock stars from Calif has their boats, pros, and high budget programs there. As was Buddy and others in the Melges family. BB beat a few boats each race. But he and his crew shared with me a feeling of being champions because they could check out the pro boats on the ramp, chat with the pros on land before racing, and genuinely share the tent experience that evening with Olympians, AC pros, and a host of great sailors. But the story doesn't end there. After one season in the boat of the year series around Tampa Bay, Barber Bill and his friends won honors in their class. Barber Bill and crew came in a stretch limo from Punta Gorda, all wearing tuxedos among a crowd of tee-shirts and shorts. It was all in fun.

Let's all hope there are a lot more Barber Bills in our sailing/racing community. His spirit and humor are priceless. And don't ask me to tell you about how BB and his friends sailed some "Escape" dinghies to Havana from Florida.


From Henry Filter:
Can we please close this thread? This professional amateur thing is getting old. I don’t work in the sailing industry. Whatever happened to good sailors wanting to compete against other good sailors, whether pro or amateur? The sport is all about enjoying yourself on the water and trying to improve your game. Good sailors work both in and out of the industry. Who cares where they make their living?

I love one design sailing. There are so many great one design classes to choose from: Lasers, Snipes, Lightning’s, Thistles, Stars, J22s, J24s, Sonar’s, Melges 24s, Melges 32s, Farr 30s and Farr 40s. There are many more, these are just the few I have been fortunate enough to race over the years. They all vary by budgets and number of people needed to compete. The point is, regardless of your budget and skill level, there is a class that is right for you. So figure out your budget, grab some friends and family, shut up and go sailing!


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Mar 16, 2010, 7:33 PM

Post #26 of 27 (23538 views)
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I can't agree with you more..... Sailing in the Etchells fleet after retiring from Soling in the 80's you could go to a regatta with dreams of top five. There was great experiences sailing against the best Dave, Hogan, Ulman, Sir John, Murray, Conner with the Big boys Norm & Bill. Judd Smith was still learning back then, but late in the ninty's you basically went to the Worlds looking for the tenth spot. Pedro got Russell to sail our boat cause we just had a kis a Nina couldn't steer in the 95 nationals and I crewed, only to get a thanks for coming handshake. We parked the boat to raise our daughter which took a bathroom break back in '96 during the ten minute warnning.... anyway we love the competition and are pleased to help out Billy back when. Glad the class has done next level.... next boat Harbor 20's...lol


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Mar 21, 2010, 12:28 PM

Post #27 of 27 (22709 views)
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From Michael Borga:
Regarding the statement that in no other sport are Pros routinely permitted to compete against amateurs, I would suggest that Beach Volleyball routinely conducts qualifying events and if you are good enough, you get to play with the big boys and big girls, including the Olympic Champions. Amateur players cherish those opportunities, even if they did get "crushed". Golf also permits amateurs to compete against the pros on a regular basis, the US Open is an OPEN event, Tennis also allows amateurs (and if not, I am sure someone will correct me). The US Volleyball Open also permits professionals and both National and International Teams and their Members to participate.

Under the ISAF guidelines, who is a Pro? Anyone who directly or indirectly has been paid to race. Does that mean that since I paid for lunch and a beer my crew are now Professionals? Not very likely, sorry guys!

My whole point: As the author pointed out many sailors love the idea of playing with and against the Pros and some aggressively seek out the opportunity. The letters and stories regarding Buddy Melges that recently appeared in Scuttlebutt would not exist if he weren't sailing or ice-boating with the "lesser mortals" and we would all be far worse off for having been deprived of those opportunities. Bob Johnstone was a recent participant in one of our Tuesday night "beer can" races on the new J and there was no complaining as far as I am aware, just the opposite.

If winning the race is the only thing that counts then 90% of sailors should be quitting, as only one boat can win. Instead we should all be trying to enjoy the experience rather than whether we got a trophy at the end of the regatta.

Besides, how can the amateur lose? If the Pro wins, it's completely expected. If the Pro loses, then the amateur has just won the "World Series" and the "Super Bowl" combined, eh?



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