Accessible Sailing Through Fun Events

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by Thom Burns

New Directions In 1998
Every now and then we in the sailing industry whether we are the scribes, the builders, sailmakers or whatever need to step back and glimpse the big picture. Recently, I attended an industry marketing seminar and read with interest last year’s marketing data. Sailing grew modestly in 1996 but was stagnant in most sectors in 1997 as measured by new boat sales. As much as I like and respect builders, this is not the only measure of the success of the sailing lifestyle. People in general (over 60%) continue to express a desire to learn about sailing.

New vs used - ability to attract new sailors
Currently, between 75% and 90% of all sailboat sales are of used boats. There are major league differences between 90’s era boats, 80’s era boats and 70’s and earlier boats. The problem for new boat manufacturers is that most of the earlier generations of fiberglass sailboats are still out there. They are often in pretty good shape and they can be purchased and upgraded at a fraction of the cost of a new boat. We have added reviews of used boats to Northern Breezes and Sailing Breezes (web). I believe this will be a nice addition. See my review of the Sonar and Dallas Johnson’s story on the exciting revival of the Capri 25 at Wayzata Yacht Club. We will continue to review new boats. There are a lot of exciting developments out there which genuinely separate these products from their predecessors. I have a firm policy on these reviews - we only review boats we have sailed.

Although the new boat manufacturers have to compete against used products (often their own) for boat sales, the wide array of used boats at reasonable prices also allows a wide range of new folks to get into sailing. When a family can get into a used high quality 30 footer for less than most new cars, money is probably not the issue. Time, perceived commitment, perceived difficulty and accessibility are often mentioned as reasons people don’t sail. The sailing community, both the industry and sailing/yacht clubs both locally and nationally are trying to bring more sailors into the fold.

"Go Sailing"
This summer "Go Sailing" will take place the weekend of July 25th and 26th. This program is designed to let those who want to try sailing to get out for 45 minutes to an hour. The participant is asked to make a nominal donation to the local Leukemia Society. It should be taking place throughout the Upper Midwest since the local efforts dovetail the national "Go Sailing" program sponsored by Sail Expo, the industry folks who put the Atlantic City, St. Petersburg and Oakland all-sail shows. Send your co-workers and associates to a "Go Sailing" site, request a poster for your office, help expose more people to sailing while raising some funds for a worthy cause . . . Leukemia research. Leukemia currently affects one in five extended families nationwide.

This July 4th in Bayfield, Wisconsin is Sailfest. Three years ago with a lot of leg work from Chet Hajec and George Hanson, Apostle Islands Yacht Club (AIYC), the inaugural event drew 101 boats. The event’s popularity resides in its simplicity and fun nature. Depending on wind direction and strength, a course around one or two islands is determined. Then boats are started in inverse order of their projected speed based on standard PHRF handicapping. There is no intimidating start line as is commonly defined in sailboat racing. The beauty of this approach is that cruisers, charterers and trailer sailors can easily participate. Since slower boats start first, the entire fleet should finish within an hour of one another. Chet assures me they will shorten the course if necessary to make sure everyone finishes in a reasonable time frame even if there are light winds. This is splendid for all the fun events scheduled to follow.

This year for the first time, the "Leukemia Cup" has been incorporated into Sailfest. It will be "Sailfest-Leukemia Cup." The Upper Midwest Sailing Association (UMSA), the sailing business group and its associated sailing/yacht clubs, has joined the Apostle Islands Yacht Club and the Leukemia Society in promoting Sailfest-Leukemia Cup. Participatory events such as "Take A Sailor On Sailfest" are designed to raise funds for the Leukemia Society.

Mark your calendar. We will publish more as soon as its available. •

For more info contact: AIYC 800-821-3480; UMSA 612-542-9707; Leukemia Society, MN Chapter 612-545-3309.