How class associations can help

April 11, 2017 § Leave a comment

Following a fine night sharing #gosailing ideas at the Willamette Sailing Club, member Kerry Poe, Lido sailor and sailmaker, wondered:

Great talk. Nice to look outside of our often too locked in racing perspective. [I’ve seen] many clubs focus on pushing for members that will race. The reasoning was that if you look at all of the volunteers and most active people, they are racers. The inactive cruisers tied up limited dock and lot spaces and to the most part did not contribute much personal time to the club.

Maybe having some shared club owned boats allow us to bring in these new sailors without tying up our limited space.

… and then:

I am a board member for the National Lido 14 class association. We have monthly phone board meeting and most of the time there is some discussions on how as a board we can help the growth of the class.
The Lido is the type of boat that is very stable and easy to sail. Some will find it a great entry boat with its bench seats, stability, ease to sail and can take a bunch of people on it. Others like it because you can race with your spouse in a short course college style racing. The range of talent is huge from complete beginners to National caliber sailors.
Overall the National class is in decline. Here in Portland our fleet had 30 boats on the line back in the late 70’s. About 5 years ago our fleet was down to 3 boats on the line. I jumped in thinking that it was a good platform for us older guys who want to sail with our spouse in close tactical racing. Our fleet now get 12 boats on the line with a large range of talent.
Most of the other fleets are pretty small and struggling. From what I have seen around Portland is that the strong fleets always have at least one person that is a spark plug to build the fleet. What I don’t know is how a National association can help individual fleets become more active and grow.

I suggested:

Off the cuff, I’d connect the dots between this question and your idea in your earlier email. Why not have class associations be the fundraising and grant-giving organizations that seed, if not create the shared fleets?

It’s a strategic move: all members chip in a few bucks each to help make or expand a fleet where it’s necessary, thereby broadening the base and deepening the membership. And like you, I tend to think that the local work done by the dynamic volunteers isn’t something the larger org should try to do. They’re not connected. But, but granting fleets, they would leverage the volunteer’s hours with access to boats and time on the water for more.

Thanks, Kerry, for adding to the conversation!

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Do men still outnumber women in sailing?

March 22, 2017 § 2 Comments

Got this email recently from Windy at US Sailing. Windy is the Youth Recreational Pathways Manager there.

Hi Nick,

Hope you’re doing well—we met briefly down at the SAYRA Conference in Hilton Head this past January. I’m working on a girls sailing initiative and read in your book that men outnumber women in the sport 7:1. We’ve been using that statistic pretty regularly and I was just wondering how you found it and if you know if it’s changed at all since the book was written.

Best,
Windy

Here was my response. Windy was kind enough to agree to have it shared here:

Hi Windy,

Those data came from a wide range of sources: my own interview demographics with a sample of over 5000 sailors globally, industry sources, and club reports from the period from 2005-2008.

The ratio of men to women is changing, but it’s important to understand how. Here is a summary of the current trend: http://sailingmagazine.net/article-1326-you-sail-like-a-mom:-it’s-a-compliment,-not-a-put-down.html

There really is only one fast-growing demographic in the sport today (as far as I can tell) and it is adult women. College programs are doing well, and hereto, the growth is coming from women. Growth among youth programs is tepid (although it’s also majority female). Of course, old while guys (like me) are dying off faster than we can reproduce.

My guess is that we’re only 10-12 years from a 50:50 gender tipping point.

Hope this helps,

Nick

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Peter Rieck – A Sailing Hero

April 8, 2016 § 1 Comment

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Peter Rieck

He’s too humble to admit it, but Peter Rieck may be among the most important and influential sailors in the world in the last thirty years. Quiet, unassuming, accommodating, always present, and usually working, Peter has helped many generations learn to sail and learn to love sailing.

His impact is staggering. As the longtime Executive Director of Milwaukee’s Internationally-acclaimed Community Sailing Center, Peter has been the key figure in:

… raising tens of millions of dollars and enlisting tens of thousands of volunteer hours in order to acquire and maintain an unmatched fleet of shared sailboats, to build an award-winning campus, and to create the reference curriculum for sailing centers around the country …

… teaching thousands of kids and adults that wind, water, waves, and working together on a sailboat are priceless joys …

… nurturing hundreds of teens to become counselors, teachers and mentors to their younger peers, and, along the way, to become leaders themselves …

… deftly navigating a minefield of local politics, yachties-gone-altruistic, and scattershot volunteer committees, yet remaining firm and focused on a mission of teaching and sharing, safely, fairly and in good fun …

… showing an otherwise skeptical community that investments in outdoor education, open access to public parks and waterfront, and youth scholarships and part-time work always improve lives, especially when kids face stiff headwinds …

… inspiring a multi-generational team of volunteers to create a sailing community.

If you’ve ever been to MCSC, you know that it feels like a village. Friendly, helpful, accessible, fun. Just like Peter.

Peter announced his retirement a few weeks ago and will be leaving Milwaukee to invent a new life with his long-time partner Kathy, in Chicago.

If he has a fraction of the impact in Chicago that he has had in Milwaukee, the city will be transformed.

REACH is neat, but STEM is still a fad. Let’s go bigger!

April 30, 2015 § 1 Comment

My February 2015 Sailing Magazine column “Kids should sail because it’s fun, not because it’s homework”, struck a nerve with reviewers who sought clearer key points.

The article explored US Sailing’s foray into education reform with a STEM sailing school curricula being offered by sailing schools around the country under the name REACH.

Jack Gierhart, Executive Director of US Sailing, came to the defense of his organization’s work, as he should, and wrote a rebuttal on the US Sailing blog and a letter to Sailing Magazine’s editor, in this month’s issue.

And sailing school directors and staffers from around the country came to the defense of their REACH programs. I was invited to learn more about their programs, and am always glad to do it.

But I’m no rookie here, having helped raise money for favorite sailing schools offering STEM/REACH programs all over the country. I can report, through work with leaders at some 200 sailing schools, no coincidence that the vibrant organizations, measured on popularity and participant enthusiasm, also offer rich, multi-faceted lessons beyond basic sailing or racing. In many, students learn to navigate, harness wind and water energy, predict the weather, and learn to use tools to design and build boats. A few special schools couple sailing with environmental science, oceanography, biology, ecology and data collection and analytics. These schools are breaking new ground each year and US Sailing deserves credit for hosting a forum for sharing ideas. Hurray!

However, as you might expect, everyone is working on the flimsiest financial shoestring. It may be telling that I’ve fundraised for sailing many more hours than I’ve sailed in the last six years and so have most other advocates.

Given that, my article suggested that STEM might be a response to the sloshing around of donor and tax dollars chasing alternative education methods, and that like anything bought during a transition driven by politics, STEM can’t last and could do some damage.

Some key questions:

1.) Is sailing a good platform for learning things other than sailing?

You’d be hard pressed to find a lover of sailing who doesn’t credit it as the source for many other things that they love, know and do. The physical nature of sailing is explained mathematically; sailing tools and techniques are improved every year by advancing science and technology; sailing teaches creative design and problem solving within tight limits — one of the proven best methods to arrive at a solution.

But equally importantly, sailing teaches teamwork, leadership, communication skills, inquisitiveness, resilience, the value of practice, strategy, creativity, organization and commitment. So yes, sailing is a fantastic platform for learning, but the focus of that learning need not be reduced to the left brain.

Answer: There are limits to STEM. It isn’t comprehensive enough to do justice to the opportunity to teach through sailing.

2.) Is a sailing school the place to learn advanced skills in things other than sailing?

Sailing as a teaching medium is inherently broad in what it can offer a student, but it is not inherently deep or specialized, unless it is the sailing that you plan to perfect. An aspiring engineer needing advanced calculus is not going to find it at a sailing school, although they might become an accomplished sailor at that school if they can find the time outside of math class. Of course, for the advanced math, they’ll need an advanced calculus teacher. Their calculus might nicely support their quest to become a champion sailor, but it won’t train them physically or strategically for it, in the same way that sailing can’t comprehensively support their quest to become a calculus expert, because sailing isn’t merely equations. So while integrated curricula can help to well-round a person, an expert becomes one by committing unpolluted time and focus on an advanced subject. Kids need both general and specialized educations.

Answer: It’s easy to over-promise with STEM. Sailing schools can’t do everything and they shouldn’t try.

3.) Is STEM new and will it last?

Professional educators often say that everything has been tried in the education laboratory, and most new things are just new names for old things. It isn’t new that a city has a school focused on technical subjects and another focused on sports. As long as ample funding flows to support both institutions, a student and their family and teachers are free to choose a path that fits the child.

What is new is that many more institutions – like sailing schools – now can call themselves schools while, at the same time, longtime schools are starved for cash. So today, anyone aspiring to teach kids, whether on boats or on blackboards, is at the mercy of the whims of the Gates Foundation or blows in the shifting winds of education politics.

Answer: Since no educator can count on sustained support, STEM potentially limits all of education.

Indeed, between the lines, my first article was an invitation to US Sailing and sailing advocates everywhere to think beyond STEM and the limits of a fad.

Sailors know that sailing isn’t just a program. It’s bigger. Sailing makes our lives exciting, fun and even worth living, because it constantly teaches us. It trains our minds and bodies to do more and be more. It brings us closer to mother nature and human innovation and expands our spiritual selves. It inspires us to share and stretch what we have. It reveals the power of compromise and cooperation. It strengthens our friendships, which, in turn, strengthen our communities and neighborhoods. It is gender, race, income, age and religion neutral. So it can be an essential ingredient in an educated, peaceful, aspirational and productive society.

Instead of marketing sailing as just another alternative to failing schools, or as one neat youth program among many, I would challenge US Sailing to go big and shout to the nation:

Sailing is the university of a well-led life from which no one need graduate.

To do this, US Sailing should elevate its mission. As a proud dues-paying member, I humbly offer this proposed draft: “US Sailing calls on local and national leaders to make sustained and substantial investments to secure access to water, fleets, spaces, tools, outdoor classrooms, and the free time for people to come together during their whole lives to learn and share, building the nation’s capabilities, creativity and social capital.”

Sorry Jack. Math doesn’t rock. Sailing rocks. Math just helps explain why.

Intergen Sailing

Best book review ever

October 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

The Saving Sailing adventure has been nothing if not gratifying. And this reader review makes me smile every time I read it.

My wife, a non-sailor, read this book, and now she has a much better understanding of my passion for sailing. She is keen to sail with me and the kids this summer.

Bingo.

Read the whole review here.

AC34’s Impact on Sailing

October 17, 2013 § 5 Comments

Was AC34 a success? Larry said it changed everything. And the sailing media frenzy wouldn’t have been bigger had Miley twerked from Oracle’s aft rail.

But the early results are trickling in, and measured on its impact on public interest in our favorite activity, this America’s Cup barely registered.

If you were going to try to learn more about sailing after seeing an AC34 race, you’d google “sailing.” So to find out how many people did, let’s look at Google Trends based on the word “sailing”.

Google Trends: "sailing"

Google Trends: “sailing”

The persistent downward trend in sailing is widely known and many good folks are doing their best to reverse it. But wouldn’t you expect an uptick at the end of 2013 when the AC34 was happening, followed by new subsequent interest? Focus on the past 12 months:

Google Trends: "Sailing", 2013

Google Trends: “Sailing”, 2013

That blip (A) in September is the news of Oracle’s win.

Now compare the last three years. 2013 is down from 2012 and 2011. The spike (C) in 2012 was the Olympics.

Google Trends, "sailing", 2013, 2012, 2011

Google Trends, “sailing”, 2013, 2012, 2011

I draw three conclusions from these data:

1.) Youtube doesn’t inspire participation any more than cable TV or broadcast. A few people buy tennis rackets right after Wimbledon, but the long term trend in the sport is unaffected. Moreover, people who #gosailing turn off their screens to do it.

2.) Old sailors are the majority of AC watchers, and our numbers are tanking. The opportunity was to engage new sailors, and it didn’t happen.

3.) Organizers and sponsors never understood the Facebook generation’s sailing aspirations and they either missed or deliberately dissed the new demographic that is leading a #sailingrevolution today.

Or, perhaps, it was how it appeared: an entertainment event; a spectacle meant to make viewers, as opposed to a teaching moment designed to inspire sailors.

But hey, those boats were awesome! Gimme somuthat trickle down.

Three bold moves breathe new life into the “fun” regatta

September 13, 2013 § 1 Comment

About once a week, we get an email from someone who is tired of the sailing status quo and is looking for ideas to make their next event better. In this case, a club on the West Coast struggled with declining participation in a so-called “fun” youth regatta.

——— Reply ———–

Sorry your regatta didn’t go as well as you hoped. In the larger picture, there is no scarcity of kids in sailing. The missing ingredient in sailing is the parent, who, as you have said, is usually relegated to volunteering.

Here are three bold moves that I have seen work miracles in many cities and clubs:

1.) Don’t use the words regatta or fun. One is off-putting. The other is self-evident. “Games” is a good alternative word and solid footing for innovation, but you might think of another. New and different games are the most fun and engaging. Assemble your team to invent new games and try new flavors. Have the players weigh in. Give credit to the inventors and keep refining. Everything is on the table.

2.) Don’t exclude the parent, in fact, make the event family centric, that is, everyone, every age, every skill level, every gender sails. If the kids end up teaching the parents, you’ve just doubled your numbers and created the most lasting memories (and dedicated sailors.) Might you have to try different boats? Sure. Is it hard to get them? Never.

3.) Rethink every outcome. Old social statuses don’t matter anymore. Trophies and podium visits pale in comparison to youtube action clips and personal facebook albums and sailing tweets. The opportunity that sailing organizers have today is mind-blowing: every person sailing can star in their own movie! Some will be funny. Others heroic. Others inspiring. This is the point of ignition for viral marketing and leads to massive gains in interest, participants and more innovation.

Recent research shows that millennials like and want to be with their parents. Studies of adults 30-55 shows that they want to engage their kids and not waste time in cubicles, behind windshelds or screens. The new family unit is ready to trade money for time and purchases for experiences. Sailing is an ideal environment to accomplish both. Design your event to make it possible.

Best of luck to you!

Get ready to #gosailing

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