Now we've lost Paralympic Sailing - what if we lost Olympic sailing too?

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by WhiteDwarf, Apr 20, 2015.

  1. WhiteDwarf
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    WhiteDwarf White Dwarf

    Thanks Skyak

    Skyak, your post contains a lot of food for thought, needs a bit of digestion, so I will revisit later, if I may. This is my initial response.

    I absolutely agree about the STEM content. I sail a Firebug 8 footer and get challenged for that choice from time to time. I created the attached as justification.

    Again, your argument for making the sailing club a social hub for the intermediate cohort is imperative. Each club will approach it from a different direction, but we should all be learning from each other.

    I also take your comment that everybody is now a publisher. While I am very much a novice with the technology I posted a YouTube of a Firebug race recently. (Warning its 10 minutes with a Pathe style commentary) but one of the young sailors said afterwards, "That's terrific, now I can show my mates what I do on Saturday afternoons." The coloured sails make it easier too.

    Perhaps the various national yachting bodies should be encouraged to create hubs for the technically able (young) members of the community to post suitable material, and to recognise, even promote the best contributions on a regular basis.

    Attached Files:

  2. Leo Lazauskas
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    Leo Lazauskas Senior Member

    Of course, rugby and other hard physical contact sports are definitely not going
    to attract or keep older people.
    I doubt that sailing has anywhere near the same retention numbers as golf,
    tennis, lawn bowls (in Australia) and many other gentler sports which are fairer
    comparisons with sailing than rugby or bare-knuckle cage fighting. :)
  3. WhiteDwarf
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    WhiteDwarf White Dwarf


    Having raced my 8 footer through yesterdays squalls, hail and well over 25 kts, I beg leave to question your characterisation of sailing as "other gentler sports!" Oh, and I finished.
  4. Leo Lazauskas
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    Leo Lazauskas Senior Member

  5. WhiteDwarf
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    WhiteDwarf White Dwarf

    Thanks for that Leo,

    I would say that its a quite limited dataset but better than I have.

    The anecdotal evidence I have received is that many Australian clubs experience a heavy drain at (about) year 10 of schooling. Those who rejoin as parents in their 40s relatively seldom move through the ranks as volunteers in the club administration. Thus we lose absolute numbers, in whom their has been considerable investment and with the aging of current officeholders - those who provided this feedback to me - a thinning of leadership ranks and capability.

    And I realise their will be many exceptions...
  6. CT249
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    CT249 Senior Member

    This is a long post, but this is a complex subject I have researched a fair bit. Sadly, very few people have done research about the links between sports equipment design and sports participation levels, and even more sadly the sailing industry refuses to even consider looking at the reality. For example, the editor of what used to be Australian Sailing continues to claim that kids these days are more attracted by windsurfing and cat sailing than dinghy sailing, which is an extremely brave thing to say not just because it is so dramatically wrong, but because it takes wilful blindness not to see how wrong it is.

    1- Re women in sailing.

    With much respect, Leo, as ggggG has pointed out, women and girls form a significant proportion of dinghy sailors/skippers these days. Hopefully they will keep the boat owning habit.

    2- Publicity and sports participation are pretty much independent of each other, as demonstrated by various surveys and stats. It's interesting to look at the relevant survey from NZ, which has had such outstanding high-profile success and government support in sailing, and see how poorly sailing and other high-profile sports fare in participation terms. To put it in context, the most popular competitive sports are swimming (ranked 3rd in physical activity behind walking and gardening and done by 35% of Kiwis), equipment based exercise, cycling (5th and done by 20%), golf, tennis, cricket, touch rugby, netball, canoeing/kayaking, and basketball.

    Sailing comes in around the 40s in the rankings with 2.4% participating, ahead of much-hyped sports like motorsport and skateboarding. The huge publicity generated in NZ by the AC and Volvo has left sailing well behind sports like water skiing and badminton in terms of actual participation.

    This fits in with surveys in Australia, Europe, the UK and elsewhere. Publicity does not equal participation. Sure, some of the most popular sports are highly promoted but many popular sports run largely under the radar, and some high-rating sports like league and motor racing rank low in participation. The guy who used to run the biggest Oz survey of sports marketing was quite blunt about the fact that there was no link between watching and doing.

    The issue for sailing is that this fact is completely ignored by many, so they continue to trash the classes that people actually sail in the hope that kids who sit on the 'puter will suddenly see a foiler, grab a spare $25,000, and spend years learning how to sail it. We see it when they push classes like the Moth and kite as "the future of the sport" despite the fact that they are raced by a relatively small number of people, with surprisingly slow growth.

    By the way, does anyone else think that the underlying concept that kids need "crash and burn boats" because they have short attention spans is completely at odds with the fact that "C&B boats" tend to require MORE maintenance, rigging and training time if one is to get around the course than conventional boats do? How is the cliched couch potato who needs high-paced leisure going to suddenly enjoy spending more time rigging?

    3 - Re "The coffee shop/disco cohort were never there for sailing". Dead right in my experience too, but there is still some superstition that sailing was one of THE cool things to do when it was booming. It wasn't that way where I lived on Sydney Harbour (cool kids surfed) so one wonders where the myth came from.

    And who cares what those who are fixated on fashion will do? They are hard to interest and soon walk away... let's ignore them and concentrate on nerds and counter-culture kids. It worked pretty well for computers and gaming didn't it?

    4- Speaking of gaming, there's a lot of research into the psychology of attracting people into gaming, and from what I can find out a lot of it applies to sailing and sport. For some reason, no one seems to be trying to learn from the enormous success of the sophisticated approach taken by game designers. As far as I can see, the successful approach of game designers is completely at odds with the "let them crash and burn in super expensive boats" approach advocated by many people for sailing.

    5- Sport England surveys and others show that every ORGANISED sport loses lots of kids in the mid to early teens. They still do stuff, but not at club level.....let's admit it and design a way around it.

    6- Cost, time and demographics.....these are among the big killers IMHO, as others have said. This has also been shown by surveys and studies. Sadly, they are also ignored by those who want to run the sport and who push kids towards more expensive gear that is harder to store and can be sailed in fewer places.

    7 - Summing up (at last!) IMHO there is an abundance of data from objective studies, historical lessons and from the classes that are doing well that indicates we need to concentrate on improving accessibility, with cheap, tough gear and an approach that is open to non-experts. the frustration is that this paradigm runs against the vision that many of those who think that they control the sport are pushing. Even more frustrating is the fact that they are so wedded to their vision (something that is getting close to 40 years old but still thought of as new) that they will not actually look at any research or do any research.

    A classic case in point, albeit at the extreme end of the sport, is the America's Cup. We were promised that higher speeds would lead to more money and bigger fields. Speeds have increased far more than anyone ever conceived, yet fields are smaller than before and there has been an unprecedented shift of big money owners into classic yachts.

    None of this is saying that fast gear isn't fantastic (I have a fair bit of it and love it) but it just is not as popular as accessible gear, and promoting it too much will hurt the sport. So what can we do? Well, perhaps a website and forum to discuss these issues in a objective and evidence-based could kick something off. Stage 2 could be for this group to contact those who run the most popular classes, present them with some data and an approach, and ask if they are interested in forming a pressure group. Stage 3 could be for this group (consisting of people like the presidents of such popular classes as the Sabre, Solo, RS400, Hobie 16, Lightning, etc) to present the objective data to ISAF and the sailing media and say "we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore" and demand that the future course of the sport concentrate on making it accessible, rather than pushing high performance kit.

    I organised something a bit like this a while back in windsurfing, and it worked fairly well in terms of getting the governing body to listen to the classes and nations a bit more.
  7. Leo Lazauskas
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    Leo Lazauskas Senior Member

    No worries. I'm happy to be disabused of my mis-assumptions! :)
  8. sharpii2
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    sharpii2 Senior Member

    I agree with much of what CT has said.

    The only thing I'd like to add is that the number of people who might take an interest in sailboat racing will probably be proportionate tho the number of people actually sailing, just like the number of people interested in auto racing is proportionate to the number of people driving.

    Now, most drivers have never spent a minute in the cockpit of a formula one, or the steel cage of a NASCAR racer. But just about everything the race car drivers do is familiar to the fans. All are familiar with the operation of a motor car.

    So, the trick may not be so much about getting people to race as it is about getting them to sail.

    Racing is not what got me into sailing.

    Being out on the water and being magically propelled by the wind, even up wind, is what got me into it. The idea of being able to go long distances, over the water, without burning dollar bills is what did it.

    Now, even though I never raced a day in my life, I used to take interest in the long distance yacht races and even the America's Cup, back in the days of the lead mine mono's.

    Racing around cans, myself, never appealed to me. It was too much like elementary school gym class. And I was a fat kid.

    So, my take is that the notion of getting people to race, as their entry into the sport of sailing, is dead wrong. Better to introduce them to the sport as a get back to nature thing, which sailing can do surprisingly cheaply.

    A low to moderate performance sail boat can be remarkably inexpensive to home build or manufacture. It can also be easy to set up and made to be still useful even if the wind isn't blowing that day.

    But such a boat is going to look nothing like a typical racing dinghy. It won't plane and it will probably have short mast and a more traditional rig. More likely than not, it won't even use Dacron for its sails, let alone the much more expensive and much shorter lived Mylar.

    It will probably be long and narrow, as boats of these proportions move through the water easier with alternative means of propulsion, and are easier to car top for their weight.

    It will probably have a more modest sail plan than a typical racing dinghy too.

    But, once sailing, all the mechanics and techniques for this boat will be almost identical to those of the racing dinghy.

    The America's Cup infatuation with hydrofoils will eventually end, just like most extra-marital affairs do. The new woman, as alluring as she is, simply cannot compete with the old broad, and the life one spent years building with her.

    The trouble with hydrofoils is that almost nobody uses them. And I don't think that is likely to change. And the use of them, by AC multis, changes the character of these boats to such a degree, that the mechanics of sailing them have little to do with those of the average sailboat. Staying with multis is defensible, as they are the lowest cost option for sailing speed on the water. Hanging with the foils and the other elaborate and exotic equipment, such as rigid wing sails, which are required to get the best out of them IMHO is not.
  9. WhiteDwarf
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    WhiteDwarf White Dwarf

    Thank you Sharpie.

    Absolutely agree Sharpie. Sailing should be seen as an adventure sport which is accessible to anybody within reach of a modest bit of water.

    Was there a particular class of boat you were describing? Apart from length, I thought it could be either the Heron or the Mirror. Both started out as gunter rigged plywood designs, both are around 60 years old and still provide affordable but intense competition.

    The Heron also started with canvas sails. The switch to terylene (Dacron) was a significant improvement, and both have had to accept aluminium spars as timber supplies have dwindled.
  10. sharpii2
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    sharpii2 Senior Member

    Actually, I was thinking of sailing canoes.

    But the Mirror class is a fair example.

    I'm presently designing a ten foot boat to get me back on the water. It will be only three feet wide and will be nothing but a long box with a curved bottom.

    According to my calculations, it will be able to sail up wind without a 'board, but will have one anyway.

    It is designed to be easy to build and easy to use, with speed under sail taking a distant third. It my be able to best displacement speed, with a good wind. It's real purpose is to be able to be sailed on small waters, even with big winds. In light winds it will be propelled with a short sweep, which is a cross between an oar and a paddle. It will be able to switch propulsion methods quickly.

    Aluminum spars, IMHO, are a fair replacement of wooden ones, for manufacturing purposes.

    Changing the Mirror rig from a Gunter to a Bermudan is a modest change, but comes with the drawback of a longer mast. But the Mirror is more often used for racing, is it not? If I were using one for casual sailing, I might be tempted to revert back to the old Gunter, or even try a sprit or balanced lug sail.
  11. gggGuest
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    gggGuest ...

    But why should it be proportional? We know that the ratio of participants to spectators is wildly variable between different sports, so why should there be a constant relationship between the number of people who sail and the number who race in one given sport?
    Here in the UK the majority of clubs are on inland waters, and if you took a look at them you'd think that nearly everyone who sails races, but if you look at clubs a coastal venues then you'd get a different picture, and if you added up all the boats on the water at a holiday venue - somewhere like Chichester harbour - the proportions of racers to sailors would probably be different again.

    Nothing wrong with anything that gets people on the water, but just because one section of sport and admin has got what I take to be an exaggerated view of what makes sailing popular, it doesn't mean that other views might not be incorrect too. To be quite honest I don't see the entry level cost of boat purchase being a big problem. Many people have money to splash around on things they care about, be it cars, big televisions, whatever. I see the problems in growing the sport to be elsewhere. Things like free time, convenience, places to store and maintain boats, all that sort of thing.

    However I think one of the more significant challenges facing the sport is the bucket list mentality: you know, everyone is a dilettante who vaguely plays at a lot of different things. And sailing is ill suited for that, its complicated, its difficult, it takes years of weekend time to acquire a reasonable competence. Maybe for many people a sport is something they want to do very casually now and then, and sailing will never be a great fit for that... I see many people in the UK middle class who go skiing for a week or two weeks every year and that's it. I don't think that really works with sailing at the moment, and I'm not altogether sure I'd like the sport to be changed so it does.
  12. sharpii2
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    sharpii2 Senior Member

    What I meant, ggg, is that the more people you have sailing (racing or not), the bigger the audience for Olympic sailing will be.

    Here, in the USA, raid style races are becoming more and more popular. The conditions of these races are often so arduous that even completing them is seen as an achievement. Even the less arduous ones have at least one thing going for them. They actually go some where, not just up wind and back.

    As a designer (as a hobby), I know that a boat that is designed to go upwind then down wind quickly is going to be a lot different for one designed for casual sailing. The biggest difference is going to be a tall rig (high AR upwind, bigger chute downwind).

    Along with this tall rig usually comes a system of stays and shrouds to hold it up, which have to be adjusted just so. And along with that comes a long, noodley mast (due to the half for half rule*). Then comes the need for seating on the boat, instead of inside the boat, to get higher initial stability (often at the expense of range of stability). Then you have to have the board in the middle of the damned cockpit.

    What you end up with is a still very workable boat, but not always a very practical one. Or a very comfortable one.

    My present project not only moves the 'board to the side (it uses a single true lee board, which needs to be shifted to the leeward side for every new tack), it moves the mast aside as well. This way it can be further aft and within easier reach of the skipper.

    This is all for convenience, comfort, and some weight and material saving. This certainly would not do for a racing dinghy, unless it was a one design class.

    The skipper sits in the boat, not on it. And has emergency flotation on either side of him, which is intended to be sufficient to facilitate bailing the boat out, but not so much as to make getting back on board especially difficult. Righting this boat, if it turtles, should be child's play (I plan on sailing late into the year). An added bonus of this system is the skipper's body works as ballast, at least to some extent.

    Having made these design decisions, I have effectively ruled out a planing hull. So, in big winds, I can't simply expect the boat to go faster. So now a reefing system is needed. There is only one reef and it cuts the SA in half. But this reef is designed to be easy to do, and does not require expensive hardware.

    But anyone, who knew only my design, would certainly understand just about everything that was going on in an Olympic regatta.

    Now that drones are available, the sailing action, in an Olympic regatta, can be much more easily tracked, and with much greater detail than ever before.

    * A new mast, which is twice as tall as the old one, must weigh half as much, to have the same vertical moment.
  13. The Q
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    The Q Senior Member

    I as I mentioned in the paralympic thread My club has set up it's own training school, These days most people will not go the old route of joining a club, crewing and getting experience before helming and getting a boat of their own.
    Having a cheap training school is the key, it costs 5 pounds a session (2-3 hours) at our club, boat and lifejacket provided. This is bringing an ever increasing number of "juniors" into the club, of course they have to get there, so their parents come... and now they start taking lessons as well and also get boats.
    Yes we lose some of them when they start chasing each other for non sailing purposes but some stay together and generate their own sailors, others return in later years.
    I've sailed for years without my own boat because I couldn't afford it. If you can get them enthusiastic about sailing they will find a way to sail some how.

    As for the Olympics, I doubt it makes much difference at all to people joining sailing. It is so little covered on TV and you have to have some knowledge of the sport to understand what is going on, so there will be little attraction that way. Even most experienced sailors I know are not that interested in that level of sailing, whilst we like to see our own nations sailors do well, it's just too remote from our sailing reality.
  14. WhiteDwarf
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    WhiteDwarf White Dwarf

    Good points, Q. Thank you.

    After Australia did well in Weymouth, our club held an open day and 350 people turned up. A far number joined "Learn to sail" programmes but none lasted when they realised the years it takes to make a good club sailor, let alone elite level sailor. That's a back handed way of agreeing with you.

    I believe that the people who came did not have "narrative" which joined them to sailing. That story can be as simple as, "that's what our family does," or fictional, "we have adventures like Swallows and Amazon's," or "We are a great crowd, we race in summerand repair in winter and always share a beer."

    It doesn't need to be complicated, to hang a sense of belonging around, but it has to engage people enough to get them back each season. My point is that there are many ways to enjoy sailing and too much focus on elite sailing tends to suck energy out of the grassroots of the sport.

    One area almost defunct in Australia is homebuilt plywood dinghies. This used to be a great basis of the sport. Interestingly, the young people who do build seem to get jobs. Connection? Perhaps

  15. DCockey
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    DCockey Senior Member

    Interesting that "sailing" appears to be equated with "racing" in this thread. I enjoy sailing but after participating on other folks boats in a few races I decided I prefer to decide when and where I sail. Also I don't always want a challenge when I sail; sometimes I just want to relax.

    Consider another type of outdoor recreation - riding bicycles. There are numerous avid cyclists in south-east Michigan. Some of them spend amounts on equipment which would pay for a nice dinghy. Very few of the cyclists race in organized events, and even fewer do so on more than occasionally. There are several active clubs though my guess is their active membership is only a small fraction of those who ride regularly.
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