US sailboat industry down 7% in 2006

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by Chris Ostlind, Feb 20, 2007.

  1. catsketcher
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    catsketcher Senior Member

    Don't knock the laser

    Hello all,

    I have my own ideas on a good boat for youngsters and it isn't a foam carbon thing at all. My two sons each sailed Flying 11s, a nice 11 foot pretty high performance two hander. One son still sails and one doesn't. The one who gave up found the races too long as does my wife in the parent role. We drop the boys down at 10am and they may go out for a quick training sail. They have lunch and then go out for an afternoon race. We might get out at 4.30pm if the race is a quick one.

    This means parents have to give up almost a whole day to see their kids sail. Also the lightweight and stiff foam sandwich boats are fragile. The carbon rudders are light and thin (fragile)The foal core hulls crease easily. This means that Mum and Dad are not too happy for kids to be kids and use the boats to muck around and play on. So that means the only thing you can do is race.

    As the boats are fragile and also only suitable for weights up to 110kg the boats need to be sold pretty often. As they are a bit of a development class (sails, foils, fittings) the boat's race record is important in the sale price. If your kid can't sail well it will cost you big bucks when you sell.

    My equivalent boat (when I was the same age) was the Flying Ant and it was single skin glass. That meant my friends and I could lift it (and drop it) without creasing it. It was a little less stiff but much much tougher.

    I want my son to go into Lasers next. The reason is that I do not want to blow $10 000 Aus on a 29er that he will sail for two years before he has to sell it for $6000. You can keep a Laser for decades if you want and it goes from being a boat you can win a nationals on, to a good club racer, to a back of the fleet racer, to a family muck around boat. There is always someone to sell a Laser to. Don't trot out that old Lasers are no good. I sailed a 13 year old leaky clunker that taught me heaps up to 18 months before I qualified for the open worlds in a new boat.

    We seem to focus on one thing - performance because it can be measured with numbers. What is needed it to find out why people are reluctant to get into sailing. Parents are especially important as they foot the bill and man the boats at the local club. It is they who need to be won over as well. If someone as sailing mad as me gets pissed off with losing money on my kids boats then it will be a hard sell to the mainstream. So what should the peoples boat be in my eyes

    - reasonable performance (505 style is fine)
    - tough on shore (single skin construction hull bottom or at least 440 gram laminate on outer skin with high density foam 100kg/m)
    - Incredibly simple to rig (soft sails with halyards) two piece mast goes into Laser socket, no jib leads like 420,
    - Aluminim foils
    - Evolvable rig (like Laser 4.7, radial, full rig)
    - easy to sail with ability for experts to squeeze more out of them.
    - good boat for sailing schools, hire business, mum and dad

    Really the above sounds a lot like the 29er melded with the Laser 2, both Bethwaite boats. The rig on the Bethwaite Tasar has the ability to respond to subtleties of the expert. This boat I want is achieveable now so instead of thinking that performance will get people in, ask people at your club why they are moving away? Performance is not the answer. I don't sail the 16foot skiffs at my club and they are fast. I sail with my family on different boats. People make decisions on more than speed otherwise they would be jet skiiing. The whole package must suit the whole of the person and family.

    cheers

    Phil Thompson
     
    1 person likes this.
  2. bistros

    bistros Previous Member

    Now we are getting somewhere

    Phil's comments regarding selectively picking and choosing features and design criteria from best of breed existing designs is right on the money.

    My intent in pointing out North America is behind others in design/fleet development was to inspire and provoke designers - not to ignore legends like Paul Beiker (or some of the folks here).

    My problem with leading edge designs like Beiker's is that they are realistically only available to guys lIke Howie Hamlin - who's I14 last year was reported to be a 41K US dollar investment! Why can't the North American boat buying public sail designs like Beiker's, build from materials one-generation removed from exotic? Where are the $6000 Beiker 5's?

    I'm not trying to ignore the value in industry icons like the Laser - it of all boats represents the value, competitiveness, compromise and longevity I hope for.

    It seems that modern designs that could bring North America into to the last half of the twentieth century (ignoring the fact we are in the twenty first) just can't get fleet traction. Why can't the 59er/RS VIsion/Vector/etc. make headway against the Albacore/470 fleets? Why can't we make a durable, long lasting designs that are accepted as well as the 5o5s?

    I don't know about others, but I read threads here about Snipes, Lightnings, Thistles and I've got to think, can't we do better? Why aren't people passionate about embracing the best of the new instead of prolonging the ancients on endless life support?

    --
    bistros
     
  3. PI Design
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    PI Design Senior Member

    From the outside it seems like there are lots of reasons why boat sales in the US are dwindling. US Sailing does not appear to do agreat job of promoting the sport, or organisingf it for those already involved. You appear to have a poor infrastructure of clubs and classes as well.

    Your lack of success in competitive sailing can't help. Whilst not many people will be inspired to take up sailing because an American wins an Olympic medal, it can stop people leaving the sport. The success of the UK team, and the forthcoming 2012 Olympics has really inspired the current generation of teenagers to stick with it. Many of these would have gone on to other things by now if there wasn't the rolemodels to inspire. In the US, the culture seems to be that dinghy sailing is for children - adults should aspire to yachting. Partially this is because the choice of boats in the US is pitiful. I'm not saying that everyone should sail a I14, or Moth, but there is a generation of new boats that are quite moderate in design whilst being a quantum leap forward from 420's, Snipes and the other heavy old things you sail (RS range, Laser 4000, even - God forbid - the tupperware range from Topper). In the few places where dinghies are raced in the US, it seems to be almost universal to have designated fleets at clubs. If the choice is between racing a Thistle or taking up some other past time- many people will choose the latter. The policy of only allowing certain classes to race prevents the newer designs being introduced, and the old classes are just getting more and more old fashioned, and less and less appealing.

    I think the problem with sailing in the US is too large and complex for any individual to make much difference. It will require US Sailing to encourage and influence change from the very top.

    I agree totally with Phil T's criteria for a boat. I think family race boats have a huge role to play. It might seem quaint, but getting the whole family to participate has to be a key aim to increase numbers. Dad, and/or one child may be keen and want to go sailing every weekend, but if mum/other child don't, then family pressures usually mean that no-one goes. Make the sailing clubs attractive to non-sailing family members, get boats that are managable by average families (skill, strength, hassle, fragility and cost must not be extreme).

    I could go on and on and on, but I must stop now to do some work.
     
  4. LDolman
    Joined: Mar 2007
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    LDolman New Member

    Firstly, Hi everyone from a newbie. Very nice to find this forum and particularly this thread.

    I've just stumbled upon this whilst doing a Google search for dinghy clubs in Connecticut. We relocated here from the UK nearly two years ago and one of the items in the container was my aged but well loved Mirror Dinghy. OK, I know it's not exactly the most up-to-date or glamorous boat these days but it's still great for someone like me who has two young kids and wants to get afloat and pushed/pulled along by the wind with the minimum hassle. We live near Candlewood Lake (which is pretty big - think Windermere for those of you in the UK) and I thought joining a small, friendly, local club for a good spot to launch and a bit of handicap racing would be a no-brainer.

    How wrong I appear to have been. Where the hell IS the dinghy sailing for Mr Average Joe in the US?? Granted I'm still looking (rather downheartedly now) but so far the few clubs I've been able to find in the area have been expensive to join and dominated by yachts or, on the rare occasion when they promote themselves as a dinghy club they only sail one or two types - certainly no handicap stuff and certainly no opportunity to race my humble Mirror. Rightly or wrongly I'm left with the distinct feeling that dinghy sailing is something only done by kids at summer camp in Oppies or, later on, Sunfish. Grown ups should sail grown-up boats and should perhaps be extremely well off to boot...

    We did find a club nearby who - perhaps given the wrong impression by my English accent - were very enthusiastic about inviting us down to their open evening and certainly seemed very glad to see us turn up. But then the Commodore (who admittedly did all he could to make us feel welcome) was several decades younger than most of the other members and these other folks didn't seem overly impressed or interested in maintaining conversation when queries as to how long my boat was were met with the answer of "nearly 11 feet".

    I'm guessing there may be a club along the Sound who might have me, but I'm left a bit bemused as to why, with an abundance of fabulous tracts of water, dinghy sailing seems to be so poorly provided for. In the UK, every little pond and gravel pit has a club of some sort that ask for modest dues and provide modest but fun sailing for all manner of craft. There's a gap in the market here but it's going to take a er... sea change to exploit it. I think most of the comments above have concentrated too exclusively on the price of the craft themselves. Unless you can also provide inexpensive and fun facilities to sail them the sport of dinghy sailing in the US will remain completely out of reach, not just for most kids but most adults too.

    Cheers
    Luke
     
  5. TimClark
    Joined: Nov 2005
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    TimClark Senior Member

    Hey Luke, I live in Easton which is about 20 minutes outside of Bethel. Some good dinghy clubs on LIS are Cedar Point Yacht Club, which is in Westport, and if you are interested in more high performance sailing you could make the treck over to American Yacht Club in Rye, NY. They have a fleet of 505's, RSK6's, an I14, and I will spend some time up there in my IC. Also, there aren't many YC's around here that have low fees, I think Cedar Point probably will give you the best bang for your buck, there isn't much(if any) handicap racing around here, so the Mirror might be obsolete for racing.

    TC
     
  6. LDolman
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    LDolman New Member

    Good morning Tim, very many thanks for the reply, your ideas and the information. I'll check out Cedar Point and see if they have a website.

    With regard to classes, I'm afraid I'm returning to sailing after nearly 20 years away - I'm a little out of touch with what's going on at the sharp end of the sport! ;) Last time I looked, Fireballs still rocked, the Laser was the future and The Boss was someone you worked for. Not exactly prime racer material! I'm still remembering what all the bits of string are called, who has right of way on the starboard tack, and I just had to look up what "roll-tacking" is... :D

    For the moment I just want to get the kids afloat and brush up on my own skills at the same time. My Mirror would be obsolete for racing anyway, even in class, so I was just hoping for some light-hearted fun 'racing' to ease back in to it. If the kids get hooked then that'll be a great result as I'll have an excuse to "upgrade" :D If they decide they don't like it then I've not lost much - I'll just start buying the mags again and put my 'come-back' on hold for a while.

    Cheers
    Luke
     
  7. CT 249
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    CT 249 Senior Member

    The CPYC and AYC show the gap between dinghy sailing in the USA, and in the majority of the English-speaking world. The AYC has 12 acres of grounds, the CPYC a marina for 130 boats......meanwhile most dinghy clubs in the UK or Australia have a small brick or fibro building on leased grounds, and open alloy runabouts or 40 year old 23 foot wooden launch as a start boat (not a 34 footer like CPYC) and a tiller-steered alloy 12' runabout or RIB as a rescue boat.

    Most clubs in the UK, Australia or NZ would have a class of boats like a Mirror, or an Open class. Surely the fact that Luke can't find a place to sail is a cause of the poor state of dinghy sailing in the US - not a symptom.

    I know water access is a big problem in much of the USA. It still seems unusual that (from the outside) it seems that there's almost nothing like the dinghy clubs you get in other parts of the world. But it can't just be water access, can it, because there is the occasional place like Jericho Sailing Centre or Sail Newport and even they don't seem to be really thriving.
     
  8. PI Design
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    PI Design Senior Member

    Absolutely.

    The club I sail at is on a reservoir owned by the water board. By UK standards it is fairly big, but a large part of it is out of bounds as it is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a nature reserve. None the less, to give you an idea of size, it probably takes about 30-40 mins to circumnavigate the bit we do use, in a Laser in a force 3. The club has a cheap bar, professionally run galley, changing rooms, RIBs for rescue boats, a 15' dory to use as a committe boat (or land based shed if the wind direction is okay) , playground for toddlers and a car park. The boat park has about 500 boats crammed into every available space of which 40 or so go racing every Sunday, and about 70 race on a Wednesday evening in the summer. Many more just chose to potter at their leisure. Club fees are reasonably expensive by UK standards at about £250 pa ($500), including a parking space for the boat. This is higher than normal because the Water Board that own the reservoir charge £50 a boat. Sea based clubs obviously don't have this problem.

    I would say that almost everyone here lives within an hours drive of a sailing (dinghy) club. Most are much closer than that. Across most of the south coast there is probably a club every 5 miles or so.

    Why this isn't replicated in the US, I do not know.
     
  9. Crag Cay
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    Crag Cay Senior Member

    I lived for along time in NE Florida besides one of the best sailing waters I have ever seen. There was easy and plentiful access to the water with plenty of land for dinghy parking. But not a single dinghy.

    The local sailing club did organise some low key PHRF races for cruising sailboats, but these were strictly 'singlehanded races' as all the crew could only use a single hand towards running the boat as the other was holding a beer. They only sailed in summer (no wind) as it was too rugged during the winter once the temperatures fell below 65 degrees. The only coaching mentor they ever listened to was 'Jimmy Buffet'.

    God, how I dream about those days during the frostbite series here. Although on the brightside, the recent 'warm' winters have meant its been a while since we've had to debate exactly which size of iceflow you can call water on, and which size you have to dip under.
     
  10. PI Design
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    PI Design Senior Member

    Only sailing when its warmer than 65F! That would lead to a very short season here! Mind you, I haven't had to wear my drysuit this winter - there are upsides to climate change.
    Florida sounds ideal, but it would drive me nuts to be there without any decent sailing.
    I thought American's didn't drink? Much more acceptable to have a gun than a pint...
     
  11. LDolman
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    LDolman New Member


    CT, I think you've hit the nail on the head on all points and the sort of club I'm trying in vain to find is exactly the sort of facility described by PI. OK, I am finding some places out there but you certainly can't join them for around $500 a year!!

    Interesting point about water access though. In this particular area there are plenty of access points both inland and coastal but - inland at least - I've never seen a sailing dinghy using them - just motorised fishing boats, kayaks and canoes. In fact the dinghy gets a thumbs up and many a cheerful wave here. Not quite as much interest as my coracle but that's another story entirely :D

    I'm getting to the stage now where I'm thinking a letter to the power company that owns the local reservoir might be fruitful. It is 11 miles long and a mile wide for heavens sake and hey, if you don't ask... ;)
     
  12. CT 249
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    CT 249 Senior Member

    It sounds like I'm wrong about the water access problem. I was just going off information by some pretty clued-up US sailors and very limited experience in Newport RI. One museum curator who had studied the history of US small-boat sailing mentioned the water access problem, but it seems that he was talking about the core sailing areas of the NE and around LIS and Newport.
     
  13. LDolman
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    LDolman New Member

    You're not necessarily wrong - like Australia, it's a big old place :D I've only experienced Connecticut and Massachusetts so far.

    I can also understand where the comments may have come from. In the UK for example it's much easier to find somewhere to launch away from designated areas as much of the land around the coast or inland lakes is owned by the National Trust or public authorities and pretty much open access to all. Here, it's taken some getting used to to find out that with all the miles of beaches, there are very few with open public access - it's almost all private or owned by the local town and only accessible to permit holders. From that point of view, although there are plenty of designated launch sites it's nowhere near as convenient to simply put a small boat in the water.

    Cheers
    Luke
     
  14. Mychael
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    Mychael Mychael

     

  15. hiracer
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    hiracer Senior Member

    The high cost of real estate along lakes and coasts have made quick and easy access to sailing a thing of the past.

    Having to join a sailing club to get access to boat and water is an example. It didn't used to be that way in the USA.

    I can compare my experience sailing to my kids' experience to sailing. It's much more difficult to get on the water today--and we have three boats: a Sunfish, 19' Flying Scot, and the cruiser. It's real hard to get the daysailors on the water. The access points are just too busy and motorboaters too impatient to put up with a daysailor. To avoid the hassle you need to join a sailing club, which means driving time and $$. Shoot, when we went sailing as kids, it meant something much more casual than it does now.

    Water access is mostly a pain these days. There are lots of easier sports.
     
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