How peo­ple go sail­ing is chang­ing, but the fu­ture of yacht­ing looks easy, says Theo Stocker

Yachting Monthly - - ADVENTURE -

Ev­ery­one knows that sail­ing, specif­i­cally yacht cruis­ing, is one of the most en­joy­able and re­ward­ing pas­times that ex­ist on this blue planet of ours. The sheer sim­plic­ity of be­ing pro­pelled across tracts of wa­ter by noth­ing more than a few zephyrs and ar­riv­ing safely in an idyllic har­bour, guided solely by your own nav­i­ga­tion, is a mirac­u­lous ex­pe­ri­ence.

The es­sen­tial qual­i­ties of sail­ing have changed lit­tle, but yacht­ing as we know it in the UK is fac­ing some­thing of a cri­sis. Par­tic­i­pa­tion is de­clin­ing, and the struc­tures of clubs, as­so­ci­a­tions, train­ing schemes, man­u­fac­tur­ers and deal­ers are all un­der threat as a re­sult. Sail­ing isn’t about to dis­ap­pear, but the tremen­dous work that has gone into build­ing the sport from the ground up could be frit­tered away.

Why does it mat­ter? Of course, we want to share it with oth­ers who haven’t yet dis­cov­ered the joys of sail­ing, but with­out a healthy and di­verse sail­ing com­mu­nity across the coun­try, the clubs, train­ing cen­tres, chan­dlers, boat builders and mari­nas that fa­cil­i­tate our own sail­ing will be at risk too.

Mak­ing sail­ing at­trac­tive, ac­ces­si­ble and af­ford­able to new­com­ers to the sport is cru­cial if we want to avoid yacht­ing from be­com­ing the re­serve of an elite few. Clearly how peo­ple spend their free time and money is chang­ing, while com­pe­ti­tion from new sports, a chang­ing de­mo­graphic, a dig­i­tally con­nected so­ci­ety, and de­mand for spon­ta­neous and easy ac­cess all present chal­lenges for sail­ing.

If I may, I would like to put my head above the para­pet with some sug­ges­tions of how these chal­lenges might be met.

Pay-as-you-go Sail­ing

The re­search shows that peo­ple want in­stant, spon­ta­neous, and af­ford­able ac­cess to boating with­out the cost or time com­mit­ments of buy­ing a boat and join­ing a club. Many clubs around the coun­try are find­ing novel and ef­fec­tive ways of re­mov­ing bar­ri­ers, but to do this, they have had to let go of the lin­ger­ing ‘mem­bers-only’ at­ti­tude. They

are in­stead open, wel­com­ing and ac­com­mo­dat­ing, of­fer­ing a range of ac­tiv­i­ties that can eas­ily be dipped into – hir­ing a pad­dle­board or a dinghy for an hour or two, for ex­am­ple – with­out be­ing a fully paid-up mem­ber. Sail­ing clubs can of­fer schemes more like monthly gym mem­ber­ship, giv­ing the new­comer ac­cess to var­i­ous boats, in­struc­tion and fa­cil­i­ties. Clubs that have done this have found that these peo­ple of­ten then pass through into con­ven­tional club mem­ber­ship and boat own­er­ship.

Shared own­er­ship

if peo­ple are spend­ing just un­der £500 a year on their cho­sen sport, ex­pen­sive equip­ment is go­ing to put them off. Fa­cil­i­ties that can be eas­ily used or hired will be in­creas­ingly im­por­tant. armed forces sail­ing clubs have owned af­ford­able char­ter yachts for mem­bers for years. it would be great to see more clubs do­ing this too.

The yacht­ing in­dus­try could help by sup­ply­ing yacht clubs and sail­ing cen­tres on a lease ba­sis, to be re­newed ev­ery few years, and this might help en­sure a healthy boat-build­ing in­dus­try and keep up an at­trac­tive and mod­ern hire fleet. of course, mem­bers who al­ready own yachts and vol­un­teer to take novice crews out as part of club events are vital.

Sim­i­larly, boat syn­di­cates are flour­ish­ing. Sailors are opt­ing for shared own­er­ship, mean­ing they can get a big­ger boat with more space for their fam­i­lies, while the costs and time needed to run the boat are shared.

ex­pe­ri­ences and Chal­lenges

ex­pe­ri­ence-based events such as half-marathons, cy­cle sportives and ob­sta­cle races have ex­ploded in pop­u­lar­ity in the re­cent years. peo­ple are more likely to have a go at a chal­lenge that seems ex­cit­ing, par­tic­u­larly if they can post pic­tures on­line af­ter­wards. events like the Three peaks Yacht race, the South west Three peaks, and round the is­land race, are likely to ap­peal if they can be opened up to new­com­ers.

on a smaller scale, lo­cal club events that are ex­cit­ing, well pub­li­cised and open to the pub­lic might draw in new par­tic­i­pants. a fam­ily cruise to a lo­cal beach for a bar­be­cue lunch and then back in the evening for ex­am­ple, made af­ford­able by a fleet of club mem­bers skip­per­ing their boats, could see lots of new sailors take to the wa­ter for the first time.

Mak­ing it easy

any­thing that can be done to re­duce the daunt­ing amount of time and money re­quired to keep a boat has to be a good thing. hav­ing re­cently spent a day trailer sail­ing, i was sold in­stantly. The idea that i could be sail­ing on Chich­ester har­bour in the morn­ing, have the boat out of the wa­ter and ready to tow in 30 min­utes, and at an­chor on the west coast of Scot­land by night­fall was hugely ap­peal­ing. The lack of lift-out fees, sim­ple main­te­nance, and the abil­ity to dry out all help keep costs down, too. new ways of sail­ing that of­fer ad­ven­ture on tap seem to fit the zeit­geist par­tic­u­larly well.

COST of Moor­ing

The av­er­age cost of moor­ing a boat needs to be re­duced, cer­tainly at the en­try level. Uk ma­rina charges are of­ten far higher than those on the con­ti­nent. Most mari­nas have a num­ber of berths that are not filled each year. why not al­lo­cate these as fam­ily moor­ings, grouped to­gether to make it so­cia­ble, where a fam­ily with chil­dren at home and a boat of un­der, say, 36ft might only pay a frac­tion of the full cost for the first year or two. Cou­ple this with some SUP boards and lit­tle sail­ing dinghies to bor­row, as well as dis­counted en­try to lo­cal at­trac­tions for rainy days, and go­ing down to the boat be­comes an at­trac­tive propo­si­tion for the fam­ily. why not com­bine this with a yacht that can be booked out by mem­bers for the day or week?

For those who pre­fer swing­ing moor­ings, en­sur­ing that these have a high level of fa­cil­i­ties ashore, with a wa­ter taxi avail­able, might pro­vide a con­ve­nient, af­ford­able al­ter­na­tive to ma­rina moor­ings.


The whole sail­ing com­mu­nity needs to look at the prod­ucts it of­fers to the gen­eral pub­lic, and at how it com­mu­ni­cates these in an at­trac­tive way. For yacht clubs, they need to en­sure they are of­fer­ing ac­tiv­i­ties that are at­trac­tive lo­cally, and to pub­li­cise these in an ef­fec­tive way to new au­di­ences. if it can be linked in to a na­tional re­source for find­ing and book­ing on-the-wa­ter ex­pe­ri­ences, so much the bet­ter.

ABOVE:Are easy-en­try sports such as pad­dle­board­ing putting sail­ing un­der threat?

BELOW: Trailer sail­ing can be quick and con­ve­nient

BELOW LEFT: We’re used to hir­ing bikes with the tap of a card, why not boats?

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