Does Your Club Measure Up?

Yacht Clubs exist to promote sailing. They should subsidize it, in fact. It doesn't matter if you belong to a yacht club, sailing club, or sailing association. Your organization's main thrust--and most of your dues--should go toward generating healthy on-the-water activity. Consider this checklist and then decide if your club might have any course corrections to make. Sailboat racing provides an organized activity that brings people together. Your club should have a regular schedule of races for handicap or one-design classes, ideally both. You'll also need well-kept safety and support craft, plus race committee gear, which give other members a chance to be involved. Daysailing events and club cruises bring people together, too, and change the pace. They're fun for all--racers, cruisers, and powerboat owners. Any time you offer club members an excuse to set off on a group excursion, you'll find they return with stronger bonds to each other and their club. Social activities are another great way to bring people together. (Notice a theme here?) Use any excuse to have a party--the opening-day extravaganza the awards banquet, the new-member welcome, the Fourth of July dinner dance, etc. You can also round up people to work on a project, attend a seminar, or hear a presentation. Each is both a social activity and a way to let people with a shared interest make connections and have fun. Youth and adult training are at least as important as all of the above--and should be the activity most heavily subsidized by member dues. Nobody will argue that youth instructors and coaches are vital; but consider how easy your club makes it for adults to learn, either through classes or low-key crewing opportunities. Whether you have a big staff or volunteers only, finding ways of teaching others is vital to perpetuating the institution. Of all the values that sailors share, passing on what we know is the greatest. The corollary to passing it on is giving back. Whether it's volunteering for race-committee duty, hiring instructors, or helping to balance the budget, this common spirit should be encouraged; it's one of sailing's best traditions. Lastly, to fulfill its mission your club should regularly stage special events. Hosting a one-design nationals or other major regatta provides the club with a visible badge of honor and gives members a view of a higher standard of racing. Even more important are intramural events that mix sailors from different classes and generations. These can be as structured as match racing and team racing, or as hilarious as an anchored-start race or water-balloon tag. For extra credit, maintain a list of those interested in crewing, both at the club and on its website. And if you can afford it, a small fleet of club-owned boats will multiply the race formats available and make adult instruction a breeze. Such a fleet also attracts younger adult members and keeps others who are between boats. Some clubs have magnificent waterfront facilities; others operate on paper and websites only. Some enjoy tie-and-jacket formality; others dress up in T-shirts and sandals. Your club is unique and should be celebrated above all for its success in drawing people to enjoy the water, compete against each other, work together, relax together, teach each other, and share more than a few laughs.