Membership Adds Up

From our January/February 2006 issue.

"It would be belaboring the obvious to mention the close-knit comradeship, both through formal organization and informal contacts, that exists among one-design sailors." So wrote the first editor of this magazine, Knowles Pittman, in 1962; but he could as easily have been doing my presentation on the values of one-design class membership at US SAILING's One-Design Sailing Symposium.One-design classes are necessary to the well-being of organized racing in a given type of boat and also-when most successful-tremendously appealing in their casual warmth, friendliness, and good humor. The organizing side that Pittman mentions is the investment, and it's sometimes awkward and more labor intensive than class officers would like. The informality and the comradeship are the payoff.When I spoke at the symposium last fall, I gave the preliminary results of the 2005 US SAILING/Sailing World One-Design Survey (see box) and described to class leaders why they should be dedicated to maintaining and building class membership. In simple terms, members are the main resource of each class, volunteering their time, paying dues, and infusing activities with their spirit.From the sailor's viewpoint, there are plenty of equally good reasons to be a member. Here are five key ones:• Foremost is that you become part of a community of like-minded sailors, connected by your enthusiasm for a certain model of sailboat.• Your membership supports your newsletter, website, promotion, attention to class rules, and administration.• Whether you own a boat or not, the class keeps you up to date on events in which you can participate, and, when you miss an event, the class will let you know what you missed.• For owners, besides supporting the resale value of your boat, you learn how to maintain and improve it; the class may help you find crew, as well.• And if you're a crew, the class can help you find crewing opportunities and a boat when you're ready to buy one.In the quote above, Mr. Pittman was talking about this magazine's role in bringing together one-design sailors, but the reasoning for you to support your class association is just as valid. Your membership helps create and sustain a level playing field for an unmatched competitive challenge.Pittman also wrote: "Few other sports involve such complex equipment and technical knowledge to use it well as does sail racing. Few other sports demand so much of their participants-such total preparation and concentration, not to mention skill." If you think about it, the number of one-design sailors in most classes seems low-we have tallied approximately 30,000 altogether among 74 classes as of press time. Despite there being hundreds of thousands of Sunfish, Lasers, Optimists, Lightnings, Thistles, Snipes, etc., most sailors who race one-design never join their class, usually because they don't sail at a national or other event that requires they pay their dues. This group no doubt includes some of you, Sailing World's 50,000-plus readers. Maybe you joined, then let your membership lapse, or never joined in the first place. If you've ever thought you might be a little strange because you own a one-design boat and lavish it with so much of your time and money, here's how you can shake the feeling once and for all. Join your class association and you'll find one place where you fit right in.