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  #1  
Old 09-03-2010
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Default What is wrong with yacth clubs today

Found this article and after all the arguing back and forth over a new race being proposed next year found it quite interesting.......

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Whatís Really Wrong with Yacht Clubs
By Nicholas Hayes, Author of Saving Sailing




(April 23, 2010) If I had to make a chart to represent hours of fun Iíve had by originating location, it would show that a big slice of my fun begins at a yacht club. So I generally like them a lot.

At the same time, Iíll admit a personal bias towards the idea that yacht clubs should instead call themselves sailing clubs, and the sooner they do it, the better for sailing. For me, itís not just about marketing: if I never see, smell, hear or feel a power boat again in my life, Iíll be thrilled. And I hate blazers and slacks.

But more than naming conventions and my pet-peeves, yacht clubs are generally in trouble, because their members are dying faster than they can find or make new ones. They need to make a change. Iíve been studying the problem now for almost 20 years; some of my research inspired the book Saving Sailing. Yacht clubs have an age problem: member average age is usually around 60. Of course most clubs have junior programs as a feeder, but they usually donít feed. Iíve written extensively about how age segregation is part of the problem - it creates a broad chasm between young skilled, eager sailors, and the older, tiring base of a club. Consider these observations, excerpted from the book:

ďIn most sailing clubs today, the kids show up in the morning, and leave in the late afternoon, just about the time the adults are arrivingĒ

ď...the decline in participation in sailing is better explained as a decline in devotion to intergenerational free-time pursuits.Ē

It is hard to explain why it seems weíve gone to such lengths to create this gap -- separating the generations unnecessarily -- accept to suggest that:

1.) it is a passive response to a general trend towards youth-sports and away from intergenerational activities everywhere, because youth-sports are easier to market, coordinate and scale, or...

2.) weíve come to depend on active, age-specific marketing for everything, and weíre lacking the pop culture hero willing to twitter to inspire both 11 year olds and their moms to try sailing. After all, marketing to parents means marketing to their kids, right?

And then some new data hit my desk, suggesting that it has nothing to do with marketing at all. We have it backwards.

Last month I was planning a Saving Sailing presentation at a 110 year old club, and working with a smart, relatively young (40ís) member of the clubís board of directors to ensure a relevant talk. He suggested that in advance he would survey members to understand age, tenure, interests and value delivered. As with most club surveys, his drew an adequate sample of his members, and it confirmed some common findings: average age, 60-ish; average time of service, 20-ish years; outgoing members outpacing incoming members. It is easy to predict that this pace will quicken, and see tough times ahead. Thus the talk. On a hunch, I suggested, and he agreed, that instead of concentrating on turnover trends, we should find the mean age of club newcomers at the time of entry and chart it over the years.

And the cause of the age segregation gap popped into view, as did this clubís chief challenge and some suggested solutions, which may be useful elsewhere. For me, these data suggest a clear, new path to sustainability.



Notice that in 1960, the average age of a new club member was 32 years old. By 1993, the average newcomer was over 60, and the age has hovered around 55 ever since. So during the heyday, when sailing was growing, its advocates were right in the middle of the years of active parenting. They were bringing their kids. And they were recruiting their friends who were often about the same age. And they were bringing their kids.

Over the years, as the core group aged, the same advocates no longer had kids at home and their good efforts to introduce new friends resulted in newcomers of about the same age (and also without kids.) So clubs (and sailing) began to shrink when the typical club newcomer became an empty-nester or a retiree, and now sailing is no longer a sport enjoyed by families.

Itís also telling that at this specific club, where today there is a strong commitment to a junior sailing program, there is only one member child in it. The rest of the kids who participate arrive via schools or other youth clubs, or their non-member, non-sailing parents drop them off.

While there is no overall market statistical significance to these data, since this clubís age demographics and member make-up are similar to those found in all of sailing in the US, it is safe to use the data anecdotally to make a point.

Whatís wrong with Yacht Clubs? Members aged, and as they did, they seemed to forget that they were once young. One of the keys to Saving Sailing is that Yacht (cough) Sailing Clubs must re-open their doors to people in the active parenting years. Of course, this has much broader implications and creates a new set of needs. Most families donít have sailboats. Often kids take to sailing earlier and more naturally than parents. Families often have less disposable time than they had 40 years ago, or at least, their schedules are more complex. Itíll be hard to break the youth-sports habit. Most clubs plan parties for adults, and day care for kids (some just say no to kids altogether.) The Sailing Club of the future will have found great solutions to these challenges. And then it will be younger, and more vibrant, and more fun for everyone.
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Old 09-03-2010
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This thought process can be expanded to individual sailing teams, not just clubs, we need to bring young people into the sport before introducing them to clubs, and of course, the clubs need to provide value to prospective members such as the use of club boats.

Places like colleges and universities are a great source of crew, perhaps all boat owners need to try and bring 1 or 2 new sailors aboard each season.

Ian
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Old 09-03-2010
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As a 30 year old boat owner and yacht club member I think one of the biggest barriers is the yacht clubs obsession with the initiation fee model.

Young professionals (read: those that actually have incomes that permit yachting this early in life) generally do not stay in one location for a long period of time anymore. Gone are the days when you work for one company for 25 years. The majority of people I graduated university have already moved 2 or 3 times in pursuit of their careers. It took me two years to decide to join SqYC because I didn't know how long I would be staying here and only then because it is cheap by comparison. Lo and behold 8 months after joining I get a call from ye old employer asking me to move for a promotion. I turned down career advancement to stay here and sail.

Reduced initiation fees for young members be damned, forking out even as little as a grand is too much if it is just thrown away because you move in two years and have to join somewhere else.

Possible solutions:
1. Network of Yacht Clubs with equal initiation fees paid into a central body or at least transferable between clubs (i.e. move to a new club, you don't need to pay fees again and your membership moves).

2. Replace initiation fees with higher annual dues. Or dues that decrease with years of membership.
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Old 09-03-2010
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Interesting. I do think that the book's author is missing one of the elephants in the room here: He says that some of the roadblocks to getting families into yacht clubs include these facts:

"Most families don’t have sailboats. Often kids take to sailing earlier and more naturally than parents. Families often have less disposable time than they had 40 years ago, or at least, their schedules are more complex. It’ll be hard to break the youth-sports habit. Most clubs plan parties for adults, and day care for kids..."

Less disposable time, that's certainly true, but nowhere does he seem to mention the disposable income problem. Over the 20 years that I've been an active boater in Vancouver, the initiation fee for joining the city's "flagship" yacht club has always been more than the value of the boat I owned at the time (almost four times the value of my first boat, which I know because I looked into joining the club when I bought the boat in my 20s, and it goes up as I get older, keeping pace ahead of the value of the boats I've traded up to).

It's already a stretch to buy a townhouse and a boat on a middle-income family salary in Vancouver, and coming up with a big initiation fee for a yacht club has just never been feasible for us, no matter how much we like the clubhouse, the outstations or indeed the members, many of whom are friends of mine. Basically, I've always been faced with the choice of either owning a boat, or joining a yacht club. (Yeah, I shoulda got a real job ;-)

Joking aside, you might argue that this is indeed a bit of a loss for the club, because 20 years later I've got a kid actively sailing -- out of Jericho -- and I'm an active club volunteer (fleet captain this year) -- with an affordable virtual club.

My two cents.
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Old 09-03-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ShawMac View Post
Possible solutions:
1. Network of Yacht Clubs with equal initiation fees paid into a central body or at least transferable between clubs (i.e. move to a new club, you don't need to pay fees again and your membership moves).

2. Replace initiation fees with higher annual dues. Or dues that decrease with years of membership.
Solid ideas, ShawMac, I like them both. (Your post appeared while I was busy writing mine.)
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Old 09-03-2010
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I'm in the same boat here. The fees at most of the yacht clubs are significantly more than I paid for my boat. And looking towards the future, would I rather upgrade my boat to something bigger and/or faster or spend that money to join a club? Or how about a new set of racing sails or save up to join a club? I'm at the age where I get no discount for initiation fees at all. That's why I've been considering TCYC and VRC, both have reasonable membership fees with no huge initiation fees. Sure, the facilities and outstations aren't the same, but at least it's something I can afford.
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Old 09-03-2010
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So what is the need for initiation fees.......I have never really understood that part of joining a club.....

Good replies guys.....I feel participation makes a club.....not a clubhouse!
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Old 09-03-2010
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Another thing that I see is that times have changed and yacht clubs haven't. To be the club that they were in 1963 costs 100 times more in 2010. I think this problem plagues the whole country. The education system is out of money but they are still using the same model from the begining of time. The medical system is the same. Costs have skyrocketed and nobody seems to find a different way to operate. We need to shift our thinking anyway from what has always been done and come up with some modern solutions for the present day world. I don't have a magic answer to how that will work.

In the old days you could afford 10 staff on the docks because they all work for minimum wage. Now you have to pay the dock guys well and they are still not the cream of the crop. Most of them are just killing time. You could afford to own many outstations and overhead didn't hurt so bad. RVYC may have all the pretty outstations but those outstations cost a lot. I love the outstations and use them frequently but as a member I can also see the cost. I am also a committed volunteer at the outstation work parties to help in what ever way I can to make it more affordable.

Many of the smaller yacht clubs have found an alternative to owning outstations by leasing areas of existing marinas. This is fine but if your club gets large it is hard to accommodate the volume in some of these locations. I have been at many RVYC outstations when there have been 20 or 30 or even 50 boats. Can't rent that kind of space efficiently.

I am not sure what the modern Yacht club or sailing club looks like but it doesn't look like what we have currently. I think RVYC has some points in its favor but I also see the TCYC model having some merit at the other end of the spectrum. There are a lot of those aging members who are in control at RVYC that would be in favor of getting rid of the outstations because they don't get to them much anymore and the costs are considerable. From my perspective I would be in favor of selling that big hunk of Pt. Grey real estate and using the money to fund more outstations. I may never get moorage within the club marinas and by the time I do they will be charging market rates anyway. We do use the jericho club house some in the summer, Sam loves to go to the beach but he is happy at any beach and even happier at the inn or tugboat.

The hardest part is making everyone happy. Many yacht clubs could be broken down into a power boat club and sailing club and a social club. with the sailing crowd there are also the racers and cruisers. To try to satisfy all these groups under one roof is tough. Everyone has a different agenda.

I do know one thing, racing sailboats is on the wane. Average people owning sailboats is getting rare. Young people owning sailboats is getting rare. Young people owning and racing a sailboat is getting to be even more rare. Some of it is the state of the world and its economy and some of it is perception of sailing being an elite group of people. Many people never even explore the option of owning a boat.

I have always loved yacht clubs and have always been an active volunteer within whatever club I have belonged to but I fear that yacht clubs as we know them are doomed and recreational sailboat racing may go down with it. The real high end racing with sponsor money may continue but it will change to a spectacle made for TV more than real racing. Somehow we need to engage the youth not just for sailing but to change the world because the old model is out of date.
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  #9  
Old 09-08-2010
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Seems I have been bringing 3-5 new sailors aboard every race :-)
Quote:
Originally Posted by 97879 View Post
This thought process can be expanded to individual sailing teams, not just clubs, we need to bring young people into the sport before introducing them to clubs, and of course, the clubs need to provide value to prospective members such as the use of club boats.

Places like colleges and universities are a great source of crew, perhaps all boat owners need to try and bring 1 or 2 new sailors aboard each season.

Ian
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Old 06-22-2012
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This is an interesting discussion. I grew up around boats my entire life often on power boats and my family was never a part of a yacht club. I am now in my 30's with a child and am excited to share boating with her. Our family just got a sailboat and while we are not experienced sailors I am excited for our family to learn to sail together.

I think that part of the reason for the decline in younger people getting involved in sailing as families is that the economy especially in vancouver is challenging for a lot of families. With housing prices being so high and wages not matching the cost of living young families often have difficulty purchasing and maintaing a boat. It is not very easy for a family to find room on another person's boat especially those families who do not have a lot of experience.

These days it seems the majority of the people who can actually afford boat ownership are mostly older people who bought into the housing market long before the prices became insane or people who dont have families.

The team sports like soccer are more accessable to families because the investment is not so large. Boating as a family however can be very expensive. We are very lucky to be able to afford this but not everyone is as fortunate.

Consider the 60+ generation many have quite nice boats. Say i did not have a boat and i wanted to get involved with a local yacht club and go out with someone who had a boat to learn to sail with my family. I have a 7 year old child. She is a pretty good kid but as kids are she is inquisitive and mischevious and accidents happen. How many older people do you think would be willing to open up their boat to allow three passengers on board one of whom might touch things they are not supossed to or break something or spill food and or drink on the nice white upolstery? I doubt many would be willing to allow that sort of thing. Even without that factor crewing in a race could be a challenge with younger children as well they tend to get in the way. Which all comes back to having boating and especially sailing be accessable to young families. It is not an easy thing to do these days everything is expensive and children only drive up that cost.

40 years ago many women were able to stay home with the kids and the man being the sole breadwinner was quite common but by those standards home ownership was a reality for most families even with only one income. Today most families need to have both parents working outside the home and often cannot afford to own their own home in the Lower mainland. Combine that with our society that pretty much demands 24 hour service and it makes scheduling even more crazy. It can be difficult when the adults in a young family work different schedules since we now have a high demand for extended business hours to find time to even spend time together as a family.

There are so many obstacles in the life of a young family today that play into this problem with the decline of membership in sailing/yacht clubs and unfortunately i am not sure that it is going to get better anytime soon. Sure we can bring new people into the clubs and get them interested but being interested is not the same as being able to afford the lifestyle.

Of course these are just my views on the topic but to give a bit of insight of why i look at it from this angle is that i graduated post secondary with a degree in sociology so i am a bit prone to looking at how society works as a whole and how economics and demographics play into a variety of topics.
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