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How do we get club sailors to support their open meeting? you asked. At my club I find that new sailors and those who just enjoy sailing are intimidated by the racing fleet. From a racers point of view I am there to win and when I make mistakes I try even harder. This means I use the racing rules to my advantage. In times gone by I have had several collisions, this was at a time when one could! I have pinned down other boats, called for water etc, etc. All this is to gain an advantage. Do I smile when I race? Not often because I am concentrating on the job in hand. Do I have time to chat with my crew? Yes at the end of the race. Once off the water I am as nice as pie and can’t understand why other people don’t want to race. Contrast this with the tacking matches we have on a club cruise. When I just miss time a tack or someone steals a march on me or when someone calls starboard on me, I laugh and toss witty remarks across the water. you will always find a smile on my face when cruising.
To my way of thinking people need to be introduced to racing in a fun way. We started off by having a day of boat handling skills which ended by putting all the skills together in a very short race at the end followed by a bite to eat and a few drinks so everyone got to know each other. After 4 weekends along the same sort of lines some of the club sailors started to race. Not all of them, but some. Some said that they did not feel as intimidated. Perhaps because their boat handling skills had improved, perhaps because they had more knowledge?
Last year the Wayfarer Association ran a “Cruising Faster” event along the same sort of lines. The feedback was very positive and everyone went away with new or improved skills. Did any of them turn to racing? I don’t know. Perhaps they will read this and give us their feedback.