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Sailing Clubs: more relevant than ever

Sailing is much more accessible than you might think, and there are hundreds of friendly clubs around the US devoted to getting people on the water and driving the sport forward.

 “Sailing is expensive”

 “Sailing is for the elite”

 “Sailing is difficult, complicated and dangerous”

Misconceptions like these have dogged the expansion and growth of sailing in public conscience for generations, but the reality is that now, these statements are further from the truth than ever before.

Britain is at heart a seafaring nation, a natural consequence of the fact we all live on an island. We ruled the waves for centuries in both military and commercial endeavors. The America’s Cup was born here, and as this summer’s results in Rio show, we still produce some of the world’s finest sailors to this day.

Sailing is the most inclusive sport around and can be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of age, sex, ability or boat. This broad reach is reflected in clubhouses and on waterways around the country. Club racing days often pit ‘seasoned’ campaigners against young upstarts, using handicap systems to level the playing field, and all come off the water absolutely beaming.

Despite all this, sailing participation and boat ownership are declining, according to a report by market research firm Arkenford, featured in November’s Yachting Monthly. The report states there are around 60,000 fewer yacht cruisers than ten years ago, and around 9,000 fewer yacht owners in the US over the same time period.

Sailing and yacht clubs around the US, often run by a dedicated bunch of volunteers, are the lifeblood of sailing, and play a key role in getting people out on the water, training them up and enabling them to sail. So now, more than ever, it is imperative that the sailing industry does all it can to promote the US’s yacht and sailing clubs as positively as possible.

The question we asked ourselves was: can Sunsail help them by highlighting what they do? Can we all collectively safeguard our sport and help take it into a new era while holding on to important traditions?

Sailing clubs come in all shapes and sizes, from small clubs centered around youth training and dinghy sailing, to established yacht clubs that focus as much on the social aspect as the sporting side of sailing. There are racing clubs and cruising clubs, local clubs and those with international appeal.

Whatever size, all clubs have a role to play in engaging people in sailing, making it accessible and fun and keeping the tradition alive while pulling in new sailors.

Sunsail is doing our part by offering £5,000 to the sailing club that pitches us the best idea for improving their club and engaging their community.

Join the club

So which sailing club is right for you, and how do you go about getting into them?

There are RYA training centers dotted across the country, and one of sailing’s core appeals is that it is accessible to anyone, regardless of age, skill or ability. Sailing is one of the very few sports in which able-bodied and disabled sailors can participate on equal terms. Over 53, 000 people with disabilities are introduced to sailing each year through the RYA’s Sailability program.

Whether you want to learn from scratch, get your kids into dinghy sailing, step aboard larger yachts, go racing every week or simply cruise the Med, there is a sailing or yacht club near you that can help you progress in your sailing journey and embark on your next adventure.

Despite perceptions, sailing clubs are not very expensive to join, either. Membership fees vary depending on a number of factors, but subscriptions generally average around £150 per year, which works out at about £12.50 per month, or one flat white a week. Perhaps it’s time to get off the caffeine and on to the water. Almost all clubs offer discounted rates for young sailors and families, as well as sailors aged 65 and over. Many clubs even offer reduced membership fees for those willing to volunteer to help run the club racing or take turns behind the bar.

So if you want to learn the rudiments of sailing in a family-friendly atmosphere, get qualified, go racing or just have some fun on the water, then get down to your nearest lake, reservoir, or large body of water, and chances are there will be a fantastic sailing club, more than happy to help you take the plunge and get into sailing. Most clubs offer RYA training session and/or coaching, just like our own Portsmouth base. Most universities also have their own sailing clubs, giving students the chance to race competitively and socialize with fellow sailors.

Get involved

One of sailing’s major appeals is that it caters to a hugely diverse range of people and goals. Media coverage may focus on epic offshore races like the Vendee Globe, Volvo Ocean Race, and Route de Rhum, but sailing is not all about going to extreme latitudes and dodging icebergs or living on dehydrated meals for 6 months at a time. There is of course space for people who want to do this sort of sailing, but the sport is equally accommodating to dinghy sailors who enjoy weekend racing, or fair weather sailors content to cruise in warmer climes for a couple of weeks a year.

Sailing clubs play such an important role in the promotion and smooth running of our sport, and we are so happy to be able to give back to the people who deserve it most.


Ian Pedersen

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