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March 06, 2011



More and more, I'm beginning to think that yacht clubs are the problem, not the solution.

Adam Turinas

Why so Tillerman?


I'd saying wearing a tie is part of the problem. Look at that man! You can just imagine the socks he's got on. Salt and sand are not near. Too far from the Bay of Fundy, appaloosas and soforth.

Joe Rouse

I agree with you, Adam. I find that I will go out for a quick paddle or a row during the week rather than sailing. It's very easy to throw the ski or shell up on the roof of my car. Many other people in the Bay Area fill the hole by kiteboarding or windsurfing. Again, it's easy to throw your gear up on the roof or back of a truck and play on the water for an hour.

The Tillerman is correct too. Yacht clubs are too formal for most people. Besides the ties and socks, I find the use of titles (Commodore) off putting.


There is a whole culture of folk having fun on the water (like Joe and me) who are nothing to do with the traditional yacht club scene.

Yes, there is a problem with the demands on the time and money of the 25-35 year-olds, but if those folk are going to participate in sailing they are much more likely to choose some of the cheaper, more casual options such as the ones Joe describes.

I don't think many of those 25-35 year-olds have the time or money required for traditional yacht club memberships, quite apart from those damn socks and ties. And they don't need what yacht clubs are offering.

Adam Turinas

Sorry can't agree with you. As a 25-35 year old I learned to sail thru a sailing school and mostly chartered. I found it hard to improve my skills and didn't sail much for several years. I was going nowhere with my sailing.

Since I joined Raritan Yacht Club, I sail 2-3 times a week during the season, either on my own boat, other people's boat as crew or i a club dinghy. I have learned more in the last 3 years than the previous 20. Most of that has come through osmosis by sailing with people who love to teach.

Yup we wear ties from time to time but we also run the club as volunteers.

Many clubs, especially the tie-wearing types have reduced fees for members under 30 and the fees of many clubs are not a lot more than a gym. No clubs come anywhere near to the fees of a golf club.

Yacht clubs are not THE answer but they have an important role to play in promoting the sport, providing a place to learn and get involved not to mention organize racing.

For example New York Yacht Club (that's Jobson's tie by the way) started over 1000 races last year for 10s of 1000s of racers whether they are part of a club or not.

RYC holds a kids sailing program every summer that is open to all and has brought a lot of people into the sport who would not have had the opportunity otherwise.

One more point is that one of Jobson's initiatives is a meeting for sailing and yacht clubs. One of the main items on the agenda is how to reignite interest in sailing.

Ok, there are many people like you both who don't need a club but the fact is most people don't have the confidence to go it alone. They may get started like me as a one sailor but a club provides a great environment to nurture their passion.

o docker

In SF Bay, I think sailing schools have taken over the role of yacht clubs for many people.

Twenty- and thirty-somethings just getting into the sport tend to be more interested in boats larger than dinghies, so they're usually looking for a school for lessons and a club where they can rent boats.

The more successful schools push social activities that make them feel more like clubs. And those activities focus more on sailing than sitting at a bar and boozing all day (schools usually have neither dining rooms or bars).

As much as time, economics are probably keeping the middle-aged out of sailing. How many in their 30's can afford a new 30-footer today? If anything, I think middle-aged couples are more likely to join sailing schools where they can rent boats rather than buy a boat and join a yacht club.

Some yacht clubs - like the Berkeley Yacht Club (I'm NOT a member) - have waken up to today's realities. They're less formal, have lower fees, and focus on more active programs - like low-key racing - that attract younger people. You'd probably be laughed off the dock if you showed up there in a tie.

Adam Turinas

That's a great point. In the NY area Offshore Sailing School serves the same role and sees itself as a competitor of the local area yacht clubs.

I don't believe they require the wearing of a tie.

The other option for those starting out is fractional ownership. I know a guy who has done for it a while and it suits him well.


Chiming in here - got the link to this blog via Saving Sailing site.

I agree that there are many yacht and sailing clubs where one can find an environment to suit their tastes, aspirations, and wallet. The Club I belong to offers opportunities to race primarily, but not much in cruising or "raft ups." We have a 10-12 day cruise, but as others have cited, not to many people can commit to that as you're bound to the WX window that can crater your cruising plans. I have heard of other clubs doing weekend cruises that are family oriented. Our town also has a community sailing program. Maybe unique to where I live, but I think there is no shortage of opportunities for someone that wants to sail.

One area where I think we ought to change the conversation is thinking about sailing as a "sport." I believe it turns off some people. Using Nick Hayes' vernacular, we want sailing to be considered a pastime. For some a sport, but for others a recreational activity, and for some a hobby. And as Nick has said in the past, the more this becomes a pastime, the less time becomes an issue as it becomes integrated into our family lives.

Also, check this link out: Perhaps we have more time then we's all about priorities...

Joe Rouse

I'm sorry, even those Sailing Schools seem stodgy to me. In the Bay Area we have Club Nautique, Spinnaker Sailing, Olympic Circle,
Tradewinds Sailing Club, and Modern Sailing. They all have the same spiel. Pay mega bucks to become a member, learn to sail big boats off shore for "free," and get discounts on chartering boats. Forget it, I'll stick to the socks, shoes, ties, blazers, or Commodores.

So how do you save sailing? I'm not going to worry about it. I'll just continue to go out and have fun on the water.

Carol Anne

One thing to note is that, while people in their 20s and 30s may be busy with family and career and a bunch of other stuff, there are some sports that they DO continue to participate in -- golf, for example, comes to mind.

So perhaps it would be a good idea to look at those sports that busy younger adults choose to include in their lives. What characteristics of those sports lead to them being included in a hectic lifestyle in which they would not normally be considered a priority?

And once we figure out those characteristics, we can look at whether the way sailing is offered can be changed to be more similar to those other sports. Maybe it can't be changed, but we should at least look at the issue.

Yes, Tillerman and Joe, I think sometimes clubs are more part of the problem than the solution. It's not just about the money; some clubs have a downright hostile feel. That's not good.

Adam Turinas

Carol Anne, the golf point is interesting one. To my mind, there are some obvious reasons, namely access. For a few hundred bucks you can buy a set of clubs, learn to play and you're off and running. It's easy to find someone to play with and it only takes half a day.

The other reason is that it gets a ton of TV coverage and there are many high profile stars that inspire others to get involved.

Sailing is more complicated, more expensive and doesn't receive the coverage.

There are some good parallels on the club issue. You don't need to join a club to play but it makes access easier. There are also some exclusive clubs that take more than money to join.

I am very curious about the hostile feeling you have experienced. Can you share a little more?

Adam Turinas

Rick, I love your point about pastime rather than sport. To me that's the beauty of sailing.

The next AC in SF could have a big impact. It's going to make great TV and that could inspire many to get involved. The downside is that it reinforces the sport side.


More and more I'm beginning to think that the America's Cup is the problem, not the solution. The next iteration will just reinforce even more the stereotype that sailing is a sport for ultra-rich white men sailing exotic multi-million dollar machines.

The golf analogy is valid. If you watch top golfers on TV at a major championship they are playing essentially the same game as your average Joe can do on his local public course. Same size sticks hitting same size balls down same size holes. By contrast, the America's Cup will be nothing like the kind of sailing that your average Joe can do.


Ultimately, sailing is what you make out of it. It's a sport, hobby, pastime....For me it's a release, an escape from the grind, and an opportunity to be in my most favorite place, Barnegat Bay.

Yacht Clubs have their place, for sure. They're just not right for everyone. This is the first club I've been a member of in years, and you can't get much lower key than that! Check out the membership dues!

Gary is definitely more comfortable in shorts and a flannel shirt.


My kind of club! Club membership at $40 a year is exactly the kind of solution that we need to encourage more people to get involved in sailing.

Happy Birthday Bert!

Adam Turinas

Baydog that looks like a lovely club.

TMan, time will tel on AC. Certainly the last few years have done nothing to help the sport. My hope is that it lives up to Ellison's efforts to make the regatta more telegenic and this at least inspires interest. The trick is for sailing schools, yacht and sailing clubs to convert that interest into trying it out.

Sailing Equipment

Sorry Couldn't agree with you. Its no what you think. I guess still there are many middle aged out there and its not gonna make a huge difference. But, its a nice thought to bring this topic for discussion. Keep posting.

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