I came across this interesting video this past week. Marketing guru and avid sailor (with Olympic classes in her resume), English-woman Liz Rushall gave a talk sponsored by the RYA (Royal Yachting Association for the Yanks) and presented a gloomy assessment of where the sport of sailing is headed. The video is 40 minutes long; well worth watching if you have the time. If you don't, here are my takeaways from Liz's talk:
- The only population segment where sailing is growing is with the old farts. They are retired and have the time and money.
- Everywhere else it is declining.
- Those with families are running their kids around to their activities, which have grown exponentially. Sailing is not a family activity anymore.
- Most worrisome is the millennial's. They are not interested in how we have set up sailing over the past 70 or so years, with private clubs and weekend racing. They are not interested in hard-core competition, they are into shared experiences with friends.
- If you have a class where it is expected that you need to be mucking around with your sailboat during the week to prepare for the weekend wars - you may be headed the way of the dinosaurs. The millennial's aren't into that either.
Coincidentally, last weekend I had a 15 minute conversation with Jonathon Phillips, the new commodore of Severn Sailing Association. Jonathon has a very solid dinghy racing pedigree, in both the Laser and the 505. He was rather non-committal about what and by how much Severn Sailing Association need to bend their very strong racing program to this new data. He did say that millennial's, when confronted with the much higher dues rate for the club boat model, they generally head for the door. He acknowledges that new boat prices, even for sailing racing dinghies, are generally out of reach for many millennial's (and if we believe the marketing survey, they don't care anyway).
Two years ago I wrote this post: Whither the Millennial's. It's worth reading the comments to this post as those who put a comment up are close observers of the sport.
I've dragged two comments from two of my favorite bloggers out into the main post. From Kiwi Alden Smith.
"I think the worriers and hand wringers with their evangelistic attitudes to maintaining and increasing sailing, with their plans and graphs and charts and mission statements about growth should simply stop worrying and go sailing. Future generations will choose how they will use their leisure time themselves.
And from Tillerman of Aerobian.com:
"Personally I don't need a fancy yacht club with tennis courts and swimming pools, or 200 boat regattas, or harbors and marinas crowded with big fat old yachts to enjoy sailing. All I need is about 6-10 friends who want to race the same small singlehanded boat as me and I am happy. I have enjoyed doing that in Lasers, Sunfish and RS Aeros over the years. If others want to build wooden boats, or blast around on a kiteboard, or potter around on a boat you can sleep on and poop on, then good luck to them.