“Talking Sailing” issue 15 – by Richard Crockett

talksailissue – 15
26 March 2014

by Richard Crockett

Last Issue Response
The response to the last “Talking Sailing”(issue 14) was phenomenal as mails simply poured in. What this proves is that the topics touched on were close to people’s hearts. More importantly it shows that there is a lot wrong with our sport – and that there are people out there who are concerned, thinking and looking at ways to improve the sport for everyone.

I was initially hoping to address all the issues in this issue. Although space is unlimited here, it may be best to touch on them briefly now, and expand on them in future issues. Or maybe I need to produce “Talking Sailing” more often?

This is a bumper issue – I sincerely hope you get through it all.

Having Fun in A Boat
I was very interested in the comments below from Ken Read, President of North Sails:

Recreational Sailing needs to relax and have more fun.
Ken Read, president of North Sails, is on a mission to encourage recreational racing to take a chill pill. The message is simple: the harder we play, and the more we invest in our recreation, the fewer people will want to take part in the game.

Event organizers, fleet captains, and local cheerleaders exert significant energy to insure sufficient participation, when maybe all that is needed is to manage a few of the variables.

Ken gave a presentation at a recent J Boats dealer meeting, from which Don Finkle of RCR Yachts took notes. Here were some of Ken’s takes:
• Rally and pursuit races are fun and gaining in popularity.
• Get rid of the AP flag; people want to sail, not float around waiting for perfect conditions.
• Stop worrying that the starting line is off by 5 degrees; start the race.
• Get rid of uncomfortable gut hiking off the lower lifelines.
• All spinnakers should be coloured; no more white!
• Start some races downwind.
• More variety of courses; not only Windward-Leeward.
• Involve youngsters more in big boat sailing; not all want to do dinghies.
• Public access to the water and sailing will become even more important.
• Pros should be helping the amateurs by being available at regattas to give help and guidance.
Courtesy of Scuttlebutt newsletter.

Dabbies Wanted
Now here’s a really good initiative.

The Dabchick, our iconic South African designed sailing dinghy, will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2016. Our dream is to have a fleet of at least 60 Dabbies taking part in the 2016 Dabchick Youth Nationals. In order to achieve this, we are on a mission to grow the fleet.

After brainstorming various ways to achieve this it has become clear that we need to assemble a collection of Dabbies that can be used for training and development, and rented to young sailors on a short term basis, so that we can share the thrill of sailing this exhilarating craft and build the fleet.

There is no doubt that the boat sells itself – youngsters cannot resist the huge fun to be had sailing a Dabbie, plus there is the added dimension of the social side of the Dabbie class. The Dabbie kids are famous for sticking together, having fun and helping each other grow into better sailors by sharing tips, sometimes even during races!

We therefore have to find as many sailable Dabbies as we can, as quickly as possible, so we can use these boats for training and to promote this amazing craft. Around 3500 Dabbies have been built over the years and, since not all of them have sunk or become firewood, there must be plenty of them hanging from garage ceilings or in storage somewhere that can be brought back into regular use ahead of this milestone anniversary event for the class.

And this is where we need your assistance  – please help us to locate any disused Dabbies that may be donated or purchased to help our cause and add to our pool of boats. We are trying to track down as many ’lost’ Dabbies as we can and are busy creating the definitive Dabbie database listing all known Dabbies.

If you don’t have a Dabbie to donate, but would like to contribute to the cause, we would welcome any monetary donations. Please contact the Treasurer, Barbara Sher (sherbarbara@gmail.com) to obtain the Dabchick Association bank account details. We also invite donations from corporate sponsors. In return we will acknowledge your sponsorship by giving you advertising space on your own sponsored boats.

In the fullness of time we’d love to have a collection of reasonable-to-good boats that are properly housed and cared for and that can be used for training, travelling road-shows and open days. This can only help to grow our fleet and swell the numbers entering our sport.

If you talk to anyone involved with the development and training of our top sailors in South Africa, they will tell you that it is far easier for a sailor to get physically fit for hard, competitive sailing than to gain the hands-on racing experience necessary to excel at the highest levels in the sport.

These essential skills can only be truly honed in the cut and thrust of the start line and the thrill of the race, regardless of how many hours are spent in land training and theory sessions, studying rules and tactics. Learning to practically implement all this sailing theory in the heat of the moment and in the best possible way is an indispensable element in the development of any young sailor. Sailing in large fleets from an early age is an advantage that cannot be over-emphasised.

Logic further dictates that having a wide base of as many young sailors as possible must be a huge advantage in the quest for sailing talent. The wider this base, the better the chances that some truly great sailors will emerge to carry the torch for their country. Having to fight to the top of the pile against a large number of competitors breeds sailors who are far tougher than those who do not have the sheer weight of numbers to contend with, and a substantial Dabbie fleet would provide just the right cauldron in which this talent can be tempered and developed.

Please help us to get at least 60 boats on the water by 2016 – any assistance in this regard would be greatly appreciated! Contact Andy Hoyle – ahcon@mweb.co.za

A Subject Close to my Heart – Cheating
I raised the issue of cheating last time. This response from someone who witnessed cheating first-hand is interesting.

“Thank you for highlighting the importance of fair sailing.

What I’ve learnt from the episode is that it is up to me to take the matter in hand the next time a transgression takes place. I am sure that a few protests later everyone from the officials to fellow competitors will realize that the anarchy cannot continue. Sadly, getting tied up in protests just put such a damper on the day.”

Entry Fees
The feedback on this subject is very interesting as it will certainly open the eyes of the ‘cheapskates’ who want everything in our sport for nothing – as if it is their right!

The information below is from responses received, although what it does show is that our sport needs to take some bold steps soon, and stop being perceived as a poor relation with too many obstacles in the way to make it practical to go forward.

Is there anyone out there bold enough to act, and implement, on what is said below?

Please , and I beg you, let’s have positive responses to what is below and not a plethora of excuses as to why we cannot pull our wonderful sport out of the mire.

Reader response 1: I read with amusement below about yachties complaining that entry fees were too high for races. I wonder if they have taken the time to work out what it costs to run a regatta. They are extremely lucky that most of the time the committees are all volunteers unlike other sports where we pay for judges and committees.

My husband and I compete in four sports: sailing, cycling, horse riding (showjumping & dressage) and Enduro racing – here are our entry fees (average):

Cycling: 20km race – takes us 35 – 40 minutes to complete: R100 – R120 per rider
30km race – takes us an hour to complete: R150 – R160 per rider
Membership fee per club: approx R1500 per year in order to compete

Horse Riding: Dressage – 3 minute ride in arena:  R120 – R150 per class and we have to enter a minimum of 2 classes
Showjumping: 1minute in a ring with obstacles: R130 – R250 per class and we have to enter a minimum of 2 classes. (the cost of entry fee, groom, feed, transport etc per show day: R500 – R1000 per show).
Membership fee per rider to GHS: approx R1500 per rider
Membership fee per horse to GHS: approx R2500 per rider
Membership fee per discipline ( dressage/jumping etc) to GHS: approx R850 per discipline
Average cost to stable a horse per month: R4000 without trainers/coaches

Enduro Motorbike Event – 1 day event:
2hr ride approximately: R200 – R250 per rider
Membership fee to MSA: approx R800 per year in order to compete

Horse riding went through a stage many years ago of competitors boycotting events and complaining entries were too high. Membership was down, kids weren’t riding, clubhouses and equipment were falling apart because the entry fees didn’t cover the repairs/upkeep – it all looked dismal. One day a very wise man took over the event holding body and announced that horse riding was an elite sport and required that type of membership. He took a huge chance increasing fees and making it clear that those who didn’t want to pay the fees need not compete. It took about a year before we noticed that our entries and memberships started to increase drastically. Twenty years later, horse riding is now one of the most popular sports worldwide. South Africa alone has a staggering membership country wide and it is increasing every year. Events have been turned into a Sunday morning Champagne and caviar set. The wealthy moms push their kids into horse riding so they can sit in the clubhouse to gloat about their darlings competing on shockingly expensive imported ponies. Those same moms buy horses themselves and join the ladies Wednesday breakfast club. This wise man used reverse psychology and instead of apologising for the expense of competing a horse, he embraced it and made it one of the most successful marketing tools I’ve ever seen in my career of marketing.

Cycling, horse polo and motorbiking did the same thing. Now you feel privileged and in a league of your own when competing in any of these sports on beautiful grounds/tracks with stunning clubhouses. But it costs us a fortune and money we are happy to spend…and if not then we’re ignored, ousted out of the membership circles…..and left playing on the streets. The cost to enter an event vs cost to run an event – it’s worth every penny! Just a thought…..

From: Not a mediocre, cheap-&-nasty boat owner, but rather a sportsman proud of their sport.

Reader Response 2: Of interest, and on the same subject as it is currently topical as the Cape Epic cycling event is in progress at the moment, is the following:

Volunteers. The ‘Volunteer Package’ in which volunteers can get involved in the Cape Epic – VOLUNTEERS HAVE TO PAY BETWEEN R1,000 AND R3,400 just to be part of the Cape Epic, and that’s if they are selected! That is more than any entry fee that I am aware of in sailing in SA!

Entry Fee. The entry fee for competitors for an excellent, extremely professionally run event over 8 days and 700km is R39,800 (per team for 2013 race) and in 2013 this sold out in 60 Seconds (a total of 600 teams). This excludes the mechanic, physio, flights, car travel, energy bars etc.
The total prize money for the event is R1,6m!

Equipment. At the Argus Cycle race expo road bicycles range in price up to R260,000 so the equipment is also expensive – although you can buy a bicycle for a huge amount less and there may not be many bicycles on the road like this.

The first Cape Epic took place 10 years ago. So how do we get sailing there over the next 5 years, or do we not want to take it there? I do not see why sailing cannot be the next cycling?

Reader Response 3. Being one of the committee members for the Vaal Dam H23 Masters 2014, many of your comments ring true when organizing a sailing event. One example is the entry fee for our Masters event in 2012 which was R150 and this year, we feel slightly guilty having raised the entry fee per head to R250.

This works out to under R18 per head – per meal and most of the meals are professionally catered for with fillet or rump steak being the cut of meat on offer. The breakfasts are English style recipes and being a sailor, I understand the importance of a hearty meal as sailing uses up an immense amount of energy, so we have made sure that our members certainly won’t go hungry.

We have offered goodie bags in the past but my view on them is if you can’t offer something substantial and exciting, rather don’t give one at all.

The H23 financial kitty is also going to sponsor towards the Masters event to the tune of R6 000 or more, depending on the amount of entries so we have done our best with regards to keeping the entry fees as low and attractive as possible. Our prizes which are also sponsored carry a combined value of approximately R5 000 to make it that much more exciting.

We have noticed that other sailing boat classes that hold similar events are charging over R4 000 per boat entry, which is not really out of place. We have just managed to soften the blow by getting assistance from a few of our faithful sponsors.

The Holiday 23 Owners Association’s aim is to offer its members the most fun at the best price possible for the whole family (being a family boat).

Our bi-annual events (of which the other event is the H23 Fun Worlds held in Port Owen) aren’t just regatta meetings, but are fun social family gatherings held over 5 or 6 days, and are written about in sailing magazines and recognized as one of ‘the’ significant annual events on the South African sailing calendar. The Holiday 23 family remain proud of these achievements.

Sponsorship in Sailing
Few people in the sport really understand the true meaning of sponsorship, and I raise this issue here simply due to the disturbing mail I received on this subject. It goes as follows:

I recently obtained sponsored, exclusive goodie bags filled with products from a famous international brand, for a regatta. When we handed them out it was like feeding the poor. The prize giving was poorly attended, the competitors looked like tramps in old shirts and dirty shorts – a lack of respect to the sport. The prize giving was sloppy in itself and some of the hampers supplied as prizes (costing my sponsor over R1000 per hamper), had been pilfered and were empty. Needless to say the sponsors were horrified. They were expecting well-to-do yacht owners with their flamboyant crew. We took no photos to send back to Paris as it was embarrassing. This sponsor will never be associated with sailing in South Africa again because their perception is not that of an elite sport, but rather one of slapdash mediocrity not worthy of a their brand. Sadly they are one of the biggest sailing sponsors in Europe. Maybe the mind set of yachties needs to change and maybe they should uplift themselves to the prestigious level of cars they drive into the yacht clubs, and some of the beautiful yachts they own.

So here is a simple lesson on the fundamentals of sponsorship:
To sponsor something is to support an event, activity, person, or organization financially or through the provision of products, services or cash. A sponsor is the individual or group that provides that support.

Sponsorship is a cash and/or in-kind fee paid to a club or event (a ‘property’) in return for access to the exploitable commercial potential associated with that ‘property’.

Unlike philanthropy, sponsorship is done with the expectation of a commercial return.

While sponsorship can deliver increased awareness, brand building and a propensity to purchase, it is different to advertising. Unlike advertising, sponsorship can not communicate specific product attributes. Nor can it stand alone. Sponsorship requires support elements. And, while advertising messages are controlled by the advertiser, sponsors do not control the message that is communicated. Consumers decide what a sponsorship means.

So just what does all this mean? In a nutshell sponsorship is a business deal – a two-way trade where one party gives in the expectation of getting something in return.

Now, sponsorship is NOT a donation. A donation is something one gives with no expectation of receiving anything in return. So if you are looking for sponsorship, and do not intend to give something back, ask for a donation instead. Please. And be clear on the difference between the two.

Promises of ‘return on sponsorship’ are often hollow and made without any intent of ‘giving back’. Don’t fall into that trap as ‘returns’ to your sponsor have to be tangible and visible to the broader community.

The mistake too many sailing organisations make is to ask for a huge pile of money to cover every single aspect of the sponsorship – including the marketing, publicity and ‘leverage*’ of the event being sponsored. I firmly believe that this is robbing a sponsor as few sailing organisations have anyone competent and capable of achieving the results so often glibly added to the sponsorship proposal – and once the money has been paid completely ignored.

My advice is to ask for what is necessary to run the event, and tell the sponsor that it is their responsibility to ‘leverage’ the event as they see fit, and at their cost. This is not a cop out, far from it, and makes sense as many companies have marketing and PR people or departments who know exactly how to ‘leverage’ the exposure the company requires. The club or individual yachties certainly don’t – although all the so-called ‘experts’ think it’s a case of putting up a few banners and having a picture in the newspaper, and drinking loads of free booze.

By all means facilitate, assist and advise what is good for an event, but leave the ‘leverage’ to the experts within the sponsoring company – or the people they employ to do this important function.

I have seen too many events in sailing in which sponsors have left with a bad taste as they have been promised the earth and nothing, absolutely nothing, is delivered.

*‘Leverage’. The Rand amount a sponsor gives to an event is only the starting point as a sponsor should spend an amount over and above the sponsorship fee to maximize the return on their investment in the sponsorship property. This is called ‘leverage’. It is accepted practice for a sponsor to spend at least the equivalent value of their sponsorship fee in their own promotional activity relating to the sponsored event, although this can go as high as 3:1 or more.

Now sponsorship is also not a way to fill the coffers by asking for a huge amount of money that is not necessary. Sponsorship is not fund-raising nor should it be used to pad club coffers. Sponsors are not stupid, and will quickly see if they are being ‘screwed’ – so ask for what is sufficient and reasonable to run an event.

A misconception about sponsorship is that it is not necessarily in place to make sure that everyone gets a free ride. It is there to add value to an event, and pay the costs associated with that event. It’s not as one clown said to me after I received sponsorship for an event – “good, now we can all have free beer, free meals and free entry”! He was needless to say very disappointed.

In closing, this is a subject that can be addressed in minute detail, but what I have done is attempt to paint some broad brush strokes to give an idea about what really counts in sponsorship.

Too many Sponsors have walked away from sailing events in this country as they have been ‘screwed’, and none of those will ever return. Plus, their experience does filter into other boardrooms where the message is simple: “don’t sponsor sailing”.

We need to change that – FAST.

Ken Read on Sponsorship
Ken Read’s (edited) Keynote at the World Yacht Racing Forum was a big hit.

Sponsorship is critical at the elite level of our sport. There is no doubt in my mind that sponsorship is far more prevalent here in Europe than it is in the United States. When I did the Volvo Ocean race we stopped in Lorient and the people of Lorient asked me to do a focussed talk to a bunch of industry people. I talked about my sponsorship experience and people were blown away. In France, businesses are calling the talented sailors and asking the talented sailors if they can sponsor their boats. That’s unheard of in my part of the world.

Let me explain my sponsorship story. Here’s my theory. I have a really novel idea. I’m going to get sponsorship. You meet somebody. You get into the marketing department and you meet these guys (points to slide showing a bunch of young people in suits). They are all enthusiastic, great presentation and as soon as you walk out they are thinking about how to screw you. There is not a prayer in hell, that going through the normal channels, at least in North America, that you are EVER going to get sponsorship. So I tell young people all the time – don’t even bother.

What your sponsorship means for these people (the marketing team) is more work. And they don’t get paid extra. They might have to go around the world with a Volvo race – away from their families – they’re out of their comfort zone. The best way to get sponsorship is to find ‘This Guy’(or his female counterpart). You need to go straight to the boss. The boss can make the decision. The Boss can tell the marketing team ‘you’re going to do the work’. But if the marketing team is left to its own druthers, they aren’t going to do it.

So here is my arch-enemy number one. Before we found Berg Propulsion in the last Volvo Race, I was really close with Thomson Reuters for quite a big package. Puma had made it clear that they wanted a second sponsor – they didn’t want to foot the whole bill this time, so I had some good ins with Thomson Reuters and it came down to me versus Mike Weir. I hate Mike Weir. I don’t even know the guy. He’s a good golfer, won the masters, left handed. I hate Mike Weir. He cost me a lot of money.

It came down to a safety net for Thomson Reuters. The nice, easy decision. Let’s go with golf, we know it, the CEO is a golfer, so we can sponsor this golfer or this crazy, out of the box, Volvo idea – and go around the world and go to all these different continents and try to create a global reach in this ‘brand new sport’. Which would you rather do? Mike Wier. They take Mike Wier. Did I mention how much I dislike Mike Wier?

But we had Puma. And Puma is exactly the opposite. I met the right guy in the right place with the CEO of Puma and we hit it off right out of the box. And he decided, right then and there – I’m going to take this on – this is just crazy enough. Then the boss tells the marketing department – by the way – here’s your next job, this is what you are going to do.

It turned out to be an incredible adventure – an adventure that we thought would only last a couple of years and one lap of the planet. It turned out to be almost 7 years and 2 laps around the planet. All they wanted to do – and this is really important – you have to listen to what these guys want.

The first thing I ever asked the CEO of Puma was – what do you want to get out of this? I’m expecting – branding, blah, blah, blah… and he said:

“I just want to sell shit. I want to sell shoes. Everybody who works for me – sells shoes”

The first speech I ever made to anyone who came to work for us on the team – anybody. If you think you are here to win a sailboat race you are mistaken. You’re here to sell shoes. If you’ve always dreamt of being a shoe salesman – I’m your guy.

The other sponsor we had was Berg Propulsion and Berg, a Swedish company, that had a completely different reason to sponsor a boat. Berg wanted the entertainment factor. Puma wanted nothing to do with the entertainment factor, they just wanted to sell shoes. And by the way – Puma sold a lot of shoes. For a short period of time, the highest grossing retail outlet in Puma was the one in the Volvo Village.

But what they saw, was that every time we went to a new country, all the stores would have a bump. So we were not just selling marine product, we were selling product – period.

Berg couldn’t have been more different. Berg wanted to entertain clients. Berg said – here’s our client base – these 70 people need a propeller – they just don’t know it yet. So I said “If I can sell shoes, I can sell propellers – how hard can it be?”

In both sponsorship cases, the thing we did best was – we asked our sponsors what they wanted. We didn’t come in and say – I’m going to give you 2 VIP tickets and you can use the boat – there was none of that. There was a list and the list was – what can I do for you? How can I help you want to be a sponsor of this project? So ask the sponsor what they want.

North Sails is asked a lot to sponsor events. I ask people – what is my return on investment? They look at me like I have two heads. What do you mean? Well I am going to give you money – what are you going to give me in return?

Sailing Alive and Well in Zimbabwe – from Bridget Ross (hross@yoafrica.com)
I have just read your issue 14 which was forwarded by our yacht club Jacana in Zimbabwe. I have special interest in entry level sailing/kids sailing. Our kids sail oppies up here we have a pile of very old boats that they learn in, it is hard work and we have quite a low strike rate with kids trying the sport and then coming back for more.

We come down to SA once or twice a year for youth sailing regattas at which we are always made most welcome and are helped out most graciously. We very much appreciate it. For example on the last trip one of our oppie kids had grown about 2ft over night and baulked at sailing the oppie that her parents had towed from Harare to Midmar. After day one of the regatta the kid was miserable so we made enquiries at the club regarding the availability of a spare laser. The Commodore of the Midmar Club could not have been more helpful – and in the midst of his first day regatta he tee’d up a Laser for that child. That girl came back positively beaming after her first day racing in a Laser and she is dead keen to carry on sailing. If she had not had that opportunity she would have given up the sport. To me that was such a fine example of good people make things happen for sailing because at the end of the day for them it’s all about the sailing. Hear Hear !

A sailing trip to SA is a trip to civilisation in so many ways for us and we enjoy it immensely, so DO remind your SA readers not to take their wonderful sailing community for granted, we think that you are amazing!

Every year in April we have sailors from Mozambique and Malawi come to us for our sailing school week at our big dam, Chivero near Harare. Kids are in oppies, lasers and boards and the folks are in Enterprises and Lasers and we all camp and have fun and our visitors are welcomed and looked after. They come back each year and we have made good friends from ‘up country ‘ over many years.

1984 Vasco da Gama Race – 30 Year Reunion
In the last issue I mentioned the above event which is dedicated to the memory of the crew of Rubicon which was lots with all hands – and never a trace of the boat found.

Many will remember the 1984 race which started on Thursday 26 April, as the ‘Vasco da Drama Race’ due to an unforecast south wester that devastated the fleet on its first night at sea. Rubicon was lost with its entire crew, and was never heard of again.

The family of Siggie Eicholz who was the owner and skipper of Rubicon have given their blessing to the event.

I promised to include the crew list from this race in this issue, but space simply does not permit it. It will soon be on the SAILING Gybeset site (www.sailing.co.za/gybeset), along with other material from that race, so keep an eye out for it.

The reunion and memorial will be at the Point Yacht Club, who organised the race that year, on Friday 25 April.

It is open to anyone who competed, so if you are now an out-of-towner, make a plan NOW to be in Durban that night.

Kiting – the meaning of this word?
Last issue I asked if anyone had an interpretation for the expression ‘kiting’ as used in sailing.

As always, Dave Hudson remembered using the word in his youth and offered this explanation:

During my early years of sailing In Durban Bay as a junior member of PYC – late ‘50s & early ‘60s – the term “kiting” was routinely used as an alternative to “planing”. Planing had the same meaning then as it has today. I haven’t heard the term used since those long-gone times. After reading the latest “Talking Sailing” I called Tom McCrorie, one of SA’s prominent Dinghy sailors from that era. Tom recalled how we used to tell war stories of how fast we had ‘kited’ down the ‘ditch’ in a westerly buster – Durban’s classic winter gale. The ditch was a narrow channel that divided the main sand bank in the Bay. It lay at 90 deg to the westerly and the bank kept the water absolutely flat – perfect for ‘kiting’ on the edge of disaster!

Simple pleasures, memorable times!

The ‘Square Rigged’ Optimist
There are some devoutly loyal Optimist fans out there who took exception to Roy Dunster’s comments about the Optimist in the last issue.

Reader Response 1. I always respect my fellow sailor’s views on Talking Sailing, which views may be very different from my own but in the case of Roy Dunster’s question about “the Optimist chasing children away from sailing” I have to totally disagree and rebut it. Of course I am very biassed in favour of the square rigged sailing box. Firstly, Roy needs to specify the beginner’s yacht, skiff, foiler or high speed catamaran that he would want to see an 8 or 10 year old to start his sailing course in. Interesting that F1 drivers start carting first. Secondly, the incredible thing about sailing, which is so different to most sports, is that the choices of equipment/yachts are vast and therefor the success of a class is at the vagaries of this open market system. The market forces not ISAF or NMAs make the Optimist so popular. Thirdly, the Optimist has probably the most modern manufacturing technique (foam core) over the plastic boats produced by the single manufacturer classes. By having approximately 20+ Optimist manufacturers world-wide the economic market forces keep the Optimist relevant and cheap. Finally, a huge point that Roy is totally ignorant of, the Optimist class is the only international youth class that has a gender clause at their Continental Championship enforcing the inclusion of girls in the national teams and thereby encouraging girls into sailing.

What I do accept is the reality that we are not providing opportunities for children to learn sailing in multi-crewing yachts with their friends. It is the “life after Optis” that is the bigger concern and for us to retain our children in our amazing sport.  David Booth.

Reader Response 2. I have recently bought my son the Zou Oppie (Chinese type) and I am amazed at the upgraded version from when I sailed when I was a kid, it’s really technical and modern and I was amazed at the quality. Planing an Oppie in 18 knots is awesome, much like a J22. I can honestly say it was what led to my fantastic grounding and love of the sport. It was a very proud moment when I could return the favour that my father had granted me and that was to buy my son his own Optimist and “set him free”.

I am with ISAF about the Oppie and wish SAS would follow suit and only sanction certain classes for National championships, as we are diluting great classes with Terras and the like, this occurs with Keel boats as well. I believe it is better to build a few strong racing fleets than have them diluted with lots of weak National Champions.

Long live the Oppie. Lets face it world-wide there is nothing else, maybe iPads are the problem!

Reader Response 3. “Has any boat succeeded in chasing more people away from sailing than the Optimist?”

“The continued focus on the Optimists by sailing federations is good for the manufacturers of the boat, but no sane person can surely think that 1940s-state-of-the-art can have too much appeal to a 21st century teenager.”

Come on, get real! My mate just bought a second hand Oppie for his 6 year old daughter to learn how to sail. A splendid choice. It isn’t going to frighten the bejeesus out of the little girl and will certainly teach her the basics of sailing which are basically the same whether you sail an Oppie or a 60-footer. The wind is the wind!

Yes of course an Oppie is not a glamourous 21 century piece of kit, but is a stepping stone. After a year she can graduate to a Dabbie and then a Laser and on and on.

Do you give a kid a hot Lotus 7 or a BMW M3 to learn to drive on? Heavens NO!!

I have never had anything to do with Oppies so I have no vested interests, but realise that there is most definitely a time and a place for the little boats.

Long live the Oppie and all the kids it has taught the basics of sailing. Finn & Hobie 16 sailor.

Reader Response 4. Roy Dunster’s thoughts on the Optimist – “It would be great if SAS recognised the absurdity of the Oppie” – reminded me of a comment by an Institute of Actuaries examiner many years ago: “I do enjoy students with an unconventional point of view. I don’t pass them, but I do enjoy them!”

We’ve been sailing mates for a very long time, and have shared many sailing adventures including a Cowes Week win in 2010 we’ll never forget. So I have no problem saying to Roy: Your challenge to the conventional view of the Optimist as a great learn-to-sail and learn-to-race boat was fun to read. I don’t buy your story, but it was fun to read!

There’s no doubt that sailing in SA could do with a really cheap, very basic, mass produced get-100s of-kids-on-the-water type of boat, and Andrea Giovanni is working on exactly this on behalf of SAS. And it’s also possible that an affordable high-speed skiff for young kids will emerge one day. But this is not where the Optimist is. Although it’s very effective as a learn-to-sail boat, the Optimist’s real value is that it is a remarkably good boat for developing at an early age and to a high level the core sailing skills, and then the core racing skills that once acquired, hook us into this sport for life. I would like to say much more about this, and will in due course.

It’s also been the world-wide experience that Optimist racing lays a rock-solid foundation on which keen young sailors can build the more sophisticated skills that lead to world-class performance in their teenage years and beyond. Of the 24 medalist helms at the 2012 Olympics, 20 were ex-Optimist sailors. Three of the remaining 4 did their junior sailing in Sabot dinghies, a pram dinghy pre-dating the Optimist.

Australia is surely one of the great sailing nations, and for over 50 years their junior sailing programmes were based on the Sabot. They have recently made a change, and what did the land that gave us the exciting world of skiffs choose? The Oppie, and 342 of them arrived at the 2014 Nationals last month. Dave Hudson.

SAILING Gybeset portal
The SAILING Gybeset portal (www.sailing.co.za/gybeset) is updated almost daily with new and interesting information on our sport, both locally and internationally.

An ‘Industry’ button was recently added so go there to see new industry news.

The ‘Event’ button will take one to an events calendar where key events are published. By clicking on the event title one can get contact details, the NOR, SIs and other information. It’s a very powerful too, so use it to your advantage – and submit material for inclusion.

We have new advertisers supporting the portal too, so please click on their links and see what they are up to.

SAILING Gybeset carries news items, club and class info, and an event calendar – so check it out and please send your contributions. The electronic media is an incredibly quick way of getting your news out to a very broad base of people – so use this portal to your advantage and share your sport with the thousands of others who have not yet given it a try, but are waiting in the wings.

The only way for SAILING Gybeset to be successful and to be able to disseminate information that covers all aspects of our sport is for Clubs, Class Associations, event organisers and individual sailors to ensure that information and pictures flow our way timeously – so send your material to: sailing@iafrica.com

Some Selected Responses to “Talking Sailing”
● I read the article about the senior yachtsman plus the “interested family” who were turned away at the gate of some yacht club. Why do you keep the clubs name a secret?

I believe they should be “named and shamed”. Perhaps the Commodore and Committee would then look into the incident and take the appropriate steps to prevent a repetition. Go on – name them!
ED. The person who gave me the info, and a reputable guy in our sport, would not divulge that info.

● Ref ‘How Narrow Minded’. I am a ‘senior’ and also like visiting yacht clubs when travelling. False Bay Yacht Club must be the club your senior was referring to. I have never experienced such unfriendliness bordering on hostility, and will never go near the place again.

● I am right behind you on so many points in this newsletter … in fact, each heading should be a newsletter in its own right lest it be lost amongst the rest.

But most especially … Introducing newbies to the FUN OF SAILING long before they get anywhere near the abuse they have to endure in a race. And then perhaps have races where boats are paired so that old hands have to nursemaid beginners.

And also … MEMBERS ONLY … my memory of driving along the freeway in Toronto (which runs close to Lake Ontario) was banner after banner heralding …COME SAILING! … LEARN HOW TO SAIL HERE! … BEGINNERS WELCOME! …BRING YOUR FAMILY! COME HAVE FUN!

Only when the clubs are bulging to overflowing with people, coffers too from huge patronage, should they even begin to think of a Members Only sign.

And that bulge will only come when the non-stop whingers are driven out.

● Great Talking Sailing newsletter! Thanks for highlighting the interesting, and controversial points. Hopefully this stimulates more debate.

● I have just read your newsletter! I love it. Good job. It is also fantastic to see you not holding back. If there is something controversial you bring it up. Keep it up! And keep calling it like it is.

● Whenever I read one of your “Talking Sailing” I have this sense of déjà vu!! I think you and I have heard all this shit so many times before and yet sailors and administrators will never learn. I sincerely hope that other sport disciplines aren’t as bad as sailing, but then they may be. God help us all!!

● May I compliment you on your regular “Talking Sailing”. I wish to add comment on the Mykonos race as follows:-
This is one of the best regattas/events organized by RCYC. The weather conditions cannot be forecast a year ahead when the date is set. So for each yacht we take it as it comes. This year it was a bad wind. Other years it was a tailwind and I remember starting in approximately 25 knots of SE when many yachts were wiped out before reaching Robben Island. There have been occasions when there was only about 3 to 5 knots of wind and plenty of fog/mist. Notwithstanding all the weather variables – the Mykonos race is a really great event. I personally have and will continue to plan my calendar around this event. I will not miss it! Philipp H Gutsche

● Are you not guilty of transgressing a rule if you witness a transgression and you fail to protest?

Your Writing always tends to hit the spot. I am loathe to let this subject go and feel that you should poke into the topic in greater depth. While I do not expect you to get the Guy involved more than he has been already, I can guarantee that at just about every single regatta, there are transgressions on the water and nobody protests.

The only protests that are officially made, are when the top rankers positions may be affected. Every other transgression is ignored. I too do not wish to be the cause of a protest with the inherent negative feelings, time delay and pressures that result therefrom. This “lack of protest” action (boy, that’s a lovely phrase in a country that experiences more than their fair share protest action). I digress, – It is precisely the unwillingness to protest that has made it possible for certain individuals to break the rules over and over again.

If the referee in a rugby game never handed out yellow cards, the players would not temper negative play. Sure, it affects the outcome of the game but is vital in order to ensure a relatively clean and fair game.

As a spectator at a National event a few years ago, I witnessed illegal sailing manoeuvres and tactics. Fellow club vessels witnessed the transgressions too. The guilty parties failed to acknowledge their errors and their “buddies” let them go. To this day, I judge these sailors on their lack of fair sailing. These are good sailors who are well known and win many regattas.

If we clamped down on unfair sailing practices with a good few protests, that were taken to conclusion, sailors may start to clean up their acts.

● Richard, I think this is your best issue of “Talking Sailing” to date. Good material and sensible in-depth coverage. I have a couple of comments.

1) Unfortunately we will never rid our sport, nor any other, of cheats. To them winning is of prime importance and they don’t care for our opinions about them.

2) I took issue with WPSA about 15 years ago about not applying the rules for tight lifelines in racing events. I said that it was the responsibility of the race committees to ensure that competitors complied but was told that it was up to the competitors to protest, not the committees to police, even if I brought it to their attention before an event. At the next event, Hout Bay Admiral’s Regatta, I walked around the marina and told every skipper of a boat with loose lifelines that if they sailed like that I would protest them. Some tightened their lines but others left them. Before the start of the first race I moved through the fleet and advised every boat with loose lines that I was protesting. The protest was heard that evening and those boats all received DSQ and were told that if their lines were not tight for the remainder of racing they would get DSQ for all races.

Guardrails are there to help keep the crew aboard but it is not only a safety issue, it is also about cheating. Some of the wires were so loose that the crew were sitting on the topsides of the hull, not on the deck. That translates into a massive increase in righting moment and sail-carrying power, so a big advantage over any boat that abides by the rules. These guys don’t see it as cheating but that is exactly what it is. I was hated by all those whom I protested, as though I had trampled their rights and not the reverse.

A few months after that regatta there was an RYA technical man in SA to promote IRS. At the RCYC open meeting about the new rule I asked him whose responsibility it is to police rules and regulations. He said that it is without doubt the responsibility of the race committees and sailing authorities to police and to not turn a blind eye.

3) I am also sorry to see the coastal racing disappearing, particularly so for the Double Cape Race. I have sometimes heard it compared to a round of golf, sailing from hole to hole. I always enjoyed that race, in light winds and strong. It gave me so much invaluable knowledge about the actions of wind around mountains and currents around headlands. There are people who sailed in many Double Cape Races and never finished even one. I sailed in many and finished every one, by taking note of what the wind was doing relative to peaks, valleys and headlands, many times sailing right around my competitors who sat in holes due to sailing with their eyes closed. These races are needed to maintain the standards of seamanship for which SA is well known.

The Bitter End
Those who abuse sponsorships and sponsors. The ‘grab-the-money-and-run’ attitude simply does not cut it in our sport where sponsors are our lifeblood.

The ‘Bitter End’ is the inboard end of an anchor chain or rode which should be attached to the vessel so as not to be lost overboard in it’s entirety. In terms of “Talking Sailing” it’s things about our sport which get up peoples noses!
“Talking Sailing” is written by Richard Crockett, the Publisher & Editor of SAILING Magazine, South Africa’s monthly sailing mag.

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Check Also

“Talking Sailing” by Richard Crockett – issue 50

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