Home' Afloat : AFLOAT May 2015 Contents Take monthly with water May 2015 7
Letter of the month
The Editor ’s choice for letter of the month will
receive a 28" Yachtsman’s Waterproof Bag.
Made from tough double
coated PVC fabric with
seams sewn and tape
welded the Burke bag is
This month’s prize goes to
from West Ryde NSW.
Got Something to Say?
PO BOX 709 WILLOUGHBY 2068
web forum: www.afloat.com.au
Please keep your letters short. Letters longer than 250 words are
liable to sub-editing at the Editor ’s discretion.
YA needs to adopt a richer
narrative of sailing
The response by Yachting NSW’s General Manager David
Edwards (Afloat Apr’15) neatly highlights my concern that YA has
lost the respect of ordinary sailors.
He informs us that Discover Sailing Day introduces approximately
2,000 new participants to our sport every year. Which with an
optimistic 5-year retention estimate of 25% gives us 500 new
members a year. Far from enough to replace the generation now
approaching its inevitable exit from the sport.
In an era where choice of sport is overwhelming, a sport such
as sailing is at a huge disadvantage. The novice’s first sailing
season ends before substantial competence and commitment is
achieved so it is easy to move on. This reflects the YNSW focus
on competition moving to elite performance.
In my earlier letter, I made the comparison with Sporting
Shooters Association of Australia (SSAA) which in the 15 years
to 2014 grew from 90 to 165 thousand members. SSAA achieved
its success by providing excellent service, strong communication
and by moving beyond the narrative of elite sport to providing
an identity – ‘shooter’.
I am a sailor, I have been for almost 60 years and as such,
I will die.
I learned about boats, the smell of new sawn timber and
varnish, as a boy. I gained skills which helped me in adult life,
skills like planning and ‘stickability’ which have served me through
my entire career, not just carpentry and painting. The narrative
of plastic Optis and Lasers and precious little else, excludes the
development of these broader skills.
Two images from last season. A local builder joins the club,
and learns that one youth is building a boat. His simple statement:
“If the lad finishes his boat and wants an apprenticeship, send
him to me.”
A somewhat older youth, who preferred computers to boats,
yes, he got into dentistry, but is struggling, he has yet to develop
the manual skills required.
A boy wielding a saw, may go on to become a carpenter or
a surgeon, it’s a powerful image, one with immediate appeal to
parents and one that our clubs should be in a position to foster
in the winter periods. Thus sailing remains in the consciousness
of new participants. It is far easier to give up sailing and sell the
Optimist you have outgrown, than to sell, say a Heron, which
you and your parents built.
What can YNSW do for me?
My answer. “Learn to walk and chew gum!”
Elite competition is an essential part of sailing’s mix, but to
achieve growth and vitally for our sport and replace the cadre
of older sailors who lead the clubs but are now approaching the
finish of their careers, we need more.
For me, YNSW can achieve this by adopting a richer narrative
of sailing. We need a modern equivalent of Swallows and Amazons
to fire the imagination of a new generation of youngsters, we
need new opportunities which were once represented by sheds of
young men building Skates and scow Moths through the winter,
and bound in friendship as well as glue for a lifetime.
Finally, I would remind YNSW that Squash was and is a
great game, but it is now a shadow of the sport with clubs in
YA and YNSW has the responsibility to ensure that sailing
does not decline to such irrelevance. To do that, they must
acknowledge that ‘business as usual’ is not an option.
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