With the season finishing early due to the Covid-19 lockdown, we have an opportunity as a club to take a good look at who our membership/user group is, what our aims/priorities are, what challenges we face and what we want the club to look like in 5 or 10 years time.
The starting point is a general NYC Members and Users Survey:
This invites people to look at the various areas of club activity and provide feedback, ideas and suggestions. It was launched on 3rd April. As of the 18th April 2020 there were 92 respondents. We will keep this survey open until we complete all surveys. It takes most people ~15 minutes.
The diagram below was used to visualise the different areas of club activity:
Based on responses to the first survey we produced a follow-up survey focusing on ‘Club Sailing Activity’. This looks at Sailing School activity, Saturday club racing, and the progression between the two; as well as volunteering, which were identified as the top issues in the initial survey. We left out ‘Regattas’ at this stage. The survey was launched on the 18th April 2020.
Within the survey there are a couple of sections where we wanted to include more information to provide context and provoke thought. In order to keep the survey shorter, this information is provided here:
SO, what is ‘Club Sailing Activity’?
A potential definition might be, “All organised sailing activity that a club member or visitor participates in at/from Nelson Yacht Club”. This would include:
- NYC Sailing School activities (7 days a week operations run on behalf of the club by Nelson Watersports Ltd)
- NBYTRA activities (4 afternoons and Sunday each week during term)
- NYC Saturday Club Racing (Weekly on Saturdays)
- NYC hosted regattas
- Sailability Nelson activities (Fortnightly on Sundays)
- Nelson Watersports windsurfing activities
Members also participate in free-sailing / training at/from the club that is not organised sailing activity.
Based on the above definition, Saturday afternoon club racing currently makes up a very small proportion of the overall club sailing activity. In fact, excluding the odd well-attended club racing day, there are normally more people and sailing craft on the water on every other day of the week (excluding Thursdays when there is the Port Nelson Sea Swim).
Individuals will likely interpret this in both positive and negative ways, but there is no doubt that the level of activity aligns pretty well with the club’s Mission Statement.
The current level of overall club sailing activity is also vital to ensuring that Nelson Yacht Club can maintain its position/location on such a prime piece of real estate on the waterfront. With the NCC lease up for renewal in a few years, we need to be maximising the value of our facility to the community and ensuring that it is well maintained and thriving.
The colourful activity on the water, and the exposure of kids and adults to the marine environment and the sport/recreation of sailing are also of real benefit to the Nelson region.
It is something that we should all feel a sense of ownership of and take pride in!
Classes/Divisions, Cups & Trophies
With the exception of the laser fleet, there are few classes racing at the club that regularly have more than a couple of sailors on any given Saturday. In many clubs around the world this problem is dealt with by racing different classes against each other in divisions. For example, you might have:
- a Junior Handicap Division for boats such as Optimists, P Class, O’Pen Skiff etc…;
- a Slow Handicap Division for boats such as Starlings, Topazes etc…;
- a Medium Handicap Division for boats such as Europes, Lasers 420s etc…; and,
- a Fast Handicap Division for boats such as FDs, Cats & Skiffs.
Boats allocated to a Division would be in the same start and sail the same course as each other each week, and the finishing times would be adjusted by a time correction factor (TCF) to handicap the different boats against each other and give them a place within the division. Whether this is a performance adjusted handicap or a static handicap like a Portsmouth or Weymouth Yardstick is of course a whole different debate.
We could potentially simplify our programme, and prizegiving by consolidating all general club racing pre-Christmas into a “Spring Series” and all general club racing post Christmas into a “Summer Series”.
We would still retain the Harbour Championships Series, and the various speciality races.
We would also still be able to recognise sailors by class at prizegiving. Ie. for each series we could have a trophy for the top boat in each class as normal.
Volunteering & Duties
The club racing that everyone participates in is of course completely run by volunteers (us), and having sufficient skilled and experienced people is SO important, both in terms of the safety of the sailors and the quality of racing.
Somehow we need to change the perception amongst some that taking your turn to make club racing happen is a grind. We need to turn it into being a pleasure and something that people look forward to. I think this comes down to a few key things:
- More people racing = more volunteers = less duties
- Improved organisation of resources – patrol boats, marks, duty rosters etc…
- More training opportunities for members and volunteers – patrol boat driving, being a Race Officer etc…
- Clear pathways for volunteers.
- Sailors thanking and valuing the volunteers who ran the days racing – putting boats away etc…
It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that they contribute to the running of the club racing as well as encouraging and assisting less experienced people to gain confidence and become more involved. By being supportive and welcoming we will attract and keep more volunteers and reduce the number of days each sailor might have to do. I suspect this survey will show that members who are sailing more often are also more likely to volunteer to help run club racing, so if we can increase participation in Saturday club racing we’ll be moving in the right direction.
Different ways of running the volunteer roster have been tried in the past and they all have their strengths and weaknesses. A couple of options are:
- Duty Fleets. This is where the responsibility for arranging an RO and crews is delegated to the Fleet Representative. It works fantastically well when there is a healthy fleet, and good communication from an organised and motivated Fleet Rep. It can also give a great sense of bonding to a fleet to organise the days racing together, and means that the whole fleet is not sailing/competing for anything on their Duty day so no-one is disadvantaged by doing their duty. However, when a fleet is lacking numbers or experience it can start to fall apart.
- A general roster. This could be as simple as a Google Sheet drawn up from the list of active sailors and the responsibility would lie with each individual to swap any days they couldn’t do with another sailor/parent. However, it would take someone to manage it, it runs the risk of people forgetting/no-shows, and the balance of experience may change as people swap. On the positive side it will enable more interaction between fleets, but on the negative you can lose the fleet bonding experience of working together. You also need to factor in sailors being unable to take part in a number of races in a series that they are competing in. This is REALLY hard to do fairly.