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Discussion Starter #1
There has been an ongoing discussion about the decline of racing - on Salinet (a few times) and on SA (most of the time). Many are trying to come up with ways to increase the interest and participation in the sport both here in the US and it worldwide.

The main question in this debate is: why the decline?

My sacrilegious hunch? It's all pretty damn boring from a spectator standpoint. I mean - SUPER boring.

I watched the Olympics sailing events. Boring. I've watched many of the SA videos of various races. Boring. You've got a pack of smallish boats moving at 6-12 knots (if that) around a course. It's all kinda like watching this crap:



And now, as US27 just pointed out in another thread, "Morning Light" was COMPLETELY ignored. Disney's sailing movie for the masses...canned.

On the other hand, you've got extremely exciting and compelling races like the VOR and the Vendee. DEFINITELY NOT BORING. And they are covered pretty well. These events, in my opinion, could attract a far wider audience and interest in the sport. But these haven't been able to bust through to wide coverage (at least not here in the US). Why?

Now racing is obviously appealing to racers themselves. But that's obviously not enough to regenerate a dying sport. It's gotta be about the spectator I think.

To that end, I know exactly what I'm talking about here - because I AM a spectator (not a racer). I love sailing. I've learned a bit about it. I have a boat and I sail it (at a greenhorn level). And, though I've never "formally" raced, I'd like to eventually do it for kicks (although more passage racing than course racing). So - this makes me a truly vested spectator.

So the first question is...why is anyone surprised that lower tier racing is dying when it's so damn boring to watch? And the second question is...how can the more exciting races be promoted to build general interest - and eventually feed the lower tier stuff?
 

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Smack...

I don't watch much sports on TV, but I am interested in and would watch sailboat racing and bicycle racing.

Both of those sports get very poor, if any, coverage in the US. I've "heard" neither of them are all that interesting to Americans (our notoriously short attention spans???).

I've also heard they're very expensive to cover on TV because of the equipment involved over large courses/venues. The Tour de France comes to mind. What coverage we do get to see is pooled video, which strikes me as an ideal way to spread the cost. Do they do the same for sailing coverage?

There's no question the interest of the masses for either of these two sports cannot rival those getting the top TV coverage in the US. I think most folks, since they don't participate, don't understand the rules and tactics of the sports. I think a simple introduction to the sports televised early in the season would go a long way to increase interest.

Finally, the sports federations could also do a lot to raise interest. In bicycle racing, for example, I (and others I know) have lost interest because the federations are making a pharmaceutical farce of their sport.

In sailing, the AC coverage a few years ago was stalled what seemed like forever because they couldn't decide if they were going to race on a day-by-day basis. I was interested in watching but eventually lost interest.

About once per week, I go on the Internet TV guide and search "sailing" and "yachting", rarely finding anything (watched Captain Ron again last night!!!).

It'll be interesting to see the comments to this thread you've opened!!!

Thanks,
Paul
 

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Smack,

I haven't seen the A-S thread. But it's not just the racing -- it's sailing in general. The decline is inter-related, but I will try to keep the comments specific to racing.

I disagree that it's the "boring" factor. Racing is actually a blast, not so much to watch, but to participate in. The fact that it is not a spectator sport is one aspect that makes racing so much fun to engage in.

Because it's a "participation" sport, it's like being part of an exclusive club, or secret society if you will. There is an immense exhilaration and adrenaline rush that is hard to achieve elsewhere, made more special by the knowledge that our land-bound brethren can never understand it. Successfully executing a port-pole-starboard-set of the spinnaker at the crowded windward mark, then surfing it down to the leeward mark, peeling it, then snugging down smartly for the windward slog again -- it's hard to beat without bumping up to some of the seriously dangerous activities, like base jumping.

But you're right. It's in decline. And the primary reason in my opinion is the advent of "sport boats" and the costs associated with campaigning them successfully.

When I first got into it, the racing circuit was dominated by typical production boats of the "club racer" variety. These were boats that could be both competitively raced under various rating systems (PHRF, Portsmouth, etc) AND comfortably cruised by a family. Pearsons, Catalinas, Beneteaus, various J-Boats, Frers, NYs, Rangers, Albergs, etc etc etc.

In days past, it was not uncommon to see some racers towing dinghies, particularly on the port-to-port or "destination" races. Folks sailed the sails they had, upgrading a single sail every couple years to both stay reasonably competitive and keep it affordable. Many of the crews were just families, or a bunch of friends out for fun and competition. The boats had decent accommodations, so staying overnight on the boats was pretty typical.

By the mid-90's or so, "sport boats" had very much arrived on scene. These designs took sailing to another level of speed and competition. No question, they are fun and fast to sail. But all that performance came at a big price -- and to stay competitive in these one-design fleets sails and other equipment need to be upgraded constantly.

It's like an arms race. Very expensive, constantly draining resources. And, increasingly, those without the unlimited resources simply turn away, with the knowledge that they don't have the big wallets and simply can't be competitive.

Also, unlike the club racers of yesteryear, the sport boats are minimally "accommodated", and as such they are no longer a destination unto themselves, but function simply as a platform to complete a race. They are not an inviting destination where a family or friends linger to commiserate about the race, or simply enjoy the camaraderie of fellow sailors and the innate satisfaction of being aboard a well-found vessel. They are a different breed of boat, a "let's get on and off quickly " sort. Something inherent and essential to the "sailing experience" is lost.

So it's been my general impression -- obviously not one I've worked hard to articulate given the lack of coherence here -- that sport boats and their ilk have been bad for racing and sailing in general. There are other factors in play, of course -- some more in the domain of "cruising" -- but that's a larger topic.
 

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Racing and sailing in general seem to be on the upswing here in the midwest. Our Commodore's Cup race on labor day weekend was bigger than ever last year. People were lined up on the deck at the clubhouse and had lawn chairs set up on the hill. Most of them might have been waiting for the final boat to cross the finish line so the party could start, but hey, whatever it takes.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
John - I think you bring up an excellent point. Sport/race boats and super-high technology are not what it's about. Okay - so your race boat weighs as much as a meth-addict-anorexic because EVERYTHING is made out of CF. Who cares? It still only goes 14 knots!!! It's not exactly an F1 machine...right?

I think that's why the Vendee and VOR are so appealing. It's not really about the boats per se - it's about the BIG sailing. Watching expensive boats crowd around a mark in relative slow motion is not fun (though I grant it is surely a major blast actually DOING it as you say). On the other hand, watching a single-hander slam through 30 foot seas down around the 30's at even 10 knots is pretty damn amazing.

But then you get into the technology issues...like the weight factors (who want's to add the weight of production equipment to their boat for the Vendee? How would you "crew" it?) - and the technical logistics of covering something like that (great analysis BTW AE).

So it's definitely about the "destination races" as you say John - not the club stiuff. But the question is - to AE's point - how do we cover these kinds of races to make them exciting?

Chall - if you read this chime in. You're in the biz. It would be great to hear your perspective!
 

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Yacht racing will never be a major spectator sport in this country, because people who have never sailed can't relate to it. In order to really get into a sport, you have to relate to it. You can't really relate to a sport unless you have played it, and most people in this country have never sailed. Even many cruising sailors don't understand the appeal of racing a sailboat. People who have never played golf often can't understand it's attraction, because they don't appreciate how difficult it is to hit that little white ball, and make it travel the right distance in the right direction. People who love a sport don't care whether spectators enjoy watching it. They play the sport purely for the love of the sport.

Yacht racing is not a physical sport. It's a cerebral sport. It's an extremely complex sport. The winner of a yacht race is not the one who is strongest or most fleet of foot. The winner is the smartest racer who knows the most, and who accurately reads the wind and the course conditions and uses that information most efficiently to move the boat from point A to point B.

Smack, I hear what you're saying, but I think I know enough about you from your participation on this forum to be able to say with confidence that, if you ever get on a racing sailboat and participate in some races, you'll be bitten by it. It's difficult to describe the thrill of sailing in the queue before the start of a race, weaving in and out through dozens of big, expensive boats, and maneuvering the boat into the best position for the start. As the start nears, the boats are all maneuvering aggressively to get into the one ideal spot to cross the line, but they obviously can't all be there at once, so they start yelling rules at each other, and it becomes a test of wills. The mark roundings in a big race are exciting, as 3 or 4 boats hit the mark together, and fight for room and position. Good racers will be constantly adjusting sail trim, playing the sails in and out to maximize boat speed all around the course, and to keep the boat driving in light air or in choppy seas.

Crew on some racing boats in a few races with decent winds, and you'll be hooked. Most people don't enjoy light air racing, because it's the most difficult to do, and not many people are good at it, but, if you learn how to keep the boat moving in light air, you'll love it as much as racing in big winds. Yacht racing isn't about speed - it's about skill.
 

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There has been an ongoing discussion about the decline of racing - on Salinet (a few times) and on SA (most of the time). Many are trying to come up with ways to increase the interest and participation in the sport both here in the US and it worldwide.

The main question in this debate is: why the decline?
We pretty much quit racing when it got to the point that one needed to carry a copy of the Racing Rules in the cockpit to compete. It reached a point where, following every race, there was a 2-3 hour lag from finish to posting race results while Protest Committee's held their hearings, awarded redress etc. That plus the fact that there were always a few people willing to do anything to gain what they percieved to be an advantage without regard to the possible damage or injury they might cause to another's yacht or crew. We finally said the heck with it. When the sportsmanship goes out of the sport, it just ain't fun.

FWIW...

s/v HyLyte
 

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Smack,

I guess a point I didn't make too well in my previous post is that sailboat racing has NEVER been a spectator sport (not in the conventional, mainstream sense, anyway), yet in decades past participation was much higher.

In trying to come up with an explanation for the decline, we should be looking at what has changed in the sport between then and now. The lack of spectators is a constant, not a new factor.
 

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We should recognize that extrinsics significantly effect sailing and sailboat racing. As the population in the US ages participation is falling for sailing and most other active sports: skiing, golf, tennis, etc. Certainly the societal shift to a longer workweek and to the two earner households make time goblers such as sailing harder to schedule. Even our children's fully booked schedules makes it difficult for them to find time to sail with their family.

We should also look at what's working. One obvious bright spot is time-shared racing of boats like the Ideal 18, where the club owns and maintains the boats. These boats aren't particularly high performance but maintenance is farmed out, costs are reasonable, the vagaries of PHRF handicapping and the Portsmouth Yardstick are eliminated, and short courses ensure tight mark roundings. You just punk down your money and pick the night of the week you want to race.

A similar if less dramatic bright spot in our area is weeknight racing of the PHRF fleet. It has almost totally eclipsed weekend regattas.
 

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PJ O'rourke really nailed it:

"The America's Cup is like driving your Lamborghini to the Grand Prix track to watch the charter buses race."

It is a rich man's sport.
It is a slow, rich man's sport.
It is a slow, boring, rich man's sport.
It is a slow, boring, big, rich man's sport.

Which conspires against success with the masses, which means success on TV, and vice versa.
What the sport needs is the equivalent of NASCAR. Short races, small courses, easily televised, with some personality.

Better yet, get rid of all of the rules, the handicapping, the protests, the pedigrees, the egos, the attitudes the challenges, the yacht clubs, and start a new series with a real simple premise:

40' length. 9' beam. No more, no less. Weight, balance, rig, is all open. Oh yeah, trapezes are mandatory- it makes slow look fast and exciting,and this is all about the visuals. This will appeal to the novice spectator, who has no idea what a 12 metre boat is, or a one ton, but understands and covets a 40 foot yacht- THAT he gets, and his eyeballs are what the sport needs to get, so make it simple, not elitist. Also, it means that the boats can be land transported from race to race, increasing eyeball exposure, acting as billboards for the series.


Hull cost under 6 figures. No privateers, all hulls must carry sponsorship, but no sponsorship can be greater than $25k. One hull per team per season. You break it, you fix it, or drop out. Two suites of sails per season. It keeps the costs contained and the racing interesting.

a crew of 4. no more, no less.

Three cameras per boat, on every boat, with open mics. When you hear the scrambling, the yelling, the cursing, the skewed POV from a trapeze, slow can be gripping and exciting.

Small course. Helicopters are expensive, so aerial, big picture coverage is expensive. A small three point course can be covered by a blimp or a drone.

A race every weekend, from harbourfronts, not club based. Inland as well as ocean racing. Maximum exposure, and maximum excitement. You could create a freshwater/saltwater rivalry- How well do you think Dennis Conner would do on Lake Lanier, for example?

No qualifying. If you can raise the budget, and outfit the boat, you can race. period. Maybe it will get a little more personality into a bland sport.
 

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Yacht racing will never be a major spectator sport in this country, because people who have never sailed can't relate to it. In order to really get into a sport, you have to relate to it. You can't really relate to a sport unless you have played it, and most people in this country have never sailed.
S'mon:
I'm not really sure I agree with you. I can't prove it, but I believe the VAST majority of folks who watch basketball, football and/or baseball have never played the game(s) beyond sandlot.
:)
Paul
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Compare the Vendee and the VOR (especially the Vendee) to an Everest expedition or even to crab fishing in the Bering sea. How many in the audiences for these shows/events have ever done these things - how many really understand the intricacies of crab fishing or mountaineering? So I don't buy the premise that it can only be an insider thing - or that it's intrinsically boring.

I think it's about the coverage of the extreme side of the sport. That's what draws interest and eyeballs. How do you make a "Deadliest Catch"/"Beyond the Limit" out of the Vendee or VOR?
 

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Racing is in decline because the cost is FUBAR ABSURD

We are still planing are Block Island Race Week and when the total cost came out we decided to stop the bus and think about it for a week

Just to enter the boat ,dock it and THEN buy tickets (70 bucks per person) for the daily awards and a drink is 3000 dollars

Then you have to rent a house and rent a ferry ride for your car to bring food because the local food prices are about double (about 800 bucks per crew )

So your looking at spending and easy 7000 dollars


I dont want to even think what people who truck around a big boat are spending :)
 

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I think it's the camera technology and bandwidth for the video links. Look at professional poker. Poker as a sport was nothing until you got to see the hole cards. The same could be done for boats. 3 self-leveling cameras minimum, one at the helm, one wide-angle at the mast top (for rounding marks), one at the instruments and winch grinders. Live microphones.

All of Nascar uses multiple laps. The courses for sailboat racing should need to go through 50 laps, so crews have to deal with crowds and boats of differing speeds. Now THAT would make it interesting. With that many laps, the course could be other than a triangle too. Make it a square or an octagon. (We are talking about releatively low speeds, so make it a figure 8 and you'd really have some fun!)

It also needs a person who does for sailboat racing what Madden did for football -- live explanations for why certain things were happening.

Think of sea-side stadiums and crowds of people. The air-races got this right, when they went from Reno to towns/waterfronts all over.

Right now, it's as interesting to watch as the Boston marathon. I mean, who has watched even a piece of the Boston marathon, let alone hours of it?
 

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I've watched a few marathons before. Frankly, like golf, IF you understands what is going on, while watching someone "jog" per say for 26 miles does not seem interesting, it is in that you do see the people tire, how their arms start to tire, stride sometimes becomes off beat, watch carefully you see how the sun, heat and humidity in some area's start to screw up the runners system, concentration and breathing etc.

Having watched some of the Key west vids by jobson, those are interesting to some degree too, listening, watching etc. BUT, like all things, it can get better! cams are getting smaller, remember when the indy 500 got its first cam in the cockpit? Or foot ball with a helmet cam too!

The other that needs to happen, is NOT just show the big boys at these events, granted it is fun to see the J-Boats like now at Antigua, or the AC boats, V70's etc, but even watching the lasers etc at the olympics was fun, when I could get a good feed, and not have delays. The folks talking about wind shifts, why one person went this way, another that way etc.

But, to some degree things need to calm down in cost. Not sure that the Mumm 30. Laser SB3 type boats are/were good for the sport, I am in the yes/no camp. Altho the old IOR boats initially with the cheaper fiberglass boats of the late 60's into the 70's WAS good for the sport, altho probably some of the WORST designed boats in may years, if not century's! came out of this era.

The current IRC boats IMHO are what we need. A bit of a throw back to IOR, where a fast boat with a reasonably decent interior is to be expected in the design. Now if the prices could get down so that the ave person could afford one! this might help.

Now for kicks and giggles, any one know what the most popular sport was in 1900?










hit the birdie! hit the birdie!
 

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The laments of the decline of racing sail boats is akin to wondering why Disco died... how could it?

IMHO - just too expensive, and practically every local race requires one to be a member of a club (like the old days of golf), renew up certs every year... and the rating system sucks for anything not competing in a OD category. Coupled with the fact weekends and jobs are not what they were in previous eras (is there really a 9 to 5 job anymore) - that also leaves the timing, acquirement of crew etc...
 

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I'd like to add that the IRC is contributing to the demise of racing by diluting the pool of possible racers. With PHRF, local conditions and results of the BOAT determine the rating, (in theory, at least). So if you aren't such a great sailor, you can't buy a trophy, regardless of the boat you buy. There are TENS OF THOUSANDS of PHRF racers in the US, so there is more competition for the three prize-winning slots awarded in most races. IRC sets up a separate division so you can race against fewer contestants. This essentially guarantees more silver to those wanting less actual competition. Compare the numbers of PHRF (and equivalent) and IRC certificates, worldwide. If you can afford an exorbitant "measurement fee" for what is supposed to be a state-of-the-art secret rule that changes every year so you need a new boat every year to be competitive, go ahead. PHRF represents the reality of actual results and real sailors who are interested in testing their skills. IRC gives those who want to buy silver for their mantlepieces an option that isn't available with PHRF. In order to have enough boats to make a decent fleet, Race Committees have been pressured by IRC to require boats (like mine) which are fast enough to be competitive to race under IRC. I refuse to get an IRC certificate, and therefore only race in PHRF competitions. There may be many more sailors like me out there. We want to race, but not under conditions dictated by an outfit in London which seems to favor those with deeper pockets than ours. This may be why there is a "decline" in racing.

On another level, perhaps it depends upon what you count as "racing". If you only count America's Cup, racing in 2008 was... nonexistant. If you count every dinghy at each three-minute frostbite start, 2008 numbers could be huge. Perhaps people have been chased out of cruising boat competition by the high costs of trying to compete under a consistantly changing IRC rule that requires new boats all the time, and they are racing dinghies instead. People are still competitive. Let's keep our eyes open and see what positive trends we can capitalize on.
 

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Simple math.

youth sailboat sailing - $$$$
youth basketball...$12 at walmart for a ball and a public park
 

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Newport-to-Ensenada Yacht Race Runs into Head Winds

Here's an exerpt from the LA Times on the pettyness surrounding the Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race:

The number of entries is down amid the sinking economy and a fear of Mexico's drug violence. Now, a competing race is being launched at the same time amid a simmering feud.

By Mike Anton
6:51 PM PDT, April 22, 2009
The annual Newport-to-Ensenada International Yacht Race has long been to competitive sailing what Olympic swimming would be if Michael Phelps shared the pool with a gaggle of guys in inner tubes towing a keg of beer.

Some take what's billed as the largest international yacht race seriously. Most, however, treat it as a floating party. Running out of wind at sea is an obstacle second to running out of adult beverages.

Not this year. The sinking economy and a fear of Mexico's drug violence have buffeted the 62nd annual race. The number of entries is down -- about 270 are expected compared with nearly 400 last year -- and the crowd of people who have traditionally driven to Ensenada for a weekend of partying is expected to be considerably thinner.

If the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and spiraling narco wars weren't enough, organizers are dealing with a third headache: a long-simmering feud between a handful of sailors that will boil over into public view at 11 a.m. Friday, an hour before the race begins.

That is when more than 100 boats will take off from Newport Beach in the inaugural Border Run. Billed as the beginning of a "new tradition," the race, which finishes with a party in San Diego, is the outgrowth of a dispute between a Huntington Beach boat designer and the nonprofit Newport Ocean Sailing Assn., which denied him entry into its Ensenada race.

At issue is whether Randy Reynolds' R33 twin-hulled catamaran -- likened to a Ferrari on water -- is unsafe because it is prone to capsizing. The Newport sailing association believes it is. Reynolds insists it is not.

Ensenada race officials say the Border Run -- which has been promoted, in part, as being "safer" than venturing into Mexico -- is a crass and bitter attempt by Reynolds to undermine a venerable Southern California tradition.

Reynolds said he is only trying to promote competitive sailing by offering an option that welcomes all boats. He dismisses the men who run the Newport sailing association, who are on the down slope of middle age and use the salutation commodore, as "the blue blazers" -- an old-guard out of touch with today's adrenaline-fueled action sports.

"We're the crazy people," said Reynolds, who is 53 but comes across as having the aggressiveness of a 23-year-old. "We like speed."

Critics say Reynolds is being uncorinthian -- a smack down that would leave most landlubbers reaching for a dictionary.

"In sailing, when you say someone is being uncorinthian, you're saying the person does not conduct themselves in a gentlemanly manner," said Jerry Montgomery, a retired government attorney who is this year's Newport-to-Ensenada uber commodore. "Scheduling another race on the same day was just wrong -- an in-your-face spiteful thing."

Politics pervades the culture of sailing -- from local yacht clubs competing for prominent members to the ongoing legal war between racing syndicates from three nations over the next America's Cup, the sport's premier event.

Earlier this month, a New York court ruled against a Spanish sailing club and said billionaire software mogul Larry Ellison's U.S. team and his backers have the right to negotiate terms for the next race with the current Swiss-backed champions.

The hubbub over this year's conflicting armadas shoving off from Newport Beach is being played out in Internet chat rooms where sailors take on serious issues (the actual danger of traveling to Baja) as well as juvenile ones (offensive swipes at each other's heterosexuality.)

"It's like being back in high school," Reynolds said. "It's crazy."

The 125-nautical-mile Newport-to-Ensenada race is steeped in history. First run in 1948, the event has attracted celebrities such as Humphrey Bogart and Walter Cronkite, as well as serious racers including America's Cup winner Dennis Conner, Roy Disney and the late Steve Fossett.
 

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I joke around with my friend when they ask if I'll be sailing this weekend. I tell them sailing in the US is illegal, and I'm still doing it, but don't tell anyone.

Compare costs to any other sport. Start up and or maintenance costs. Either is a nail in the coffin. That pretty much covers sailing. Not to mention the time it takes. A race isn't going to end in an hour and a half like soccer.

Racing, let me put it this way, I wanted to do the Annapolis to Newport race. Oh, you need a life raft. $30 per crew member including skipper, plus $575 registration fee, and a minimum 30' LOA boat. Plus slip and or launching fees. Oh and that's assuming you're sleeping on your boat. This does not include food, party tickets, or beer.

1.50 / ft for transient slip in annapolis (yeah right) = $45 one day
1.50 / ft for transient slip in newport (yeah right) = $45 one day
reg. fee = $575
6 crew members = $180
life raft rental = $100-200 for 6 person?

You're looking at $1,000 without buying food, beer, party tickets, or a single hotel room. Let me ask this, what the HELL does my $575 pay for? Why are they charging my crew $30 a head? These things should be spelled out, and public information. Sailing is expensive enough w/o organizers trying to retire early after hosting one event.

Southern bay race week? $140 entry fee + slip fees for 3 days of racing + slip fees for 2 days of travel, oh yeah, and they charge you for party tickets, and then you still have to pay for your beers. For what? A POS (piece of silver)? Give me a nylon ribbon, a pat on the head, and 2 free drink tickets. These entry fees are rediculous, and the number one reason I can't make the larger events.

I want to race, closest one to me would require me to give up my FREE slip and pay for one on Solomon's island. Southern Maryland Sailing association member costs $440. Ummm why? I have my own f*(king boat? For me, I get a huge discount of $220 just b/c I'm under 30. You know what, I'm actually considering spending that obscene amount of money so I can race on a regular basis with my own boat (which will give newbies a chance to get into racing).

Sailing has been an elitists sport for far to long, and the "haves" like it that way. It keeps the "have nots" off the water and out of the YC.
 
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