“It's so much more friendly with two.” Wise words from Piglet, and when it comes to sailing clubs working together, Winnie the Pooh’s pal could have a very good point…
Being part of a vibrant club with a strong identity is all part of the enjoyment of membership. But could more clubs look beyond their own boundaries to extend opportunities for their members to challenge themselves and enjoy sailing on different waters, without travelling miles, to keep them motivated and involved.
Staunton Harold and Notts County would certainly agree with Piglet’s sentiment after teaming up to provide a new racing opportunity to their members this winter. We take a look at what they did, why they did it and how you could adapt it too.
The East Midlands clubs, situated 30 miles apart either side of the M1, have each traditionally run big club events in the winter – the Staunton Blaster and the County Cooler. When Notts County started planning theirs this year they contacted Staunton to avoid a date clash. From there the idea of having joint events, open to members of both clubs, grew and was backed by both sailing committees.
The thinking was in the slack periods after Christmas many would like to get out racing but lack the incentive, while individual clubs can find it hard to justify a race series with relatively few sailors the water. Joining up makes it worthwhile for all.
Entry for members of both clubs was free and the format was agreed as handicap racing, plus one pursuit race. Prizes would be nominal and the events were open for to both dinghies and windsurfers (a first for the Staunton Blaster).
In total the events attracted 50 entries, including a handful of sailors from other clubs. But in addition to the extra competitiveness and friendly rivalry that a joint event spawns, there were plenty of other constructive spins offs too.
As Notts County’s David Eberlin explains: “The bosuns took it as an opportunity to see and swap methods on how they organised safety and training, meaning both clubs benefited from an exchange of ideas. Ideas were also shared on club management and racing just from the social time afterwards in the clubhouse.
“The joint hosting also encouraged sailors from both clubs to travel to other clubs when they may not have done before. We've certainly seen more Notts County members travelling to Staunton’s Fireball/ Scorpion event, and no doubt a few more Staunton members will join the Notts County Scorpion event in May.”
Andy Foskett, Staunton Harold’s stand-in R.C. Sailing, added: “The events worked because they felt special, had big event appeal, and by organising evening entertainment after each they were very sociable. It was great for everyone to have the chance to meet new sailors and to be able to share knowledge and experiences.”
Both clubs are very keen to do the Cooler/Blaster again next year, while David thinks it could grow to be a regional winter series if other local clubs are interested too.
Neither club is a stranger to local partnership working with both being involved in tripartite interclub events every summer. However these are one-off racing days, and both David and Andy agreed that introducing a new series in the summer months could be more difficult on what are already packed calendars.
However that’s not to say clubs couldn’t get together in a similar way to run local mini-series for new sailors, ladies groups or inexperienced juniors, for example.
So could you do more to work closely with clubs local to you?
Gareth Brookes, RYA Regional Development Officer, concludes: “Factoring interclub activity into calendars is a great way of diversifying your members’ experiences. We know to keep people as regular sailors they need to stay interested and that comes from feeling challenged and that they can keep learning and progressing.
“Notts County and Staunton Harold have come up with a simple solution; by combining two existing events into one mini-series they have given their members something new at a time of year they might never have considered going sailing.
“As clubs and sailors you only get better by creating and taking part in more racing opportunities and learning from others. Initiatives like this can really benefit the sport across the region.”
*photo credit - David Eberlin/Notts County SC