Introduction to yacht racing


Case study: Port Edgar Yacht Club (PEYC) & Port Edgar Sailing School (PESS)

People generally perceive sailing to be an expensive sport to get into, but many don’t realise that there are opportunities to get involved at minimal cost.  Many Yacht Clubs have regular racing activities in their sailing programme however it is not always that easy to find enough crew or if you are a crew member, to develop your skills further. Also, if you want to helm, it can be hard to afford, keep and maintain a boat.

PEYC wanted to increase participation generally and especially in mid-week sailing events as the turnout was dwindling. They also saw that the general usage of the club was down, so they formed an ‘ideas group’. The group wanted to encourage members and potential members to do training so that existing sailors felt more confident in their abilities and therefore enjoyed the sport more.They also wanted to create opportunities for new sailors to learn, cruise and race.  Whilst the club did not want to become a RYA training centre themselves, they saw the benefit of linking in with an established sailing school. The RYA school saw benefits for its customers as it allowed a pathway for those entering the sport through the school to join a club and develop their skills.

PEYC and PESS decided on a joint project using four Hunter 707 keelboats. Two would be provided by the school and two buy the club. PESS would maintain and moor the boats to reduce the running costs, in return PEYC would have an agreement to use them at prearranged times. This allowed both parties to use the boats for training courses and create a four boat one design class for evening and midweek racing.  The 707 was chosen because it was cost effective, sailed well with a crew of three or four - just like a small cruiser but was far enough removed from a dinghy to keep you a little drier but retained the buzz.

The club programme would be delivered by experienced sailors using the 707’s.  Throughout the training the new sailors would get to sail, helm and learn skippering techniques on the 707’s. The result is that an extra 16 people are out sailing each week on the boats.  The 707’s were also available for members to sail on a pay-as-you-go basis at a cost of £25 per use, so long as you are an ‘accredited helm’ who has been checked out by the club.

Due to its success there is no shortage of potential participants. An evening talk entitled ‘crew to race’ attracted 100 attendees. Not only does the club benefit from having more crew available for racing and as a result more yachts racing, it also brings in a significant amount of revenue.

Learning points

  • PEYC formed an action group to look at ways to increase participation.
  • Don’t be afraid to link in with outside bodies to help achieve your aim. Getting people in sailing and keeping them there is important for all people in the marine industry.
  • Be flexible with membership, encourage more people in.
  • Make sure there are opportunities for the new participants after the course.