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. Yacht crewing is potentially a very accessible way into the sport. Some time ago BMYC realised that some of the bigger racing yachts were struggling for crew and as a result less likely to race. It was evident that there was a lack of skilled crew available, so the club decided to do something about it. This led BMYC to start a programme called ‘Club Class’ billed as a Yacht Racing Appreciation course.
BMYC put together a 6 week (1/2 days) programme for novice or inexperienced ailors. The programme would be delivered on Saturday mornings by experienced skippers volunteering with their boats. Throughout the duration of the course the new sailors would get to experience different types of craft and learn all of the basics from ‘winch procedure’ to ‘gybing the spinnaker’. The Club now runs this programme in the spring and in the autumn. There is no advertising, but due to the success of the course there is no shortage of participants. The club caps the numbers at 40 and charges £130 per head for the six weeks. This price includes 3 months membership. Out of the 40 initial participants they consistently end up with about 15-20% joining the club as full members and sailing regularly. Not only does the club benefit from having more crew available for the racing and as a result more yachts racing it also brings in a significant amount of revenue.
BMYC is a racing club, many of the participants on the ‘club class’ programme decide that racing isn’t for them and drop out. BMYC is looking at linking with a cruising club to help these non-racers continue sailing. There are challenges associated with running this type of programme including: finding volunteers willing to help with the delivery. Ensuring that the new crew get opportunities after the course, getting skippers to accept relatively novice crew, ensuring that the new crew are welcomed in to the club and are fully involved.