CHANGE THE GAME?
Fall: If you’re a regatta organizer, maybe now is the perfect time to consider something new.
By Rusty Rutherford, West Coast USA Sales Manager
As summer turns to fall, it’s a good time to look back at your summer regatta schedule and look at the turnout. We’re sailors here at Harken, and we love our sport. So we hope participation broke all of your historical records. If that didn’t happen, there’s been talk around the Harken beer machine about what can be done.
Our advice: Zag when you would normally zig. Use autumn to take a crazy regatta flyer. Dream up something new.
A dozen windward-leeward courses with an offset and a leeward gate is many people’s idea of the best way to separate the best from the rest. But to others, a two hour race around 13 different marks involving the diverse currents of two rivers and the stage of the tide is a much more interesting. We think the following events are on to something.
• The Chicago Yacht Club recently organized an event with an innovative format, called simply The Chicago Regatta. Entry fee, no. Charitable donation, yes. There were course racing and distance race options. Integrated was an RC fleet, even a competitive event for power boaters. What happened? 400+ people showed up at the party and TONS of money was donated. It was a fresh idea.
• For 29 years, the Delta Ditch Run has been a wonderful way for San Francisco Bay Area sailors to start the summer sailing season. Classically, it’s 68 miles of downwind upriver blasting, through an ever-narrowing race course. It’s a grand tradition by now, but there’s not a leeward gate or an offset mark in sight. That’s different. Last June, 109 boats participated.
• The Race to Alaska has been called the ultimate endurance challenge. This one is 750 miles from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska. Orcas? Maybe. Motors? Absolutely not. There were 50 entries last year. Paddling. Rowing. SUPing. Sailing. You can’t mention the R2AK without mentioning the prizes: 1st place, $10,000 if you can get the nail out and get it down. 2nd prize, a pretty good set of steak knives. Crazy? Maybe in a life-changing sort of way.
• At first blush, The Dinghy Race may look conventional. After all, it’s sailed in possibly the most familiar boat in junior sailing, the Club 420. But then it gets…different. Participants sail a 20 mile distance race modeled after a famous around the world race. There’s live streaming video drone footage. And there’s real-time GPS tracking. Last year, 38 teams participated in this soon-to-be classic around Fisher’s Island Sound in Connecticut. Delightfully atypical! The kids we talked to loved it.
Meanwhile, it’s almost October. In California, it’s ever-beautiful, but back in Pewaukee, the air might be chilly but the water’s still warm. Get out there and enjoy the colors, the deep blue sky, beating into the fresh breeze with a football game on the radio. Don’t put the boat away too soon, and do give some thought to some CRAZY innovation for next year’s sailing season. I hope you enjoy the rest of this month’s At The Front.
How do you boost participation?
Mix it up.
Chicago Yacht Club has been searching for the sweet spot. This year’s Chicago Regatta is proof of concept. CYC flipped the switch on the traditional format and is At The Front of a new line of thinking.
The Chicago Regatta is not two days of racing with a dinner party squeezed in between. It’s distance racing, buoy racing, casual racing, remote-controlled Dragon Force 65 racing, a dinghy poker run, a silent auction, a powerboat aspect, and a tour of the beautiful 104’ yacht Whitehawk – all leading up to an incredible gathering of all kinds of boaters at the regatta party. And all for the benefit of three charities who improve the lives of kids in the Chicago area. To us, this seemed like a winning combination to bring more participation into the sport. So we spoke with Event Chair and Past CYC Commodore Greg Miarecki. Here’s what he had to say:
“Our sport is multi-faceted. We have people who like buoy racing, others who like distance racing, and still others who really are just looking for a reason to get out on the water. The standard windward-leeward format simply doesn’t appeal to a lot of boaters, nor is it suitable for some types of boats. The Chicago Regatta was designed to be inclusive, and for that reason, we tried to offer a wide variety of formats. And our experience is that sailors are looking for more than a race when deciding where to spend their valuable time. They’re looking to have some fun, to do something different and interesting, and to be able to connect with other boaters.
“Did this work? I’d say yes. We saw more than 40 boats on our distance race, 30 in the buoy race, and 15 in our casual race, and more than 400 people at the post-race party. We raised approximately $150,000 for our three participating charities. We saw lots of people and boats that we don’t normally see on the race course. I think that shows we are on the right track with the Chicago Regatta format.”
3.. 2.. 1.. LIFTOFF!
Three years ago, the New York Yacht Club began a mission: launch a custom fleet of boats for its prestigious Corinthian competition, the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup. Their efforts came to fruition this September.
In addition to creating an identical fleet of 20 boats for the Invitational Cup, the Club's goal for the project was to create a global class association that keeps a level playing field sustainable for amateur teams of friends and families. They intend to usher in a new era for amateur one-design big-boat racing. The Club lined up expert partners for designing, building, and managing the new boat and class association -- Harken is proud to be an official IC37 supplier and #AtTheFront of this new class from its inception.
The sixth edition of this biennial Corinthian championship was a true test of talent, teamwork and perseverance. Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron took the win in the end, holding off a talented crew from San Diego Yacht Club.
Photo Contest Grand Prize Winner
Pewaukee, the way the locals do it.
What does 'At The Front' mean to you? A few months ago, we asked our social media audience to take us there. We received more than 250 submissions to our Harken At The Front Images Contest - from all around the world and from all kinds of different experiences in sailing. In the end, one photo came out on top. Mike Lechner's winning photo transported him to Pewaukee, Wisconsin for a 'Pewaukee, The Way Locals Do It Weekend.'
Postcards from Mike's Excellent Adventure
Find Harken all over the world. Be sure to follow @harken_inc on Instagram to see the daily stories from The Front.