This is going to be a longer than my usuall long posts, so go get your favorite beverage. I got a private message from a fella that asked me to elaborate a bit on what "getting involved" means. It can mean a lot of different things depending on where you live and the demographics of the sailing crowd, if any. In my opinion, the point of "getting involved" is to have fun, help others have fun, and grow the sport so we and the next generations all have more fun. In my mind, sailing is generally a social sport, more boats on the water equals more fun for all, although there are times when a sailboat can offer some much needed solitude.
More specifically, my definition of, "getting involved" includes joining the class association first and foremost. The Hobie Class Association of North America (HCANA) is our advocate. They publish a first rate class magazine, provide partial funding for area and national championship regattas, provide grants for youth sailors to attend events, and maintain a uniform set of class rules so that we racers can compete on more or less a level playing field, and they provide an extensive website, http://www.hcana.hobieclass.com/
, where we can find notices of current events in the Hobie world and other useful information. Without membership in the HCANA, you're somewhat uninformed and, well, to be honest, it's hard for me, and I'm not speaking for anyone else, to take your critiques seriously. If you’d like to make changes to the HCANA, you need to be a member to have a voice.
Beyond class membership, Hobie fleets, yacht club memberships and other sailing associations offer great ways of getting involved in your local sailing community. Participating in your organization’s events is a great way to meet other people with similar interests. When you feel comfortable with your new fleet or club, volunteer to help organize some of their events. If you enjoy racing, then you know that it takes several volunteers to hold a regatta. However, if you lean too heavily on the same volunteers, they’ll eventually burn out. Every racer ought to jump in and volunteer sometimes. If you have a powerboat , offer it up for race committee or chase boat duty. At Shreveport’s keelboat regatta, my wife and I volunteered for chase boat duty and had a great weekend out on the lake in the Glastron. Even non-racers enjoy supporting regattas. In fact, we have non-sailors who offer powerboat support for all of our regattas.
I’d also like to elaborate a bit more about yacht clubs. You should join one if there’s one within a reasonable distance and if the fees and dues are within your budget. The Shreveport Yacht Club, for example, requires a $500 initiation fee, which may considered be a bit pricey, but after that, for $95/month you get access to a great clubhouse on the lake with beautiful grounds for family activities and a swimming pool. The kitchen provides lunch on the weekends for a modest price and the bar's open five days a week. But get this: members can store their cats mast up on the lawn for an additional $10/month! Traditionally, Hobie sailing has been done outside the yacht club establishment, but I think yacht clubs are warming up to us. With the long decline in sailing over the past twenty years, most yacht clubs are looking for opportunities to increase membership. Without SYC as a venue, Hobie Fleet 401 wouldn’t exist. Once you join a club, there are other ways to volunteer besides regatta support. They’ll probably have sailing schools, youth programs and various social events that you’d like to get involved with. While you’re doing all this, you'll meet a bunch of people with a similar interest, sailing, and make new friends. Take some of them sailing on your Hobie on good days – they won't be impressed if you're baking in the sun in July with no wind. As you get involved, you'll be sharing experiences with your new friends. Being engaged in the sailing community gives you a chance to influence it. My position as a yacht club member has been to increase interest in sailing first and foremost, but I know that some of our new sailors will see our Hobies get interested. Without trying to push Hobies on people, I offer to take others out sailing so they can experience a Hobie. Some will want to join us.
Yacht club membership will also provide a forum for reaching out to youths. Had I not been involved at SYC, three youths that I took sailing on my 20 three years ago may have gotten bored with the club's Sunfish and quit sailing. Now they all have their own H16s. I think we all understand that we need new blood to perpetuate our sport. If you calculated the average age of Hobie sailors at most regattas, it's probably well over 45, and that's being quite generous. Ask kids to go sailing (make sure their parents are informed first). If you've got friends with kids that you think would enjoy sailing, just ask them if Junior or Cindy Lou would like to go sailing with you on a good day. Without parental consent, you can forget the kids, and speaking from a parent’s perspective, that’s the way it should be.
There are other clubs out there besides Hobie Fleets and yacht clubs. Three examples that come to mind are Jerome Vaughan’s club, the Reservoir Sailing Association in Jackson, Mississippi, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/rezsailing/;
the Texas City Dike Yacht Club (not a traditional yacht club) on Galveston Bay, http://www.tcdyc.com/;
and the Eastern Multihull Sailing Association, active in the Carolinas, Georgia and Virginia, http://www.emsa-sailing.org/
. I’m sure there are others out there that will allow for camaraderie with other catamaran sailors in your area. Find them and get involved.
Another thing you can do is find out who owns the derelict Hobies at your local yacht clubs, marinas, and in the back yards of those houses on the lake. Talk to their owners and let them know that you’re trying to revive Hobie sailing and see if they'd be interested in fixing up their boats and going sailing if you or someone you know would help them. You might be the spark they need to get motivated. We’ve gotten a couple of old dudes and their Hobies out on the water in Shreveport. One is pretty motivated. The guys in Fleet 68, Pascagoula, Mississippi, have taken this concept a quantum leap further. They are actually buying old Hobies, fixing them up, and reselling them. I tip my hat to Boyd Mason, Caleb Williford and the rest of the Singing River guys for their ambition and success. Their project boats have led to several new fleet members.
But what if there are no organized fleets, clubs or associations in your area? Your options for getting involved are fewer for sure. I suggest that you begin by taking some friends out sailing and trying to get them stoked on Hobies. If they get interested, maybe they’ll want to buy a boat, maybe new, maybe used. You can help them evaluate the used ones or help them pick the right new Hobie. Other people will see you and your friends on the lake or at the beach and start asking questions . . . If you generate enough interest, you may find yourself starting a new fleet! In the meantime, put your boat on the trailer and go to some regattas. Don’t worry about being inexperienced. Read a little about the rules with emphasis on the starting sequence, right of way and mark roundings, then give it a go. You’ll learn more as you go along. The regatta regulars will be glad to see a new face and will happily help you with any questions you might have. The community is awesome. How you get involved depends on your geography, your tastes, and the demographics of your area. You’ll enjoy sailing much more if you just get involved!
Gino, if you’re still with us, I think you’d make a great asset to our community. I apologize if I came across a bit harsh in my previous post. Most of the time I keep the old military retiree type-A personality locked away, but sometimes he gets out.