Now this is a GREAT thread idea!
First and foremost Fleet 297 Clinton Lake, Lawrence Kansas is succeeding because we consist of a core group of genuinely great people. Not only do we share a common passion for sailing Hobie Cats, but we all get along great on and off the water. Nearly every member of the fleet is always willing to take complete sailing newbies out to show them the ropes anytime, whether that be for a daysail or in a race.
What activities get the most interest?
All of them! LOL... We have found the date we pick seems to have greater effect than what we plan.
The activities which draw the largest crowds seem to be those in which we do the best of of encouraging everyone to promote, not necessarily the events the fleet leadership promotes the hardest.... We nearly always send event info via our Facebook Page, Email list and flying pigeon, but to really make the event successful it seems like early in the planning as many people need to be made responsible for something, no matter how small... Giving someone a little bit of responsibly, even as simple as "we are counting on you to bring your famous cookies" engages them more fully. It sounds great to have everything all done and have as many 'just enjoying the day' as possible but I think it works far better when they are involved and giving... When they
have something vested it creates a sense of ownership and they also do a better job of telling or bringing a friend as they more included, and less like they are taking.What do you do outside of racing to attract and retain recreational sailors?
Each of our events includes fun on and off the beach. Whether it is planned or not nearly every time we meet it is a pot luck meal, and some kind of racing. We always have copies of Hobie U on hand, and someone is always going out 'for the first time'.
This year we started a fleet point series hosted by our local sailing club. We have 8 racing weekends(days) and two regatta's... All of the racing weekends and exposure on the lake puts us in contact with those recreational guys... One of the things our fleet is great at is that we nearly always have someone on the lake, and the overwhelming majority of them are very outgoing and friendly. We make it hard to sail a Hobie on our lake and not know we are there. Heck... We have been know to post "missed connection" ads on Craigslist to find boats we saw at the lake and didn't get a chance to meet..
Also the 8 fleet racing days we have are VERY relaxed and welcoming racing events. We stress repeatedly that anyone is welcome to start the race, and if you don't like it at any point just carry on enjoying your hobie on the water. Among the competitive group of us we do a good job being ultra competitive with each other and yet easy on the new boats. We know who they are and generally are not to aggressive or forcing right of way rules and the rest of it... It is a comfortable situation for anyone, and we have had first timers at nearly every event this year.
Also... Our regatta planning events always turn into fun parties... Then during the winter we had a Fleet Christmas party thanks to Blair, with a White Elephant gift exchange, and we make a yearly pilgrimage to the Boat show.... Always good times.
And with the Email list and the Facebook... We try and not only announce our events... But it is important to post a steady drip of pictures and stories showing your active fleet is having fun on the water... Those who think they need to stay home to mow the grass, they will get tired of it and join you sooner or later...
Do you have special Youth and women's activities?
I am working on setting up a Girl Scout merit badge class towards the end of the season.... We have an advantage over most fleets by having the HCNA women's chair in the Fleet. Chris is AWESOME! Having a female skipper of her skill level, and with her calm demeanor combined with her teaching ability on the boat has been a HUGE benefit to the fleet. My own wife would rather sail with her than me... Having a her around is a real asset to the fleet.