And the Survey Says….

The response to the post and survey I put out there October 19 was excellent. Now it’s time to start doing something with the results!

It’s no surprise, you Northwest sailors LOVE sailboat racing. 250 of you took the saving handicapping racing survey, and over half (!) came through with additional written comments and suggestions. So, not only do you love it, you’re interested in getting more boats out there!

Blog posts obviously aren’t the solution. Ideas and action are.

But before any of this, listening is always a good idea. Reading through 24 pages of single-spaced comments may seem intimidating to Joe and Jill Racer want to do, but I think race organizers, handicappers and yacht club officials might find it interesting and a great well of ideas. Very well worth the read. There are some rambles, but there’s truth in those as well. (A glass of wine or a beer might help wash it all down. Not all of it will be easy to take for race officials and handicappers. As one commentator said at the end of his rant “I have more but my drink is empty now.” So it’s fair, if they’re drinking when writing, you can drink while reading.) I taken out names unless they have an official role (YC Commodore, owner of a business etc.) and in a couple places edited a little to keep us clear of personal attacks and on course for solutions.

Following are the survey results. No, they’re not rigorously scientific but some trends are certainly clear. Please share with your club or event organizers.

While the results and the comments are all here, if you have a Google account you can go over the results as Google presents them here. That provides better access to the precise survey data. Note that the comments pdf includes comments from the blog and emails I received, which are not on the survey.

In a subsequent post I’m going to come up with a hit list of actions (in light of this survey) that can take, as well as yacht clubs, race organizers and racers.

Click on any image to enlarge.

As far as who took the survey, there was a bit of encouraging news. I was afraid it would all be “old folk,” but a full 40% of respondents were between 18-49. Sadly, but not surprisingly women made up only 12%. Most were skippers, most were very experienced and only 14% sailed dinghies. The audience was predominantly from the Central Sound, though we had input from all over, even out of the area. The big pie chart here is racer’s attitude toward the sport – i.e. whether or not it’s lack of participation is a big concern. The resounding answer was yes, to varying degrees, including a sizeable portion (12.7%) who feel “I love racing so much I can’t stop thinking about it.”

Legend for results:

Here’s where we’re hopefully starting to get some valuable and surprising data. The usual suspects, cost and handicapping issues, were certainly there but perhaps not to the degree one might expect. Rules, physical demands and the seriousness of racing were all non-factors. The clearest message from this graphic, and one echoed in the comments, is that getting and maintaining a crew is a major issue. Not surprisingly, few people found something better to do than racing sailboats.

As we go into the meat of the survey by asking them what would get them on the water, clear trends seem to emerge. More casual events, a better handicapping system, more shorthanded classes, new courses, an organized season championship and better socializing arrangements are desired. Late afternoon/early evening racing on weekends intrigued a few people. (Several people commented that Sunday – instead of Saturday – racing would be better) There are a lot of racers who want to split the lightweight sport boats from the heavier boats. The graphic that really caught my eye is that many people wanted a more welcoming atmosphere.

The really good news with all of this is that the things people want are truly achievable. A more welcoming atmosphere, new courses and an organized season championship are all doable.

The handicapping issue? Well, that’s one of the things we’ll pick up in a future post.

Kurt grew up racing and cruising in the Midwest, and has raced Lasers since the late 1970s. He has been Assistant Editor at Sailing Magazine and a short stint as Editor of Northwest Yachting. Through Meadow Point Publishing he handles various marketing duties for smaller local companies. He currently is partners on a C&C 36 which he cruises throughout the Northwest. He's married to the amazing Abby and is father to Ian and Gabe.

9 thoughts on “And the Survey Says….

  • November 3, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    “Sadly, but not surprisingly women made up only 12%” Sadly? Why is it sad? Most of our wives don’t care to sail; some do, but they are the minority. It is sad when I insist mine go. Wish everyone could get over this PC BS. It is tiresome and has nothing to do with anything.

    Having said that, I sincerely appreciate your efforts! Keep up the good work.

    • November 3, 2017 at 4:03 pm

      Sad to me, ’cause I really like sailing with women. And sad in that I don’t think it reflects the balance in this region. I look around and see a lot more than 12% women. Just so you know, it’s not about being PC, it’s about something I feel is the sport’s strength, that boys and girls can do it together. Check out the Volvo inshore race earlier today, the women were playing just as hard as the men and I’d bet any of those women would spin me right off the handles! That said, I really appreciate you chiming in, and I’m sure you’re not alone in that opinion. And thanks for the kind words on our efforts.

    • November 3, 2017 at 4:04 pm

      Maybe Kurt finds it sad because one of the things people wanted was a more welcoming atmosphere. Is it possible the percentage of female sailors would rise if they felt more welcomed?! And, quite possibly there are a whole lot of potential female sailors who aren’t “male sailors’ wives” as your comment assumes. Furthermore, I don’t think this is a PC issue – it has to do with increasing participation from 51% of the population.

      In the future, I hope for your wife’s sake, that you don’t “insist” that she sail with you.

      The survey results are surely food for thought.

      Signed – A wife who has been sailing longer than her sailmaker husband…

      • November 12, 2017 at 7:34 pm

        I agree, there need to be more females in sailing. I’ve seen unfortunate male chauvinists within sailing communities and they are pathetic individuals, who’d rather maintain subservient relationships than promote and build equality. It is not everywhere, but I just lived in a rural area for two years, and I was shocked at the behaviour of some of the people relating to women.

  • November 10, 2017 at 11:47 pm

    Hi Kurt,
    We are doing up a Sailor survey for the Vancouver Area Racing Council (VARC). Would you mind sharing your questionnaire and I will try to include some of the same questions so that we can compare results across the two areas.

    • November 11, 2017 at 6:19 am

      Sure thing, I’ll email you the link and a few thoughts from the process. It’d be great to compare notes and work together.

  • November 12, 2017 at 7:29 pm

    I’ve noticed this problem slowly growing for the past 10-15 years. No one in my family were sailors. I just loved it since taking dinghy lessons in high school. My solution to this problem is to get more teen dinghy sailors into keelboating. As well as more dinghy college and university clubs into keelboating. Yes, general yacht club membership is snooty, and prefer to keep company within their own age brackets. I’ve seen this in most instances, but not all. I’ve raced on some great boats where a baby boomer owner skipper had most of their crew in their thirties. I teach high school and also am a Sail Canada keelboat instructor. I would love to teach keelboat courses to teens and college university students, and in turn, train them to become instructors. This would increase membership as new and younger people desiring coming into sailing would be learning from people their own ages, rather than retired, or soon to retire keelboat instructors.

  • November 13, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    What about promoting more of the classic plastic boats? Two years ago PSSC had a number of slow, old, and fun boats racing in that race. This year there was none. As an owner of a slow old boat that we attempt to race, the sloop tavern events offer the most fun and competitive fleet for all classes and makes of boat. Maybe it’s the club’s vibe, maybe it’s the illusion of informality, or maybe they’re just less intimidating to less experienced racers.

    That being said, the sport should recruit racers and cruisers to “dance with the girl you brought” on the race course. More boats, even if they’re old and slow, is more fun. And frankly, old boats are fun when the wind and ratings are right. And a number of the old slow boat skippers will eventually move up to faster boats and more competitive fleets.

    In addition, if there was additional encouragement and mentoring from experienced racers, less experienced skippers would be tempted to bring their boats out and attract new racers to our fleets. Just try to organize a debrief to help them learn why they lost the race before they get overly frustrated and quit the sport!

    Rant, rant, rant!

    • November 14, 2017 at 9:11 am

      Good points, all. Old, slow, plastic classics can win big. (unstoppable examples are the Columbia 26 Tuesday, and years ago the Ranger 29 Ed) They have to be prepped well and well sailed AND have a fair rating. There are sooooo many good old boats out there, but they’re not perceived as such. If there are more boats out there it would be relatively simple to separate them by type, but alas now it’s not the case. And you’re absolutely right on the debriefs. It’s hard to see it happen formally, but I think it’s reasonable to expect the more seasoned, successful sailors to offer thoughts to the newbies and anyone who asks. One of the things I try to do with this site is include some meaningful post-mortem on the race we’re covering. Not everyone’s willing to share (I really don’t see why not) but some do.


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