A friend and I were discussing the relative merits of sports the other day over lunch. I was relaying the frustration I have with people in the sailing industry telling me that it is a ‘small industry’ with ‘no money’.
We started thinking about other sports with relatviely low participation rates that drew big crowds and media attention. What is the difference between Rugby Union and Yacht Racing? How does one command national attention and the other wallow in relative obscurity?
On the face of it, Rugby Union and sailing are very similar. They have long history of competition, both are traditionally somewhat elitist, both are dominated by nations like the United Kingdom, France, Australia and New Zealand.
Why then, does Rugby command a larger fan base? One reason could be that Rugby is played as a competitve intercollegial sport. Rugby schools generate talent that is then selected for national selection.
The Oxford University Yacht Club “has long standing Men’s and Ladies Full-Blue status and therefore ranks alongside the likes of rowing and rugby in the universities most honoured sports,” yet in other parts of the world, sailing at a university level is stuggling.
An article in Sail World relates the story from Australia….
Many sailing clubs have observed a decline in the number of 18 to 30 year old sailors from their club events. For any young person, this time is associated with finishing school, leaving home, getting your first job or going on to higher education. Prior to this time, most young people’s participation in sailing is funded by committed parents willing to meet the costs, but once they leave home, sailing stops without support.
The decline of university sailing over the past 10 years has not helped sailing for young adults. Many universities once had clubs that provided both an entry point for students into the sport as well as the means for participation in class and university competitions. The universities and clubs also provided support for competitive sailors who represented their states and Australia. While some universities still provide financial assistance for competitive sailors, this is not done through a university club.
The University of Sydney remains as the last university with a surviving club in NSW and one of only a few active university clubs in Australia.
The experiences of 2008 by The Sydney Uni Club have proven that there is a need for university sailing to support the sport and maintain sustainability.
With the collapse of the other university clubs, the true number of sailors in universities is unknown. To remedy this, Yachting NSW is supporting a national database that allows for the registration of university sailors. The database allows event information to be easily distributed and can provide the bases for the establishment of new university clubs around the country.
To register send an email to andrew.cribb(at)nsw.yachting.org.au with your contact details including Name, Address, Phone Number, Email address and University.
The club is also seeking university sailor alumni to re-register at www.usydsailing.com