Ellen's profile has to be enticing people into our sport

Ellen's profile has to be enticing people into our sport


Andy Green considers the Ellen phenomenon how this is helping entice new blood into our sport

Thursday March 17th 2005, Author: Andy Green, Location: United Kingdom
I have just been at the SORC (now Miami Race Week) in Miami and it proved a trip down memory lane for me as I used to work on a boat in South Beach Harbour exactly 10 years ago, polishing stainless and cleaning the bilges of Mumm 36s. This time I sailed with an old friend on the Melges 24 Rainbow. They are fantastic boats, still as modern as ever with competitive, close racing in a big fleets wherever you go, and they are sooo cheap! I am really looking forward to the Europeans in Torquay where they are talking about at least 80 boats. What a blast and what a resilient class.

The headlines this last month have been dominated by Ellen. She has made a total transition to mainstream fame and this is surely a good thing for sailing. I am constantly asked by non-sailors about how she does it, what drives her and how much she is now charging for weddings and bar mitzvahs. For sailing in general Ellen and her team have shown how it is possible to give a return to sponsors. B&Q/Castorama must surely be impressed at their return if their investment was £5 million as is widely touted when it was signed. 5 million! What a bargain that has proved to be! Hopefully good returns for sponsors and managing your goals realistically will ensure that sponsors who sign up for big events in the future are not given short shrift. I am thinking here of HSBC who sponsored Graham Dalton for a sum rumoured to be not that dissimilar to B&Q/Castorama's investment and who are locally in Qatar now involved in Tracy Edwards’ Oryx Cup. I am all for being positive but the Oryx Cup is certainly not providing non-sailing returns in the UK and there are only two boats left. This will probably prove to be how not to do it and that’s a shame because Tracy clearly puts her heart and soul into it. But who is making HSBC’s decisions about their sailing sponsorship? Thankfully since Around Alone their Education Trust has been involved with Emma Richards.

Anyway, if you are interested I reckon Ellen can now charge £20,000 for a ‘do’. Go Ellen! She’s mad and we love her!

With Ellen's publicity raising the profile of our sport now is the time for the marine industry to really capitalise on this huge public awareness of sailing and particularly the notion that it is not only the pastime of the rich. Aside from their achievement, this is what Ellen and the Olympians have really done for the sport.

With this in mind I consider the entry level of sailing, the local club. I have spent quite a lot of time in sailing clubs around the land, and around the world. There is a charm about them that is undeniable. However, to attract new people and to attract young people change is needed. Youth sailing is obviously a major priority. These projects need to be managed, promoted and led by young, dynamic coaches with racing and expertise. So less volunteers and more paid professionals. This obviously has a cost implication but why can golf clubs have Club Pros who run the shop, look after newcomers, answer questions and promote greater use of the club. So corporate days out, club fleets for use by communities and local groups. This can generate revenue and encourage new participants. It is very hard to buy a new lifejacket at ANY sailing club in the country!!! Often one finds an element of ‘closed shop’ about membership. Clubs also have long periods of time when there is nobody around and this seems like a huge waste of resources. Off-peak membership, community projects, coaching, a shop and local Pros would surely all help.

“But our club is too small for all this” is a common response. Well I have another proposal… The Club Merger. There are thousands of clubs around the country, many of which are within spitting distance of each other, some even lined up in a row next to each other! Well, it may be fantasy but why can’t these places merge together? The cost saving on logistics and administration are considerable, the properties can then be rearranged to avoid duplication, the spare space then used for conferences, a club shop, small business suites, corporate training, coaching, kids camps and perhaps a gym. It might even be possible to develop some of the prime land for holiday rentals which might add considerably to operating revenues for the expanded clubs. Bigger is perhaps not better but small pokey, poor clubs who offer nothing but a bread sandwich and handicapped racing on a weekend. These will only last so long.

I applaud the RYA for producing yacht club web awards but where are the awards for youth and community projects - not special case or charity projects, but those to help get kids out on the water? Maybe they do it but I haven’t seen it. In my opinion the RYA do a good job as our national authority, we are fortunate as their equivalent in the States, US Sailing, is not a patch on our gang from the Hamble. Last week the RYA's Paul Bayliss sent me a raft of statistics on the take up of sailing in the UK. This is important data and the RYA is trying to formalise and establish some good historical data by sending out questionaires to clubs and members. If you get one I urge you to fill it in, as it will help them promote and prioritise how they spend their money on your behalf.

The RYA's statistics show that sailing is surely becoming more popular, particularly at a professional level, with RYA training certificates becoming the worldwide standard for qualification. In 2001 120,000 were issued. In 2004 this figure had increased to over 150,000. The number of companies around us in Southampton offering yacht training and charter seems to have exploded. Membership of the RYA has similarly grown as the graphs below show:

RYA membership stats

I am sure we should all be members of the RYA. I earn my living from sailing, benefit from their discounted worldwide insurance, spent three years on lottery funding and I let my membership lapse two years ago. I am signing back up this week. I am a naughty boy. Support the RYA, they do good work and most importantly they overturned the governments legislation forcing sailors to report event the most minor or crashes. I somehow feel I would have spent a lot of time in paperwork to the authorities.

Latest Comments

Add a comment - Members log in


Latest news!

Back to top
    Back to top