Access

In our opinion…Ken Signorello — Mark Gardner

Ask yourself this: Are there people who watch a sailboat go by on Lake Champlain and think, “I’d like to sail”? Unfortunately they either don’t know where to start, can’t afford to buy a boat, or just plain don’t want to. We believe there are a lot of folks just like this. So what stops them? In a word… access. The traditional model for sailing is individual ownership. Buying , owning and maintaining a sailboat is time consuming and expensive and requires some basic knowledge. This is not a model for growth. It has kept sailing in the back seat while other sports and leisure activities have flourished. Golf is another sport that had an access problem. It was a very expensive sport. You had to know the right people, and have the finances available to join an exclusive club. Golf was considered a “gentlemen’s sport”. There are lessons to be learned from golf. Anyone can now play golf. The number of pubic golf courses continues to grow. You no longer have to join a country club to enjoy quality golf. There are many fine public courses in most communities. Their average green fee is only $30.

Sailing has just now begun to identify the problem of access. Public sailing centers are becoming part of what was once an exclusive yacht club scene. The Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center (LCCSC) located on the waterfront in Burlington is an example of a successful community sailing program. LCCSC works like a public golf course. For a small fee you can go sailing. LCCSC offers more than just rentals. They provide an organization for activities such as racing and learning to sail.

Another variation is the club owned fleet. This model is typical for larger boats. The International Sailing Club (ICS), located in Malletts Bay, is an example of this concept. The notion behind the club is that many sailors don’t want the expense and problems associated with boat ownership, but want to sail. They pay an annual fee for access to a club owned and maintained fleet. The annual fee is considerably less than the annual maintenance and storage costs of that boat. Additionally, ISC offers a variety of different boats for its members. They can choose from keel, centerboard or multihull boats. ISC also provides activities such as racing, cruising and education.

If sailing is to grow, the individual ownership model won’t do it. Many people can’t or don’t want to spend the money and time it takes to own a sailboat. Our traditional sailing organizations need to develop programs that give non-boat owners the opportunity to enjoy sailing. Choosing to ignore this problem means these folks will go play golf.