An open letter from the Vice
The main issues confronting LBSC are common to many small clubs, from sailing to golf to gliding: an aging membership and the difficulty recruiting/enthusing new members.
Aspiring to a more youthful membership is a noble, but frustrating aim. Sailing clubs face a difficult task encouraging participation by the young, who have a myriad other diversions and distractions, as any parent will know.
And parents, many of whom are not sailors, need to find the time and enthusiasm to take their children through the early stages, wait while they drift in circles, and warm them up when they return cold and bedraggled.
Equipment costs, safety in a potentially dangerous environment, and perceived complexity are issues in sailing. Furthermore debate rages about how best to train young sailors. Currently the emphasis is on racing, over fun, although a body of opinion suggests the latter is far more effective, at least in the early stages.
I would say that a mix of both is the answer, for most of us are competitive by nature, and there is no reason why competition cannot be fun.
The LBSC in particular faces a series of issues. We are small, our catchment is small, and our core of regular sailors is also small. Although we have 70 or so members (and dropping, see below), barely a quarter can be said to be more than occasional sailors, and yet for the time being at least, are content to pay their subs like the rest.
Membership fluctuates, but this year we have lost a number of members for various reasons. Which is understandable if it is due simply to natural wastage. If not then it could be a worrying trend.
The treasurer’s report suggests a healthy balance sheet, which hides some underlying facts. Maintenance costs were minimal, due to lack of sailing in 2018 and we were gifted £2,000 by UHT for the asphalting. The trend is downwards.
We are now a club with the best hard standing, but a sailing club cannot survive simply because it has a great boat park.
I believe, after a year when we have been obsessed by pier developments, the time has come to push for new membership, and that means trying to recruit members, both young and older, from the village and surrounds.
The success of the skiffs has shown there is an appetite for local people to get afloat, and yet very few decide to go afloat in a boat with sails.
This is understandable given the ease a skiff can be launched, and the relative lack of skill needed to pull an oar.
Any recruiting drive must be accompanied with a commitment by the more experienced members, with time to spare, on training. And that is the problem: we are all keen to promote our sport to newcomers, but less keen to give up our precious time.
If those members would be willing formally to sign up to one evening a month to take out a novice, and we advertised this in the local press, then I am confident we could attract a few more members.
This year the club will potentially have three FFs of its own, and four private boats on the water. Will we have enough people to sail them? Finding regular FF crew has been a problem in the best of times.
In short: the club needs to make a serious effort to encourage new members. Boats on the water is not enough; we need bums on boats on the water.