Our beloved sport of ocean racing and big boat racing in general — if you haven’t heard from Dick Neville yet — faces significant challenges, particularly in participation. These challenges, however, also present opportunities. As a club with race management in our brand, we are well poised to take advantage of these opportunities as a leader in the sport.
Within the club, however, over the past several years we have detected participation challenges of a different nature. The most sour note of almost every board meeting is non-payment of dues, with 113 members in arrears for 2019 dues as of this writing. The dues are approximately $200 and our Treasurer has not recommended an increase for 2020. We have identified three possible reasons for the delinquencies:
- Administrative snafu — a communications disconnect (dues notices are only sent by email);
- $200 is simply a small amount of money with few repercussions for non-payment; or
- Value — it’s not worth the $200.
This last possible reason is most troubling to the flag officers. So, we have taken a hard look at the value of membership in the Club and developed a Member Value Proposition, articulated best by Vice Commodore Cesare, as “Access and Influence.” That is:
- Access to a rich social environment with fellow Members who share experience in the ocean.
- Access via the Club’s portfolio of races and educational events to enriching volunteer opportunities that are fun and contribute to the sport.
- Influence on the direction of the sport through the quality of the Storm Trysail Membership and the prominent role the Club plays in the sport of ocean racing.
The member value proposition is part of almost every one of the weekly flag officers meetings and is considered in every decision we make. These values, like the challenges faced by race managers, are Opportunities. We deliver these opportunities to the membership in a number of ways:
Since we are a paper club, we exist through our Communications. We are very lucky to have a great Communications Committee chaired by Ron Weiss with the strong support of Commodore Lee Reichart who delivers newsletters every other month. It is a monumental task. We have also contracted with Kate Wilson of RisingT media to invigorate and better activate our social media platforms. Kate will also be revamping our websites in the near future, with a connection to RailMeets for crew pool opportunities. We will also be mailing printed directories and — as raised at the last Annual Meeting and frequently by my own shipmates punching me in the arm about this — membership cards.
Another major way of delivering value and opportunity is through our events. We are a national club with a regional focus and thus we rely on our Station Captains to organize local events, whether racing, socializing ashore or volunteering. For example, our stations organize cocktail parties, safety at sea seminars, and regattas. In Larchmont, the IOR presents fantastic volunteer opportunities as either a boat owner, safety officer or coach. Even small events are ok as baby steps toward growth. I had the opportunity to visit our Southern California station and told them that a lunch of 4-6 people is enough to get started. We are also working to expand a growing list of clubs which will extend our members guest privileges.
These social events and volunteering opportunities help the club grow in membership. For example, we had a social with maybe 20 people at Chicago Yacht Club in February 2019. At the time, we had maybe 8 members in the area. Today, there are approximately 30-35 and I’m told we can expect that to grow to nearly 70 by the end of this year. That growth is due in large part to the efforts of station captain Leif Sigmond and Matt Gallagher who is here with us tonight. Thank you, Matt and Leif for your efforts. Not to steal too much thunder from the Membership Committee’s report, but as of today, we have 1,002 members, which is something also deserving of applause.
I’m often asked “Why should I join STC? What’s in it for me?” Well, like most things in life, it is what you make of it. You get out of these clubs what you put into them. All of the great things going on under our burgee are just Opportunities. It’s up to you to take advantage of them.
I often hear that our membership criteria is too low. They lament that we no longer require sailing under a trysail offshore. If we kept the old membership standards we might not be having this meeting tonight. Weather forecasting has improved a little bit and race officers are leery about running races when the forecast turns foul. The rough races are not as common as they once were. More importantly, this club is not about the sailing you Did, but about the sailing you Do and the sailing that can be done by others in the future. If you want your sailing ego stroked, step up and volunteer to share your sea stories with others to encourage them to go offshore and perhaps participation will grow as a result.
So, in conclusion, please take advantage of these opportunities. Or at least pay your dues!