(Photo courtesy of Matias Capizzano)
Right now (August 11), the entry list at the Open European Championship in Santiago de la Ribera, Spain (September 19-24) has more than 107 teams registered!
This is the second edition of the Open Europeans (before the 2014 Open European Championship in Poland at Kamien Pomorski, the European regatta was closed to non-European teams).
As many of you know, there was a lot of discussion about the idea of an Open European Championship; probably the majority of sailors are still against the idea of an Open World Championship and an Open WH&O Championship.
Other classes, like the 505s and Dragons, already have an Open Worlds, usually with more than 100 boats on the starting line.
Below are the opinions of the Promotion Committee about the Open Europeans, and Major Open Events in general.
Summarizing, the Promotion Committee agreed that the Europeans should stay open, but there was not concensus on the Worlds and WHO.
Also, we should again consider the same topic after the “hundred boat” Open European Championship in Santiago de la Riobera in late September 2016. It will be a good test of this open concept, and an indicator for the Snipe Class for future important decisions.
Questions to the Promotions Committee:
– 1) Are you for or against the Open European Championship?
All members are in favor of the Open Europeans. (Cesar Travado was originally skeptical about the decision to open the event, but after the first edition in Poland and the large number of entries for Spain, he has changed his mind.)
– 2) Are the Open Europeans positive for the promotion and visibility of the Snipe Class (especially outside the Snipe class)?
We need to do more work outside our Class, but an Open Europeans with a large number of boats has a lot of potential for promotion.
Zibi Rakocy remembers his experience as organizer of the 2014 Europeans in Poland:
With a small number of participants, we would not have gotten sponsors, government support, or participation of the media. After the Europeans in Kamien Pomorski, and a lot of press coverage in newspapers, weekly magazines and TV, there was increased awareness of the class in Poland, and better relations with the media and other sailing organizations.
– 3a) Do you think the Open European Championship lowers the “average” level of the fleet (compared to a “closed” event)? If yes, do you believe that it is a reason to go back to a closed championship?
There are different opinions inside the Committee.
Ivo Gattulli: No, the average level of the fleet is the same.
Cesar Travado: No. The level of the Championship is according to the number of entries. The more entries, the better the level. No limit to the competitors for the host country. Open unlimited.
Luis Soubie: The Open Europeans lower the “average” level of the fleet, but we don’t have to go back to a closed event.
I am in favor of an open event for the Europeans only if we have flights. Races with 50 to 60 boats, and silver and gold fleets like the Optimist Worlds. Racing 120 Snipes in the same fleet makes no sense to me. I would not do it.
Reino Suonsilta: Yes, it lowers the average. However this is not an issue.
– 3b) Do you think it is necessary to limit the number of competitors for the host of the Europeans? Do you think it could create problems finding an adequate numbers of charter boats?
Ivo: No limit for the hosting country. About charter boats, PROBABLY there will be problem in finding charter boats. Supplying chartered boats is a great Snipe tradition, and a wonderful idea for sure, but in 2016 it’s no longer sustainable, unless you have professionals like DB Marine providing charter boats (at market price!), as we did for the World Championship in Talamone. DB Marine are the only guys able to do that all over the world; they’ve been called for all the major regattas, but naturally they supply that service only in Italy. For those reasons I think it’s time to abandon that “charter” thing, and rotate major regattas faster and everywhere: World Championships annually as Continental, and for Junior, Senior, Master, and Women all in the same place and at the same time, as any other modern sailing class.
Cesar: Totally agree with Ivo.
Zibi: Europe is a relatively small continent, and there is no problem with charter boats; most teams can use their own boats. We can therefore hold a regatta at smaller clubs and in smaller countries.
Luis: It isn’t necessary to limit the number of competitors for the host country. It is a problem to find an adequate numbers of charter boats.
Reino: No need to limit the host country’s competitors unless the fleet becomes too large to manage. Charter boats will remain an issue anyway.
– 4) Do you think the Open Europeans will cause lower numbers at national level regattas because there are no longer qualifying events in each country for selecting the best team for a “closed” Europeans? Do you think the Open Europeans will lower participation in the regattas at a fleet and local level?
Ivo: No. Selection process keeps people out of the National regatta instead.
Next year there’ll be a World Championship, and the Italian qualification process is practically over. I know I’m out so I won’t participate in the National Circuit next year, and many guys are the same as me.
With an Open World Championship I’d participate in all the Circuit events to be best prepared, and 100+ boats would be a great promotional event for the Class.
In the current way we’ll miss boats at National Regattas (like me) and we’ll have a less appealing event for promotional purposes.
Cesar: In Spain we had lower participation during the last two years, but that was due to other considerations. We corrected that by alternating qualifying events. For instance: Spanish Nationals 2016 & Spanish Cup 2017 will qualify for the 2017 Worlds. Spanish Nationals 2017 & Spanish Cup 2018 will be the ranking events for Europeans 2018. Spanish Nationals 2018 & Spanish Cup 2019 will qualify for Worlds 2019 and so on. In that way, every year there is a qualifying event. We continue the ranking during the European year because, although the event is open, there is a grant for the top three teams from the Spanish federation. We are testing a National Series including 9 regattas; the winner will get a mast, the second a boom, third a cover, etc..
Luis: Not really; no.
Reino: No. Rather the opposite, as sailors want opportunities to improve their sailing and prepare for the Europeans.
– 5) Do you think an Open event can only be organized by certain countries with adequate facilities, effectively excluding the smaller SCIRA countries or smaller clubs?
Ivo: No. I think scheduled properly, anyone (big or small clubs/countries) can host a major open event. But the sailing qualities of a venue are crucial, regardless of whether the event is open or not, as is the quality of the hosting club.
My club is not interested in hosting a “CLOSED” Regatta: too expensive and too few participants. We do not make a profit, but we can lose money with just a small bunch of high-spending guys.
Meanwhile we have full availability (and capability) to host all OPEN major events.
Cesar: I think that, if the tendency toward open events continues, we will have to go to split fleets. It is not sensible on a starting line with 100+ boats to plan to complete three races per day. I like the idea of split fleets and it is a step toward the XXI century. I don´t know if smaller SCIRA countries would have the facilities and resources to run a split fleet regatta.
The appointment of an observer from SCIRA, to work with the organizing club or country 5 – 6 months prior to the regatta, is absolutely necessary. This includes visiting the hosting club to inspect the resources and to ensure that all the elements in the Bid are found.
Reino: A bigger fleet demands more resources on land and at sea. However this should not limit smaller countries or clubs to bid.
– 6) Do you think an Open event can reduce local regattas or fleet activities?
Ivo: No, We had five prospective crews at my Club just for the “idea” to award Italy the Open World Master Championship. When the World Masters was assigned to Bahamas, we lost them all. OPEN regattas are the best and most efficient way to attract new crews, definitely.
Cesar: No. Local activities cannot fail on the fact of the Open Europeans. It can fail on the work of the fleet itself.
Luis and Reino: No.
– 7) Do you think an Open event should be the future even for the Senior World Championship and/or the WH&O Championship?
There are different opinions and a lot of discussion.
Ivo: YES, Just look outside of our pond, it’s called “reality”, and it works quite well for any other class.
Cesar: Absolutely. I think that SCIRA has to be consistent with the decisions. It no longer makes sense to have a European Open and WH&O closed. All the regattas of the same level should have the same conditions. Open Continentals and, in the future (I hope soon), open Worlds.
Zibi: The issue of Open Worlds and Open WH&O is different from Open Europeans, because it is necessary to charter. I think the current system of the Worlds is good because it gives us approx. 80 teams, and championships are interesting and competitive.
Reino: Senior Worlds should stay as a “professional” event. To increase the number of participants we could increase the quota by country and put unused slots open to apply.
I think that nobody, in their answers, tried to stop, pause and think about the huge differences between Europe and America.
If you make the WHO an opent event OF COURSE the level will drop. It happened with the South Americans. The reasson is simple: Here the distances are very big.
I just had to drive 3000 km in order to race the Nationals. 3000 km in my own country. Going to Rio and back is 6000 km, to Ecuador 8000. North America, forget it.
Whether the regatta is open or not you will not increase the number of boats, because we are already using almost all the available boats nearby. The only difference will be that the good sailors will not have a boat to rent, and they will not come.
America is not Europe. We don’t have so many boats. We cannot cross 3 or 4 countries driving in a day.
Already we have a World Championship with 80 boats plus. There are very few countries in the world that can manage that.
At the last WHO in Brazil a month ago, most of the US team didn’t attend because of the lack of charter boats. They sent 2 teams and not the 8 to 10 they usually do.
The world is big. And not all the same.
Ivo: I completely agree with Luis about the issue related to the “size” of South America and North America.
It’s true: what works in Europe could not work on the other side of the Atlantic.
But Luis highlights an important issue: OPEN/CLOSED regatta is an important topic but as a part of a wider issue. That wider issue, in my opinion, is what to do to increase the general volume of Snipe activity all over the world.
Naturally there’s not an easy answer, there are several answers about that and indeed, it depends on each continent’s situation. In Europe it depends also on each different country situation. But there’s also another topic all over the world: the communication issue.
Today Snipe Class communication is the same as 10-15 years ago and it’s completely self-referential. That’s a killer situation to attract new teams and to find sponsors, and we urgently need both.
For instance to open the World Championship, or have it on a yearly basis collecting all different categories, won’t fix everything, unless it is part of a wider strategy about how to make the Snipe attractive for new sailors and for companies having the resources to invest in sponsorships.
In my opinion we urgently need to put resources (time, money, efforts, ideas, etc.) to talk about the Snipe outside the current Snipe ecosystem, making the Snipe attractive. An open international regatta is a tool to do that, but we need ASAP effective communication and media activity, which is not only a Facebook page or an Instagram account; it’s also relationships (lobbying) with National Federations (in Europe that’s crucial), and the possibility for everyone to get into the Snipe Class in the easiest and cheapest way.
Increasing the number of active boats is fundamental to increase interest in the Class, it’s an exponential process. But it won’t start by itself, it’s up to us and we won’t start it if we remain stuck in the current model that is not working. And it’s not longer sustainable from a financial point of view.
I clearly understand the reason to keep closed the WHO and World Championship, but we also know that the current model is not attractive to new teams (or sponsors), and we know as well that there’s no hosting-club which hasn’t faced financial trouble after hosting a major Snipe regatta. And that’s why the Class is facing growing troubles to find applicants to host those kinds of events (as the rotation grid shows clearly).
Last but not least the cost of attending a major Snipe regatta for competitors is constantly booming.
Not considering the happy situation in Spain, where they were able to host the last Masters European Championship for free, or to keep the registration fee for the next European Championship at 250,00€, the World Championship in Talamone cost 500,00€—the most expensive dinghy regatta during the 2015 season (at least in Europe). The next Women’s Championship is at 375,00€. And still the hosting clubs face financial troubles, so once again we need more boats and sponsors. But how can we attract them considering the current barriers to get into the Class, and an activity that is known and appreciated by only a small bunch of current practitioners?
I have no data about the 2016 505 World Championship in UK, but they have 143 entries plus the wooden boats.
Meanwhile the price list for the next F18 World Championship in Argentina is Euro 250 and 350 for late entries; it is too soon to know how many boats will attend that regatta, but it’s much cheaper than the last Snipe Worlds anyway!
So I think we’re at a sort of crossroads: keep things like today, going back to a closed European Championship (I know many people will be happy about that), and face still more growing troubles with hosting-clubs and decreasing activity numbers? Probably in few years we’ll have more slots for the major regattas then crews interested in taking part at those regattas (that’s already the current situation in many Countries!). Or do everything we can to increase the number of active Snipe sailors (opening major regattas is just a step but crucial in that direction); attract media interest, which will attract sponsors; then fix hosting-clubs financial issues and maybe attract new boatbuilders. This is the only way to fix the issues correctly highlighted by Luis. And last but not least, lower registration fees.
It’s not fast, it’s not easy for sure, but the first branch of that crossroad looks much worse from here.
Luis: Allow me please to point out something.
In my opinion, we are making a HUGE mistake. A mistake that I made for more than a decade. As a competitive, elite, world class sailor or whatever you want to call me, for years and years the Snipe class for me was the Nationals, Westerns and Worlds. That´s it.
Only when I became member of the Board I realized the truth. Sailors at major regattas are the point of a big and wide pyramid.
We need to take care of that entire pyramid, not the 10% at the point of it.
I don´t think that the way to get people inside the Class is with new rules about major regattas, but with a stronger calendar including many small regattas and fleet events.
Most of the people wants to sail and have fun. 1 out of 5 will race well, and 1 out of 20 will go to a major event, and 1 out of 500 will go to all of them and do well.
If we have local events of 20-30 boats, once or twice a month, that is a good reason for having a Snipe.
This is easy to prove. Just look how many Snipe sailors are in the world, and how many attend the Worlds or WHO.
You will see that we are talking and talking over conditions that affect only a very small percentage of the class. To change the class, we need to think about the 95% that never go to these events.
In the golden age of the Snipe in Argentina, only two sailors went to the Worlds, and we had 110 boats at our Nationals. It was fun, you had regattas every weekend. That was the reason I chose Snipe in 1987, instead of the 470, which had regattas only once a month with 15 boats or less. (Like we are doing in the Snipe today.)
– 8) Apart from the always successful Masters World Championship, considering the difficulties of organizing Women’s and Junior Worlds and also considering the small numbers of boats and the costs for the clubs for organizing these regattas, do you think that in the next future SCIRA should eliminate these regattas and, instead, award special prizes for categories (women, juniors, mixed etc.) inside open events?
Ivo: I’ve already answered: YES.
We have to as soon as possible transform any major regatta (World and Continental) to full-category events (women, Jr, masters, hobbits, whatever) and we have to have them on a yearly basis, to be sure that each country will host a major event every five years maximum. That’s the only possible way to keep our class alive in 2016.
Cesar: I don´t know what to say. On one hand, I think that Juniors and Womens should have their own Championship. Including those events in the Open Worlds (for instance) is to push the problem under the carpet. SCIRA has to make a big effort to continue promoting the Junior & Women events.
On the other hand, by maintaining both events as they are now is a way to let them die (Women Europeans has almost disappeared) because there is not enough interest at the clubs to organize those kind of events.
Luis: I think they are diferent things.
Reino: We should still try to keep specialized Women’s and Junior Worlds. In addition it would be good to award different categories in all major events.
Promotion Committee members:
- Andre Guaragna, from Miami, is a junior sailor and can give his perspective about how to attract young sailors.
- Cesar Travado, from Malaga, Spain, former European Champion, is a coach and an expert on junior programs in Europe.
- Ivo Gattulli is from Rome and I like his fresh ideas, which sometimes go against the general trend.
- Kathleen Tocke, from Miami, is a multi time US champion and very passionate about women’s sailing.
- Luis Soubie, SCIRA Secretary, from Mendoza, Argentina, is a great sailor and can share his huge experience from many years of sailing on all the continents.
- Reino Suonsilta, from Helsinki, has worked a lot for promoting the Class in Finland and always has interesting ideas about fleet promotion.
- Zibi Rakocy, SCIRA European Secretary, from Poznan, Poland, has a background in marketing and was the organizer of the last Europeans in Poland.
- Finally myself, Pietro Fantoni from Moruzzo, Italy, SCIRA Vice Commodore.