Snipe Class and Class Promotion – 2

By Pietro Fantoni, SCIRA Secretary

After my article “Snipe Class and Class Promotion”, I received reports, ideas and suggestions from some countries and fleets including France, USA (Mission Bay), Argentina, Belgium, Croatia, United Kingdom and Italy.

As I said a good starting point for the Board, SCIRA countries, and fleets is to share ideas and experiences. Now I will try to summarize what I received, which hopefully will give you the Snipe sailors, fleet captains, Nationals secretaries and Board members some good inputs for improving Snipe activities at the local, national and international level.

I want to say thank you to all who responded, and I hope that other sailors will contribute their thoughts.

By Pietro Fantoni, SCIRA Secretary

After my article “Snipe Class and Class Promotion”, I received reports, ideas and suggestions from some countries and fleets including France, USA (Mission Bay), Argentina, Belgium, Croatia, United Kingdom and Italy.

As I said a good starting point for the Board, SCIRA countries, and fleets is to share ideas and experiences. Now I will try to summarize what I received, which hopefully will give you the Snipe sailors, fleet captains, Nationals secretaries and Board members some good inputs for improving Snipe activities at the local, national and international level.

I want to say thank you to all who responded, and I hope that other sailors will contribute their thoughts.

France

(Jerome Thomas)

Jerome pointed on the fact that, like for other classes, the activity is decreasing

The 505 and Finn are ok. The 505 class organizes every year a regatta with 20 boats where each boat owner lends his boat to a young team.

For Jerome, it is more and more expensive to take the car to go to regatta (and the less boats you have, the more you must drive to find a regatta). In France it is not easy to find people who wants to organize events.

In a lake near Paris there is a good Snipe activity (around 10 boats sails and 20 are at the club). The lake is small but the atmosphere is very good. The people can come to the sailing club by train (15 minutes from Paris center). The sailors take time to welcome new sailors.

For improving the Snipe activity, Jerome and the other Snipe sailors are working on 2 items:

– finding double trailers

– participating in more multi class regattas (to show that we are —– alive, to have regattas with more boat and more fun – not very interesting to have a regatta with only 3 or 4 snipes).

In the past the French organized regattas with the Belgian fleet, which is quite close. And the regatta was a success.

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Commodore Don Bedford

“Thank you Jerome. One area that stuck out for me was “…people who are ok to take time for other, people who are ok to welcome new sailors, to lend their boats, to find solutions to take a double trailer,…”  For me, this is a key point. The fleet must be welcoming to new sailors. And not just welcoming but encouraging and engaging. A fleet may have a person who is designated to do this, call it “outreach.”  They introduce new sailors to others, help organize a trailer, help with a borrowed boat, ask someone to run a clinic, etc.

Mission Bay Fleet (Don Bedford)

Our fleet at Mission Bay (San Diego) has a few advantages;

– Great venue – a large parking area for boats and cars

– 10 minute sail to the starting line

– A good bar with a good view!

But that is not all it takes. When we are most successful is when we have a fleet captain or other in the fleet who actively talks to sailors from other fleets, from universities; sailing coaches, juniors, anyone who might like to try the Snipe. We have several clinics a year, usually an on-the-land portion to show proper trimming, tacking, gybing, etc. and on-the-water drills with a powerboat following giving advice. This goes for crews too – they need this just as much as skippers.

We also have a regular schedule for fleet meetings. Usually they are the 2nd Friday of the month at people’s houses and we try to arrange them at least 2 months ahead of time (I’m blessed with this job). This way people can plan to be there. It is mostly a dinner party but we always have a meeting as well. Our schedule always includes fun activities too. Bob Bowden organizes a golf outing every year and we also have a Christmas party and other non-sailing events. Oh, and the GFU is a fun “regatta” that attracts many to view the Serious Fun, Serious Sailing that we all do.

Another helpful item is a fleet email list. This way we can discuss the next race/regatta/fleet meeting and be sure all know that if they show up, they will not be the only participant.

Lastly, it is important for the fleet to gather at the end of a race day, usually with a pint of beer, to discuss the racing and help newcomers with tips and their questions or just to get to know each other. If everyone disappears at the end of the day then newcomers will not feel valued and may feel they are destined to be at the back of the fleet forever.

So, yes, it takes people reaching out to others to ask for borrowing boats, loaning boats, having fleet meetings, helping with clinics, etc. Be sure all fleet members realize how important this is to their enjoyment of the boat (and their investment). Split-up the duties between all fleet members and have fun doing it!

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Argentina

(Luis Soubie)

Luis explains that Argentina is a big country to drive. They have fleets all around the country, most of them very small (1 to 3 boats and very old). There are 4 major fleets (5 to 20 boats). The fleets are very far away from each other.

The Argentinians did a National Ranking with 6 regattas through the year in 6 different venues. The Ranking is the qualification system for 1 or 2 teams for the Worlds and the WHO, so that brings the top sailors to parts of the country they will never go if it is not A qualification regatta.

In Argentina they have 6 “zone captains” in each of these 6 zones. A zone might have 3 or 4 fleets. So the National Secretary communicates with these 6 zone captains who can talk first hand with the sailors. If nobody is the “owner” of the problem, nobody works on it …

Each Class decision is taken via mail with the zone captains, so they have a sort of “representative democracy”. In the past they usually voted at the Nationals, but depending where they were, the fleets weren’t always represented entirely.

For Luis the Snipe class in Argentina has 2 major problems: attracting new young sailors and raising the money for travel.

There are too many classes and most of the people are in Buenos Aires while the Snipe is all over the country. Young sailors can choose 29er, 470, 420, Laser, classes who race in Buenos Aires all the time. What SCIRA Argentina did was acquire 3 old boats and give them to juniors around the country. That doesn’t work with every team but they got 1 junior team who bought a boat and still sails. Argentina has 20 boats at the Nationals so every boat counts.

The money issue is hard to solve. They are working on hotel discounts, etc, but with so few boats, sponsors are hard to find.

Another thing that worked well is that the 10 top sailors who always race tutor a junior team, teaching, suggesting, loaning sails. It is working well with some of those who are very hungry for knowledge and also with some who are more lazy. It is an improvement and because of this they have a 2nd at the Juniors Worlds with one of them.

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Belgium

(André Callot)

In Belgium they have only one fleet in Antwerp in a small lake.

André says that this is the reason why they can keep everything under control and know what is going on.

For the Belgians after sailing activities are also very important. Between the races at around 1 o clock, they have lunch and drinks at the club.

Everyone is pulling to build the class. Other classes like 470, 420, fireball are almost gone due to the Snipe’s strength. In Belgium they are trying to get those people from other classes to our class. On the last Belgian Nationals, the Snipe Class had more boats than those other classes together.

Also they are trying to have good contact with the Cadet sailors and they hope to pick up some even if they tried other classes before. But they see the difference after some time as there is nobody to race against except for the major European events.

André think the most important thing is to have a good offer of second hand boats for sale for people who are interested. “You have to catch the fish when he is ready for it. No delay as he can change his mind and be gone”.

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Croatia

(Damir Vranic)

In Croatia the class only restarted its activities in 2005 and it took them five years to move from almost nothing. Damir says that only in last two years the efforts finally started to give results and they ended up last year with ten boats ( 5 in 2011, so 100% increase) and there is still interest for new boats.

They are expecting that in the next 2-3 years they will grow to about 20 boats when they will need to apply some other strategies. The Snipe was extremely popular in Croatia until the late 70’s and early 80’s when it disappeared, so today they have a very large base of “older” sailors who are delighted to see Snipes sailing again.

They are trying to promote the class at every possible sailing or non sailing event. Without exception Damir uses absolutely every opportunity to try to talk to people to try A Snipe. Damir is active on the most popular Croatian sailing forums, opening up new Snipe topics, posting regatta reports etc. They post results and write articles in daily papers.

They simply need to be as “aggressive” as possible to bring the Snipe to sailors. The media is the key! Of course financing is the main brake for faster growth, but as long as the charts go up Damir is happy. All this was workable with 30+ years old people, but when we come to youth the situation is much more complicated.

However Damir believes that Snipe sailors in managing positions in certain clubs are the key to promoting the class to young sailors!! For example to acquire a second hand Snipe and direct one youth crew to join the snipes within that club should not be a problem? This is what they will do this year in their club. They will try to attract people by hosting clinics just to let people try Snipe. Damir points to the story from Jorn Haga how something similar was done in Norway and it was great! Also parents can play a key role by directing their kids to sail Snipes (at least as a transient class).

For now promoting the Class inside is not the problem here… Who joins stays!! Damir says they simply stick to motto and it works!

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UK

(Sue Roberts)

Sue says that in 2002/3 in the UK Snipes had a rapid decrease in membership. She believes this was a time when many of our older boats were ferried up to Orkney as the ageing population of owners hung up their sailing gear and wanted their Snipes to be used rather than sitting in a back garden. These Snipes are being sailed in Orkney but since they are so isolated, the sailors have been less inclined to join SCIRA. They are hoping this may change in 2013 when after joining SCIRA to compete in the UK Nationals, they may decide to continue their membership thereafter.

With the older boats heading far North there has been a shortage of cheap old boats in the rest of the UK to allow people to come into the class and sail the Snipe and then after a while progress to a newer boat. Over the last 6 years Sue believes they have only had 5 or 6 brand new Snipes come into the country which allows a very small number for people to make an upgrade from their very old Snipes to something a little newer. The limited second hand market has meant that prices have stayed very high. UK Sailors have started to resort to shipping Snipes in from the continent and last year a Belgium Snipe and a French Snipe came to the UK. Sue thinks this could be the main way forward to grow the number of boats.

They have club Snipes at the main clubs where people can race or just try them out and they are very popular. People using these boats have often ended up as crews and eventually helms/boat owners themselves.

Sue explains that sailing used to be a family occurrence but more often than not now in the UK a person finishes sailing on a Sunday afternoon and rushes home back to their families. They don’t have the same attitude as the Belgian sailors in Antwerp where the Snipe sailors will sit around on a foggy day having a beer and chatting sailing while waiting for the wind to fill in. Having been in the bar in Antwerp on more than one occasion Sue knows which is the better for growing the class!

They also have a North/South divide with no clubs sailing Snipes in middle England. Budworth (near Manchester) has the largest number of Snipes but there only a few Snipe sailors prepared to travel due to costs and the fact that they get competitive sailing close to home. This year for the first time it was very noticeable how the travelling between the Northern and Southern clubs declined significantly – all due to increased costs and the recession.

This year did bring in some new crews (and hopefully future helms) as some of the children of the Snipe sailors became strong enough to get out on the water. This should also give the UK some junior helms for the next few years.

One of their aims for the forthcoming year is to travel more to handicap open meetings, as a group, to promote the class. Seeing 5 competitive boats out on the water together rather than 1 should be more captivating. They can target the two areas (North and South) separately so no one has to travel too far.

It certainly seems that once a Snipe sailor, always a Snipe sailor in the UK. They are a friendly, sociable bunch and always open to new comers.

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Italy

(Andrea Piazza)

Andrea believes (Class promotions) are more important than rules like full batten, masters minimum age, or heavy jib.

As Italian Secretary he found some difficulties to “obligate” all sailors to pay the SCIRA fees. He thinks that this happens also in other Countries where someone attending only local regattas do not pay SCIRA fees.

Andrea thinks that what institutions (in our case National Secretaries, Board and Fleets) have to do is to create conditions to make sailing Snipes easier and less expensive, because if good people stay together sailing snipe, probably others will begin sailing snipe too. It’s pretty usual: if we stop looking for new sailors the fleets will die, quickly (again). He thinks the Board, and National Secretaries as well, should give more weight to those sailors working hard in looking for new sailors. Italian National Secretary says that one of their two “Italian Snipers of the Year” are two guys that have never been nearly close to win a championship but both of them love snipe and work hard and well in promotion, organizing, for instance, Snipe days to bring new people on our boat. The other Italian Sniper of the Year is the guy who finished at the third place at the Last Snipe European Championship.. but they nominated him because he organized a Snipe-clinic the day before the last year National Regatta on Lake Bracciano: completely for free!

Andrea says that new snipers have to be picked up one by one. Andrea thinks each Country, each Captain in the world, should be invited to organize a snipe day, and after that to share experiences on social-networks, exchanging tips, best practices, ideas and trivia. The Board could organize a prize for the Fleet that will have the bigger number of new snipe entries in a year.

The Italian National Secretary believes that we are weak in communication to the media. For Andrea what we need is to bring our Class (the boat, our activity, our seriuos sailing and our fun way of sailing) to all the journalist and readers who simply don’t know us.

For Andrea Piazza It is important to rebuild the spirit of our events, particularly at international ones. At the local level many unknown snipers work hard every weekend keeping the snipe alive and kicking, and fortunately we also have international events that are really charming still, like the Spanish Open. The big issue is about Continental and Worlds events where other Classes attract to their World Champs at least 100 boats (easily more). Andrea criticized the fact that “world has changed pretty fast in these last years, and our Class still hasn’t reacted in an organic and reasoned way”. The Class has to find a way to put the local-snipe activity (and a renewed international activity) on some international, important, web based sailing-media. What we have to do is to bring the Snipe to those who simply ignore the existence of snipe activity. He thinks that the financial crisis could be an advantage for the Snipe. Many other classes are very expensive while Snipe is cheap, so we could look for new snipers in other more expensive Classes. All snipers that lend their own snipe for a trying-day to friends of other Classes give a great help in promotion.

For Andrea another way to promote the class is team racing. In places where there are 10 boats we can organize team racing for 30 teams. People without boat could participate and people coming from far could travel without trailer or by train or airplane. He believes that team racing could be the future, or a great way to attract interest at least.

Last year they organized only one team racing regatta, while this year they have already planned 3 regattas and the first Italian Team Racing Championship (Open Championship).

Regarding the Junior activity Andrea says “No chances, in my opinion, to reach great results without the cooperation of National Sailing Federation, so I think it could be better to focus on big-boat sailors, other Classes sailors, young-adults anyway, guys in their university time”.

Despite SCIRA Italy deciding to sell its own Snipe, Andrea thinks that clubs, where there are some snipe, buy second-hand boats, so people and club members can use them. He also believes that SCIRA can do some lobbying activity at ISAF.

Andrea thinks that the “before” and after “regatta” is the most important time. This is the real difference between our class and the others.

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