By Peter Huston
People keep talking about all the reasons they think participation in the sport of yacht racing is declining in the US. There are specific factors that can be identified as to what looks like THE cause, but generally, those factors are probably only one of many reasons someone decides to stop racing.
The core problem we have in the US as it relates to the decline of yacht racing participation is that the social contract under which the sport grew and thrived is broken.
Money always has been and always will be an issue in the sport. One of the great things about yacht racing is that anyone at any economic level can participate. Maybe you can’t afford the boat you want, but if you have any talent at all, and the drive to participate as you desire, it is usually pretty easy to find a way to race in the level and style of competition you seek, at least as a crew.
Yes, the current global economy has necessitated a pullback in how much money can be spent against the sport, but the reality is that the time squeeze caused by the fact that everyone has to pay a lot more attention to business is probably a greater burden right now. Time, like money, always has been, and always will be a factor in the participant base. Often times people say that life has gotten more complicated in recent years, and there is no time left for sailing. Yes, life has evolved and changed, as it always has and always will, but a sweeping generalization about life being more complicated now than 30 years ago sounds like just an easy excuse to instantly justify why fleets are smaller these days. Alternatively, consider that many changes in the world in the past few decades – even this decade – have helped us gain more control of our time.