Fee For All

Fee For All

We’ve been asked a lot lately to feature stories of regattas that are managing costs during the down economy.  Dave Ellis ("Sailwriter") gives us his take on the very successful dinghy action going on near St. Petersburg.  Great stuff.

In 1953 St. Petersburg Yacht Club in Florida for the first time had the gall to actually charge for a regatta. My dad and many others boycotted that Veteran’s Day All Class event. After all, three dollars was ridiculous for what had always been free.

Today, even readers of this site recognize that it costs to run significant regattas. But I just calculated that in the month of November I spent almost as much on regatta fees as I did for food.  A hundred bucks is average for an event, but it is creeping up. Snipe Worlds cost $500+.  US SAILING championships that were once free are now expensive, plus boat damage deposit. Some of us get that back if we sacrifice aggressiveness on the race course for money back in our pocket.

Do regattas have to cost so much? Well, maybe they do at a recognized yacht club. If judges or a special race officer has to be flown in and housed the price goes way up.

SPYC hosted the Classic Moths on Tampa Bay in the late 1990s. With just twenty boats the cost of water support and the small numbers at the requisite banquet made for a net loss. So, in subsequent years several other classes were invited.  $110 entry fee. Ironically both the Moth and the 505 class have since moved to cheaper digs.

I run those cheaper regattas. They seem to be well received annual events. How do we do it?

The Classic Moths are run out of small Gulfport Yacht Club. No bar or restaurant, no hired help. But they have a great barbeque guy as a member and excellent race committee support on a pontoon boat and small Whaler.  Entry fee is around fifty bucks and includes lots of beer and food, and excellent racing.

The 505 and A-Cats sail a midwinter regatta off the beach on an island miles from any established club. The Swift Solo and Musto Skiff classes have also sailed at this venue. Fort Desoto has been the world’s number one beach and has lower Tampa Bay spread out before it. The official board is leaned against a picnic table and there is one long hose for washing boats.

We have two and sometimes three borrowed power boats with their owners for running the course and we pay their gas. Ethan Bixby at the local North Sails loft bought marks and a set of flags that we use each year. I have the other needed equipment. For years the “banquet” was a gathering at Ethan and Trudy’s house. Trophies are handmade and unique.

The biggest cost of a regatta can be trophies, but also T-shirts or hats are an expense that many of us can do without. Buy a Florida T-shirt at the local tourist store cheaper. Food can be a major item if catered.  As a matter of fact this year’s 505/A-Cat regatta is up in price due to two nights of hosted meals.

While the interaction at a banquet can be important to the fun of an event, a meeting at a local dive, pay your own meal, can be cheaper.

I am one of many sailors who now pick and choose their regattas due to cost. As a matter of fact I am crewing on a Flying Dutchman at this year’s SPYC Multiclass. Let the skipper pay the fee.