the nood truth – part 2
Yesterday’s critique of the Sailing World NOOD Regattas has not surprisingly stirred the pot, but before we go into our analysis of the reasons for precipitously declining participation at the continent’s biggest one-design series, we need to make something clear: We are not trying to kill the NOOD. Much like our criticism of Key West Race Week, our critiques flow from the input of dozens if not hundreds of participants as well as analysis of the numbers, and we do not write them unless we have already told organizers our views, and we do not run them unless it is clear that those organizers are doing nothing about what we see as major problems. We have been griping about the NOOD for years now, we know that Sailing World’s staff are all SA readers, and front page editorials are the only way to accomplish what we believe to be our goal at Sailing Anarchy: The improvement of sailboat racing across all discipines. A healthy, vibrant NOOD would be a net positive to sailing, but a lousy NOOD is a net negative, and that’s where this report comes from. Now to our analysis.
Years of competing in NOOD events and hours of listening to participants has resulted in the following list of ways in which NOOD organizers are falling short:
- Cost For Value: NOOD costs have consistently risen without a similar increase in the kind of services or quality of racing offered. "Social Ticket" prices have gotten out of hand for parties that are universally panned, resulting in an unsatisfying experience for ‘lifestyle’ racers as well as a feeling among many that they are being cheated while Sailing World profits. The NOOD no longer offers racing that is unavailable in other places or even in the same place at other times, yet the costs are greater.
- Venue Choice: NOODs tend to be created in places with large existing fleets rather than places that provide consistently good sailing conditions. This made sense in the 80s and 90s when boats were tougher to move, while today’s one-design scene includes a large and increasing number of easy-to-haul and launch boats that would prefer a bit of driving for great breeze over shitty wind closer to home. Similarly, many of the venues have become expensive ones, guaranteeing poor numbers for the inexpensive boats that make up the majority of racing fleets and that contributed most to the success of the NOOD concept.
- Poor Promotion: When Sailing World was an essential read for one-design sailors, a few articles and an advertisement or two in the magazine ensured that the message would reach its target audience. In 2010, only a small percentage of the racing population reads Sailing World and even a smaller number read their website, yet the organization has refused to adapt to the new, more personal world of marketing. For some inconceivable reason, the SW editors don’t even bother putting stories on their own site about upcoming events until the first day of racing. Email and phone outreach is nearly non-existent even though most organizers say it is the most essential part of maintaining strong fleets, while SW relies on low-res photos to convey the ‘fun’ to be had at the NOOD. And don’t bother looking for good video or social networking from SW – they are either too lazy to bother or too focused on their bottom line to divert resources toward the myriad cheap, effective tools to promote their events. Here’s another tale.
- Poor Service: Most recently, three growing classes of boat were stationed at Coronado Yacht Club for the SD NOOD, and Sailing World didn’t even bother sending banners or flags down to the docks for the dozens of boats rafted up there. Worse yet, the NOOD actually made protests impossible for the CYC racers, requiring protests to be handed in to SDYC 30 minutes after the RC docked – an impossibility for CYC-based boats. Here’s another tale from someone who watched the Toronto NOOD fall apart and die from this a few short years ago.
- Lousy Parties: While some come solely for competition, the average racer is as interested in connecting with old friends and meeting new ones in a comfortable environment with a drink or six. Yet the NOOD parties have become one of the big jokes in US regattas. Generally lousy food, drinks that run out way too quickly, shitty music (if any), and venues that are often more like school cafeterias than good party spot – and all for a pretty penny. There are certainly exceptions (Detroit, for instance), but only if the host clubs do all the work. Party planning takes creativity to keep things fresh, but there simply isn’t a staler party scene than pretty much any NOOD get-together.
- Bad RC Work: The NOOD isn’t immune from this gripe that we hear about many events, but its exacerbated by NOOD-based NOR and SI requirements as well as the crappy wind that many venues see as predominant when the NOOD comes to town. It’s particularly bizarre since SW retains Peter Reggio as something like an advisor to the fleets, something you’d think would ratchet up the RC quality significantly.
- Forced US Sailing Requirement: As Jim Capron found out last year, US racers aren’t interested in being forced to pay for a membership to their NGB – most of them do not see the value. Yet Sailing World continues to require membership to enter any of their events, and while the price isn’t outrageous, it’s yet another 60 bucks that owners must shell out to get something they don’t want. We’ve been surprised at how many racers cite this as one of their biggest problems with the NOODs, and it’s more about the attitude and the arrogance of it than about the cash.
You might complain about our methods, but this article is a roadmap for NOOD organizers to follow in order to get the important event back on its feet. If they choose to ignore these comments, most of them generated by their own customers, they deserve to fail. Weigh in with your opinion here