culture club

I read the post about the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron closing its doors and not refunding membership during that period (“what’s your club doing?“).

A difficult subject which perhaps points to a larger concern about the awareness of many sailors and club members of a club’s structure, perhaps even to the extent of lack of volunteers for events or committee positions.

To go back to the beginning a ‘club’ was a group of people with common interests ‘clubbing’ together to commune and jointly fund their activities. That might have been as simple as going Dutch on the boozy lunch they all had just enjoyed.

Many, if not most sailing clubs and certainly in the UK where I come from, are actually jointly owned by all the fully paid up members. To protect these ‘joint owners’ clubs are often set up as companies “Limited by Guarantee” (which is usually a token amount).

It is not uncommon for clubs to build a cash surplus and there are many good reasons for doing so. My old club in Scotland, Port Edgar Yacht Club, one of Scotland’s premier racing clubs which at one time uniquely held the Scottish Series Overall Trophy, the Scottish Dinghy Champion of Champions Trophy and the Muudhook Trophy for youth keelboat racing ALL AT THE SAME TIME had, as clubhouse, a wooden building built as a temporary Officer’s Mess when the port was a destroyer base for the Royal Navy IN 1916!

The cash surplus being built up coupled to finally receiving planning consents has enabled the club to finally embark on the removal of that building and its replacement with a more suitable base for PEYC’s sailing activities. 

It is really just a case of do you see yourself as a member of a club of like minded people or just a customer of an organisation.

When I started the Shanghai Boat & Yacht Club in China, the first members run sailing club in the country, we reckoned we needed 50 people to club together to enable a small fleet of beaten up dinghies to be bought from Hong Kong. In the end 100 people became founder members and the membership ultimately peaked at around 200.

Sadly though, later members thought it was their right to use club boats without being involved in the maintenance in the off season. Their perception was they were buying the right for boat rental on the summer rather than becoming part of a membership which worked together for the good of the club. Basically their mindset had switched from being a club member to being a customer of the club.

Sure, there are clubs which, absolutely are commercial businesses, most in China are structured that way but in my experience most of the long established clubs in the west, particularly those in the UK or Great Britain’s former colonies are, in effect, owned by the members and run by elected members, well elected by the members that actually bother to turn up for the Club AGM in any case. – SS.