Despite a continuing drop in attendance numbers, the RYA duly declared the 2013 Dinghy Show at Alexandra Palace as popular as ever. Apparently the PR rule with boat shows is that the fewer people that attend, the better the show. Thus the prefect show will be in 2039 when the exhibitors will have the place to themselves.
Attendance was down from 10,700 in 2005 to 8,200 this year, but the show remains popular with the dinghy associations and builders, 201 boats crammed the halls of Ally Pally, while the visitor numbers slowly decline.
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But worse than a two day show slowly sinking, it seems that the decline in interest is hitting the roots of the sport, the sailing clubs. Four major south coast clubs have put aside their traditional rivalry to arrange a joint open weekend to drum-up new members, and another major dinghy club is about to make a similar bid for the increasingly elusive dinghy sailing member.
It seems that despite all the UK Sport money thrown at Olympic sailing (£23 million for the 2012 Games period and 24.5 for the next Games) it has little effect on getting people into active sailing, not even the success of Britain's Olympic sailors, can turn the tide.
In Ireland, which has also seen rising Olympic and International success, the ISA, the equivalent of our RYA, has faced a challenge from members to dump the focus on the elite squads and concentrate on keeping young people in the sport at club level after the beginner stage.
We all see the focus on very young sailors, bobbing around in the oppies and teras, but the fall-out is huge once the basic skills have been learned and the certificate received. The few that show potential are eagerly tracked and channelled by the national authorities through the squad levels, searching for the next generation of International stars. The rest, the vast majority, slip away to less time-hungry pastimes, most never to return . . .
7 March 2013 22:07