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Sailing Clubs under Internet attack

 
Sailing Clubs are under attack by the Internet, not just from data hackers but from the generational social media wave.What's App doc?

Just as Hotels and Taxi companies thought they were safe from the on-line revolution, that it was just another useful tool, Sailing Clubs are just beginning to realise that they could be next.

The high street was hit first, and everyone accepted the move to on-line shopping. But then, almost overnight, a couple of start-ups called Uber and Airbnb morphed into the biggest taxi and hotel companies in the world.

So, what has that to do with the genteel world of your local Sailing or Yacht Club?

Well, the rapid success of a couple of software programmes did not just happen in a vacuum.

They tapped into the digital social media wave that to anyone under 30 is now the norm. And it’s a tsunami that will dwarf the post-war baby boomer effect of the 'swinging sixties' as it changes the way we organise our leisure time

It's how you live a post smartphone life - why own it when an app can provide it when you need it. Why tie yourself to one club when you may like to try others as the fancy takes you?

At first it was just the book publishers, then the film and record business, with downloads and streaming turning their business model on its head as record and video shops closed in their thousands.

None of these things - the books, records or films disappeared, people still read and listened and watched, the change was how they accessed them.

And it's not stopping there.

How many times do you sail that boat, use those showers, eat/drink in the restaurant?

Why own and maintain an expensive boat, why join a club and pay yearly fees and storage for something you use only when you can find the time?

Sailing Club membership in 2017 was down 6% on 2016, churn increased to 9.5%. Family membership dropped by almost a 1,000 and overall the membership drop was over 6,000.

And Dinghy racing is particularly hard hit, the participation numbers almost halving between 2015 and 2017.

Many dinghy compounds have become parking lots full of rarely used dinghies, deteriorating and forgotten as owners move on to less restrictive leisure models.

Clubs struggle with buildings built for a boom that has long subsided and can only hike their fees and compete in a shrinking market for sailing events to boost their footfall.

Events that would rather enjoy a combined sailing/family holiday in Italy or Barbados or Australia, the global market is not just an international trade thing.

The survivors will be those who can adapt quickly, but the club committee structure is not known for making difficult decisions, after all they are all volunteers and the next election sees them on their way.

Undoubtedly a keen, dedicated core will remain, aficionados enjoying the minutia of racing and a (very) few will continue to compete at the highest level (if the funding continues).

But for the majority the pay to play, subscription model seems set to become the norm.

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