After a few negative years, resulting in some despondency about the future of cruiser racing, the annual meeting of SCORA, the South Coast Offshore Racing Association, had a more positive atmosphere, with a good attendance of skippers, boat owners and club representatives and quite a few practical suggestions about driving the racing scene forward.
SCORA Commodore Kieran O’Connell, who is also Rear Commodore for Keelboats at the Royal Cork YC in Crosshaven, has been talking up the levels of participation in the racing scene, so I was interested to find out if this was the case at the meeting.
In fact, it seemed to be so and was reflected with a wide-ranging debate, from developing Class 4 for the smallest boats, to bring more people into racing, to the length of races, a desire for more racing amongst Cork Harbour sailors outside of the harbour confines, developing more inter-club racing and how to bridge the gap where young sailors are lost to the sport, between dinghy racing and cruisers.
This practicality was reflected in a debate about the often contentious issue of boat handicaps. There was general agreement that the concentration on handicapping should primarily be at club level, where it could best be used to stimulate more participation locally and strengthen the clubs. Where boats wanted a national handicap to race in other locations, that would have to take account of and dealt with, but the emphasis should be in the clubs.
There was also a desire expressed for longer duration races, because shorter races discouraged participation.
Encouraging young people to move on from dinghies to cruiser racing was debated. “We are not getting enough young people from dinghies into cruiser racing,” was a generally agreed view. There is no obvious solution to this, but it was agreed that to encourage younger sailors into cruisers they had to be given specific roles aboard boats, not just brought onto a boat “to sit on the rail.”
Some things don’t change, but this meeting indicated that there is a lot of positive change and a better future ahead, it seems, for cruiser racing, which SCORA Commodore Kieran O’Connell says is on the increase, with more boats racing in the past season than previously.
Listen to Kieran O’Connell on my weekly Podcast below