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What is the Future of Sailing?

26th September 2018
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Yachts pass the Muglins Rock on Dublin Bay in a passage race on the East Coast of Ireland. Questions are being asked in a UK survey whether sailing needs to change its approach to attracting more people into the sport Yachts pass the Muglins Rock on Dublin Bay in a passage race on the East Coast of Ireland. Questions are being asked in a UK survey whether sailing needs to change its approach to attracting more people into the sport Photo: Afloat.ie

Hello and welcome to my weekly Podcast …. Tom MacSweeney here …..

Sailing is at a “tipping point” across the water in the UK – with the future coterie of potential sailors, the “Millennials” as they are described, taking a different view of participation in the sport to the existing, though older age group.

Those differences include attitudes towards the purchase of boats and membership of clubs.

It seems that the modern way of living - easier and immediate access, renting rather than purchase and less tolerance of structures and regulations - are motivating forces.

A year-long research study for the British Marine Federation concluded that, in contrast to the “older age group” which traditionally and still – buys and maintains boats and holds club memberships, the “Millenials” want easier and instant access to sport and will go for those sports which provide it – “pay and play” – was the preferred approach…

The national body, Sport England, has identified less interest amongst young people in the established practices of race-style training, with more interest in the social aspects of sailing. An online platform, called Tendrr, has been set up connecting sailors, crews, boat owners and clubs and says that new paths are needed into sailing.

"The belief that they will return after marriage and early family development is not any longer quite so sure across the water"

Those are interesting trends and findings, which also point to cruising as more popular than racing, but question whether sailing needs to change its approach to attracting more people into the sport, indicating what is also an on-going concern here - the loss of the age group from the teenage years into the mid-30s from the sport. The belief that they will return after marriage and early family development is not any longer quite so sure across the water.

That’s an intriguing picture of the future of sailing as the end of the season approaches with the Autumn Leagues gearing up here, after which there will be the wind-down to hauling out into boatyards or marina berthage to wait out the winter, during which annual club meetings, may give a picture of the strength of sailing here and its future.

Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney writes a weekly column for Afloat.ie. He also presents the maritime radio programme This Island Nation on community radio stations around Ireland.

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