We get awfully jaded out here in Southern California with our sailing and racing. If the weather isn’t perfect this weekend, well, it’s just too easy to assume that next weekend will be better.
By contrast, sailors in the Midwest and on the East Coast are typically hanging up their sailing gear in October, not to pull it out again until mid-spring. By December, cabin fever is setting in, and Midwestern and East Coast sailors are starting to look for any excuse to get out on the water again.
So maybe it’s not surprising that off-season Florida regattas like the Orange Bowl Regatta and Key West Race Week have become popular sailing events for East Coast sailors looking to get out on the water, especially since these fun regattas are scheduled during the Christmas and Spring Break holidays.
With the Southern California Yachting Association (SCYA) preparing to host its 83rd Midwinter Championships for a wide variety of classes this month, I got to thinking: What’s wrong with our Midwinters? Why don’t our Midwinters attract more East Coast sailors? Is there any chance that sailors would consider coming to California instead of Florida? What does Florida offer that SoCal doesn’t?
Anyone who has sailed in midwinter 45-degree temperatures in Miami can confirm that sailing there can in the winter is sometimes brutal. But more often, conditions in Florida and California are pretty similar; this coming weekend’s forecast here is for light breezes and sunny conditions with temps in the mid-70s; Miami’s forecast is for 80 degrees and a slight chance of showers.
The logistics of attending an event in California or Florida are really not markedly different these days; getting a boat to Key West in the winter isn’t any easier than getting a boat to California.
So why don’t more sailors from around the country travel to California for our Midwinter events?
Is it the relatively shorter two-day duration of SCYA’s event? Maybe sailors want longer 3-4 day regattas to justify travel expenses.
Is it the lack of centralized activities on and off the water?
Is SCYA making enough investment in marketing and publicity for these Midwinter sailing events outside our region?
Does there need to be more coordination and centralized activities within the various clubs and harbors that host events?
Do SCYA member clubs even want to broaden beyond current level of mostly regional participation?
In recent years, the economy has eroded participation even at premier Florida sailing events. If we assume the economy is going to bounce back at some point, then wouldn’t this be the opportune time to think strategically about how to re-establish or re-invent our region’s SCYA’s Midwinters?
They say the best time to build a business is during a recession. Is this the time that our region should try to attract more interest from high-end national classes like Lasers, Stars, Snipes, Lightnings, 505s, Melges, Etchells ( i.e. the type of classes that could bring bigger fleets to a So Cal Midwinters)?
Could our West Coast Midwinters ever rival the scale seen by our Floridian counterparts?
Just thinking …