“Town Meeting” Brims With Suggestions
CYC Rear Commodore
A near-capacity crowd of over 70 filled the Shilshole Clubhouse on Friday evening, September 10, in response to Commodore John Rahn’s call for a Town Meeting for an open discussion about of significant issues facing the Club. From the crowd – ranging from many-year members such as Bill Lieberman and Gordy Cole to others who joined this year, from world-class sailors as Jonathan McKee to occasional crews, from skippers racing every week to cruisers who no longer race their boats – ideas flew fast and furious for over two and a half-hours.
Commodore Rahn opened the meeting by outlining some of the issues facing CYC – an aging and declining total membership (more members over 80 than under 30) and declining participation in racing across all programs, especially on the Thursday night Sound dinghy racing – compounded by the recent economic slowdown – all of which are issues facing many sailing clubs across the country. While the Club has strong financial reserves, its costs continue to rise while revenue drops – and the Club leadership believes that it cannot continue in future years to raise dues or racing fees or simply reduce expenses sufficiently to bring the Club to operational financial balance. Thus the keys, admittedly longer term, are first to stabilize and then increase membership and racing participation.
The need for a more family-inclusive program was brought forward in numerous comments – ranging from the need for CYC to conduct a junior instructional program and attract younger adult sailors to adding play equipment and provide baby-sitting for toddlers and infants. One suggestion combined a number of factors – race dinghies (and perhaps larger boats) on Sundays – with a day-care for younger children, a junior racing program in Opti’s and other suitable boats at 11 and adult sailing at 1 or so, followed by a simple dinner in the late afternoon. Some suggested that the Club own and maintain a fleet of Opti’s, Lasers and two-person boats (FJs or 420s) to attract younger sailors (from juniors to under-30s).
The difficulty of getting to Shilshole during the week – especially from the Eastside or southern Seattle, led to several calls for weekend racing rather than on weekdays, especially for the dinghies in the spring and fall when the winds are more consistent. Others suggested a slightly later starting time, and perhaps moving dinghy racing to Wednesday nights along with the keel-boats to decrease costs.
An active volunteer program was another focus of suggestions – the Club needs a volunteer coordinator – likely not a Board member – to call members with specific work suggestions (which could include assisting junior instruction, taking care of younger children, scoring and other race committee activities and clubhouse maintenance). Merely publicizing a list of work projects was not sufficient. Active successful volunteer parties encourage the sense of a Club as people get to know each other in contexts other than purely racing.
The absence of a paper Leadline was noted, as many said that they simply did not read the electronic version, as good as it was, noting that the absence of the Leadline has led to a loss of communications and, with that, a sense of the Club and its issues.
Significant back and forth centered about opening evening racing to non-CYC members. Many thought that permitting SYC and UW racers access to CYC evening racing was an easy decision, and would increase racing participation, especially on the Sound in both big boats and dinghies. A vocal number, especially from dinghy sailors, suggested opening evening racing to all sailors without regard to any club membership – with the thought that the value of CYC membership should be based on instructional/social/family programs rather than purely racing.
Having the Shilshole clubhouse bar open on a consistent basis for members of the Shilshole community (and others) could attract more members especially if combined with a simpler process of joining the Club. A related suggestion was a reduced dues structure for those who own but do not race their boat – currently, if someone is 30 or older and a boat owner (of any size) the only membership category available is the full S2 highest dues-paying category.
Some suggested that the Club revamp and simplify its structure of dues, racing fees and membership categories to make them easier to understand. At the least, make it easy to join the Club, with a simpler application process.
One area of general agreement was that the Club offered the best racing program in Seattle, if not the country, and it should not compromise the excellence of its racing program. Calls for “simpler” racing – for example, use of existing marks on the Sound, should be a complement to but not a replacement of the current racing program.
Of course not everyone could attend Friday’s night meeting and other CYC members have great ideas. Not all topics could be covered during Friday’s evening discussion. All suggestions are welcome – they can be sent by email to the Club (firstname.lastname@example.org), to John Rahn (email@example.com) or any Board member, or mailed to the Club. In order to get a broader review of suggestions from CYC members (and non-members), the Club has also published a survey that touches on many of these topics – the survey is available at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/L5PNG2S.
The Board began reviewing the many suggestions it received on Friday and from other sources at its Board meeting held on Monday, September 13. This will be a key ongoing process as some suggestions can be implemented quickly and others will need evaluation, financial consideration, potential by-law amendments and, most importantly, continued involvement and implementation by many CYC members beyond the Board.