Ranking Extra – Our Top Clubs Now Ranked …..!!

I was interested to hear from Tom Waples that the FF Ranking platform can also spin out some data on how points add up by Club.  After all, it would give you some idea of where the strong pockets of people base themselves…..Lots of caveats, of course, but you can just see the depth of talent basing itself out of Hayling.

FF 2013 Ranking Club

Datchetman’s Christmas Offer….

From a humble start (and false start) in January, the FF Blog has come along quite well.  Our fleet is modestly proud of the fact that our blog is looked at 5000-7000 times a month at the moment. Do you ever look at the weekly statistics which you can see here

Some time ago the blog was restructured and “dedatchetised” to a good degree. Now if you click to see the Datchet Fleet it is actually a separate website  www.flyingfifteen.com   The thing we like is that it all looks like a continuous website based around the blog – and hopefully aimed at the ordinary club sailors like us.

For the last 300 days, our club fleet description has been clicked on 330 times, our loan boat program for trial sail has been looked at 650 times, and by the way, the general Flying Fifteen description was clicked on 770 times. Interesting…

So from all that we guess that it is actually quite good publicity for our fleet and our club – especially as it’s free. We haven’t spent a penny on it. Heaven knows if it actually works….  Last year was good for attracting new boats (6) and this year we have attracted four new boats but around half a dozen new crews. Does the web work? We still don’t know!!

We did all the separation of our club pages with an eye to adding other FF Club Fleets to the blog at some time. Slightly to my amazement, nobody has ever asked. So our Christmas offer to you and your Club Fleet is that we shall do it for you.  We’ll do the website set up for your Club FF Fleet for you. Just a mirror image of http://www.flyingfifteen.com but with your words and pictures – then we’ll teach you to take over yourself after that.  (It’s dead easy) Any takers?? First come, first served, winner gets it…!

What would you need to provide??

– do you simply want to follow the datchet design at first, or have a page structure of your own?

– a really good handful of photos to which you have the copyright holders permission for use.

– the text you want on each page about your club and your fleet

– any “links” you would like to make e.g. to your club race results page

That’s about it, I think. Oh yes, … we feel it makes sense to have some eligibility criteria. So we propose that we restrict the offer to fleets with FFI status – that is to say at least six boats and at least six of the fleet belong to BIFFA, our Association. Oh the other thing – if this is to help attract new members to your fleet, you ought to have some idea of how you are going to offer a “trial sail” program. Our loan boat program is used a lot and has been the most effective tool for clinching new members. But you have an answer to that, we’ll pop up the website for the first Club Fleet to ask, and then teach you how to run it and grow it for yourselves. Anyone want one?

Enjoy your Christmas – sailing tomorrow??!!

Are the RYA Killing Club Sailing??….

In response to our Blog on “Do People Want to Club Race Any More?”, Glyn Morgan has written this thoughtful piece…

An interesting point and one that will undoubtedly have been debated at clubs up and down the country over the last 10-15 years. I have a view on this which may not be particularly popular but can only look at my own experiences which for some, if not all may be fairly familiar..

As a child of the 60′s I grew up in the baby boom which coincidentally tied in with sailing as a sport becoming accessible to the ‘common man’. My parents didn’t sail but a family round the corner did and I was dragged along as a potential crew for their son in a mirror. This opened up a whole new world for me and I discovered the joy of racing mirrors with a group of kids more or less my age. We all looked forward to racing on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesday evenings. Some of us were good, some of us not so good but the draw for me was getting together with my friends every week, seeing how we did each race and watching our individual skill levels improve as the months turned in to years. In those days there was no such thing as RYA zone squads to take us away from our club. Consequently we kept that close knit family feel through our teenage years, fiercely fighting on the race track but reverting to great mates when off it.

We didn’t lose the best sailors to the RYA squads at a young age which meant we consistently had good competition whilst growing up at our local club. Incidentally i’m sure this egged on the adults as they must have been desperate not to have been beaten by ‘us youngsters’. By the time we reached our mid late teens we had all competed in open meetings and national championships with varying degrees of success but regardless of the success, we would all come back to our club and enjoy competing against each other in whatever boat we were sailing then. On this point, and relevent to the thread, we didn’t have a huge choice to race. The club was very strict on what it would allow to race and you had to pick within this group. They did have a handicap fleet but the vast majority of us wanted to carry on racing against each other so we stayed within the fleet racing fraternity. This obviously meant that the club stayed healthy with youngsters racing regularly which by default meant that many of the parents stayed within the sport as they had to take their kids to the club in the first place. All in all, by keeping the kids within a local club environment, it kept the racing healthy and competitive. It also kept a solid base for the committee to draw on from the parents group and to my mind created a ‘win win’ scenario.

Today we have the RYA zone squads which is geared to olympic gold medals regardless of the fallout of youngsters along the way. I believe that the RYA should take some responsibility for the decline in club racing. I don’t know the statistics but for sure at my club, once those youngsters leave the zone squads, very few of them come back to club sailing as their friends and peers are no longer there for them to enjoy racing against. Further, for those that don’t get selected to join the squad system in the first place, it is dispiriting as they feel failures and i’m sure that many of them give the sport up when their friends disappear to the squads. In simple terms many of them are lost to sailing forever. As an aside, we also lose the parents as they get ‘volunteered’ to follow their children around the country through the year. Granted, those that reach the very top are exceptionally talented, well looked after, professionally coached and stand very realisitic chances of medalling. My issue is that the fallout along the way!

My thoughts may be controversial but If we are to improve fleet racing I believe we need to keep the youngsters in our local clubs which will also keep the parents involved too. This I believe will be self perpetuating and over time will end up with healthy racing at club level. I would suggest that unless the RYA recognises this and looks for solutions, the youngsters won’t stay within the sport, they won’t introduce their own kids to it as many of us have done over the years and clubs will start to close through lack of members. Finally I would guess the average age of our club members must be about 50. I wonder what it will be in another 10 years???

 Glyn Morgan

Summary of All Those Club Support Package Ideas…!

We have earlier written about our ideas for a Club Support Package in the general areas of :-

– Club Training

– Practical Help

– Fleet Management

Our last idea concerns the Online Environment –  the BIFFA website itself. Now, as it turns out, there’s lots of chat going on in BIFFA along the same lines…Lots of good ideas starting to come…  In our Club, we feel that it doesn’t currently have enough general orientation towards the ordinary Club Sailor and not yet enough about the Silvers and Classics.  We think there should be a separate strengthened section of the website in the members-only  area:-

– aimed at Club Fleets

– aimed at First Time Owners

– aimed at more support for silver and classics

– aimed at aspiring future owners (this in the open, non members area)

At the beginning of this little brainstorm we thought maybe there wasn’t much to suggest in the way of new ideas. And perhaps pragmatically we could not expect all of this – the Solo Class for example depend mainly on the Training aspect. But actually, we can probably figure out a way to do a little more, and go a little further??

Club Support Package – Datchet Idea 10 …!!

The second half of our Datchet ideas on helping with Fleet Management looks like this.

All Club Fleets want to look great for their Open Meetings. At the present, BIFFA has a flags and banners kit available for BIFFA regional and national champioships. Why doesn’t BIFFA considering offering the kit to all Club Fleets with FFI status for their Open Meetings? Indeed , if individual clubs with fleet status would like FF flags and banners for their own use, why doesn’t BIFFA help procure them at cost?

I  hear that at some Clubs you have to be an Association member to race even at Club Level.  100pc membership. Can it be enforced? If a Club can guarantee effectiveness, would the Association consider a special 100pc Fleet membership tariff. For myself, I think this is an unlikely one, but we should think it through at the current prevailing low levels of membership.

Finally, we are moving toward an environment of high fuel costs. We have Regional Travellers Series, but should we consider some way of having local regional league tables  based on Club Results somehow? Maybe between individuals, or even ranking top 3 teams in each club to enable a league table of Clubs…Remember, nine out of ten owners do not travel – at least in 2011. So why not see if something could work in a locality. We wonder what the 70 FF owners in 4 clubs in Cumbria might think about that??

Club Support Package – Datchet Idea 9….

The Datchet Club also wants to make some suggestions about  helping Clubs with a topic we can loosely call “Fleet Management” – perhaps by creating a “Fleet Management Handbook” where all the best “recipes” and best-of-breed practices can be documented and held…

We all know how hard it can be to keep a healthy fleet growing and make it a great place to sail. So is there actually any sense of best practice based on the growing clubs?

Our idea here is to figure out what the magic sauce is (we have more than a few ideas!), get it documented and distribute it to all qualifying fleets.

Our ideas run along the following lines

– How to run a successful fleet

– How to run a Loan Boat Program

– Local Fleet Rule adaptations and how to secure them (eg no anchors)

– Family Regatta Guidance

Our next idea is that BIFFA needs to keep in closer touch with its largest fleets and do mainly some more dialoguing.  This could be simply a conference call or visit from the President/Vice-President/Officer – quite simply to increasingly get Club Fleet Issues on the Agenda.


UPDATE : With the help of both our Association President and Secretary, BIFFA already  has a conference call service signed up for the main use of talking with the Club Fleets. The trial call took place a few days ago and was a good success. Around 8 participants dialled in. The pilot topic for the call  turned into  great discussion on how Club Fleets could be represented better in the Association.  We’ll extend the pilot into a few more calls over the coming weeks and polish out technique….

By the way, one group of Fleets (Western Area) asked if they could also have a conference call sign-in so that they might easily have “Regional” discussions together.  Keith, our Association Secretary, has found the way to do that and they now have a call in number of their own. We await their feedback as to how useful they find it, how easy it was to use etc….

Club Support Package – Datchet Ideas 7 and 8…!!

These are the third and final ideas we have at Datchet about the Practical Help our Association might give as part of a support package to Club Fleets.

Our third idea in this category regards Classic and Silver members. We have already suggested that consideration is given to a lower membership tariff (eg £20) for Classic/Silver members that live in fleets with FFI Status.

Our idea though comes from looking at eBay. Have you noticed that a lot of the sales of classic and silver boats happen on websites other than BIFFA – such as eBay??  We suggest that (i) the best place for owners to sell FFs is on the BIFFA site  (ii) they only sell elsewhere because with BIFFA they would have to join (£35). Why don’t we consider advertising Silver Boats for free so long as they are paid up members (reduced tarrif) of a fleet with FFI status?? (Actually – is this right?? Or can any owner already advertise on BIFFA for a fee??…)

Typical of bar talk, we were bound to think  of whether chandlers, branded clothing or repair shops offer fidelity discounts to BIFFA members of Fleets with FFI status… Why would they agree though? It might be hard to do it with Chandlers maybe, but what about branded clothing for example??

Club Support Package – Datchet Idea 6…!!

We have another idea to go in the Practical Support part of the Club Support Package. This idea comes from our Vice Captain John Hanson and is on the subject of Fleet Insurance.  We’d have to take a look at the numbers side of this, but it’s very interesting.

Today we have a fleet scheme which we sign up to – and the Insurance Company sends a commission sharing cheque to BIFFA. It’s not huge though – I may be wrong but from memory it’s about £300-£400. Lets say about the equivalent of just 10 new membership fees.

So John’s idea is that the Association abandons or surrenders its little commission share. Instead how would it be if there was a small volume discount offered by the broker to customers – but only if they were paid up members of the Association? Would that persuade more than 10 potential new members to join??

Interesting …  Is worth thinking about some more….

I wonder how many owners on the FF Fleet Insurance Scheme are actually members of the Association??

Club Support Package – Datchet Idea 5…!!

The second set of ideas we have at our Club for a Club Support package revolve around “Practical Help”….

Our first idea in this category is that the Association works with a small number of Chandlers to visit a fleet with FFI status and convert all the boats in one morning to dual length jib halyards – readying the whole fleet for the New Rig in one visit.  This would probably make a contribution to residual values too in the short term. It’s just a hassly subject for individual owners, yet dead easy if a team turns up with an industrial process and does it all in one go. It may even be that the masts don’t have to come out if we have the right kit…

There would have to be a nominal materials charge, but it’s a great way for a local Chandler to make a real bonding with a fleet.

What about that??

Club Support Package – Datchet Idea 4….!!

Our fourth idea, and last under the heading of training, for a potential BIFFA support package for Clubs is this – “Connect to a Champion”…

Our idea goes like this…  If you are a qualifying Fleet for FFI Status (at least 6 Boats and 6 Association Members), then once a year you get to dial in for a one hour conference call from your homes for a Q&A hour with a Champion. While we currently have 17 fleets that qualify for FFI status, this may be manage-able – obviously if we can persuade other fleets to sign up we might have to think through how much we might impose on our heroes for this one. We would though ask for some celebrity crews to put their names on the roster…

So that’s our set of ideas for a Club Support Package on the subject of Training:-

– The Online Goacher Masterclass

– Silver/Classic Boat Tuning Clinic

– Basic Compass Work

– Connect to a Champion

Club Support Package – Datchet Idea 2….

Our second idea for Training Support is specifically for Silver and Classic owners. Almost all the tuning material in the market generally applies to Mk IX and Mk X Ovingtons.  There’s no guidance really for older boats – Silvers and Classics… that is to say, half the National Fleet….

We would like to enable Club Leaders to run tuning workshops for Silver/Classic owners based upon Powerpoints and Speaker Notes carefully distributed by BIFFA to Club Fleets and owners who are Association Members.

I am told that Charles Apthorp and Pip Hudson may have accepted the challenge on this… maybe we’ll see something soon.

Suggestions for Club Support Package….

At Datchet, we have had the pleasure of  coaching sessions from both Charles Apthorp and Greg Wells in recent years. Great they were too….!!

However, we have about three dozen fleets in UK that need nurturing and there just wont be enough “Champions” to send around.  What we need is that said Champions produce materials to enable local Fleet Champions to run training for everyone else.

Our first idea, is that we take the Goacher Masterclass video and get it online in the members area of the BIFFA website.  If this was backed up by powerpoints and/or speakers notes prepared by our Champions, so that the local team could run the workshops – then we think that would be fine. We would even think that bigger fleets should help smaller fleets in their neighbourhood if requested.

We would suggest that distribution of the materials is strictly controlled and only sent to Fleets that have paid their fees and qualify for their Fleet Status. Like the Solo Class, we would also look to the Fleet Captain to ensure that all participants are card holding Association Members.

As an additional part of the Masterclass, we suggest that from a long (!) roster of Champions one is made available for a conference call based Q&A – over the phone for 30 minutes to take questions at the end of the workshop.

We also have a feeling that Silver/Classic members should be offered a discounted full membership fee so long as their Fleet qualifies for their Fleet status.

There you go – that’s the first of four ideas we have for Training Support to Club Fleets. More later….

The Flying Fifteen Census – How Many Are There??….

We’ve been wrestling with the publicity question, and setting aside the issue of how to attract new owners to the Class you really have to figure out who has already got one and where they are….

We reckon there are 80 or so Clubs where there may be at least one Flying Fifteen. Around 25 of those just have a token one or two boats.  By the way, in UK we recognise 48 Fleets…So to help with our mission, we contacted 52 Clubs during August by phone or email with the simple question,

“How many Flying Fifteens have you got in the Boat Park?”…

In some cases, the Clubs of course either didn’t have exact records or sometimes any records…  so I just asked them to go outside and count. One Club counted from the office window!

The answers were pretty interesting!  How many FFs do you think we could find in the UK? My optimistic guess was based on the fact that probably 2,000 of the 4,000 built were probably in the UK… So I guessed 1,000.

The answer?? – We have found 681 boats. There’ll be a few in garages and barns of course, but I found 652 at 52 Clubs, and allowing for the 25 Clubs I didn’t call (and using BIFFA records) I reckon there’s 681. Lets call it 680 between friends.  Surprised? Remember that the FFI register suggests 470 boats in the UK, so perhaps this is a pleasant surprise!!..

The next thing that surprised me is that Club Secretaries reported a lot of boats in dereliction or just plain unsailed.  I suspect that you can take the number for the real fleet down to 600 or below… maybe further. Perhaps we’ll run the census again in 2012 and ask the specific question about derelict and unsailed boats.

A reasonable and informed guess is that we have about 300 Open Fleet boats and 300 Classic and Silver. Remember that the Open Fleet is growing at a rate of maybe 10-15 UK boats per year (half the worldwide total).

Needless to say there is lots to tell you (and BIFFA) from the Census Survey.  It’ll appear on the FF Blog going forward.

One last thought for today… Open Meeting attendances are down in 2011 (fuel price and recession, I guess) but I reckon about 60 boats “do the circuit”, maybe slightly more. So the obvious thing to close with today is that 9 out of 10 of our owners are dedicated Club Sailors…