(October 19, 2010) Dallas Johnson submitted a letter in the September issue of Sailing World magazine, where he commented that while everyone is talking these days about “Saving Sailing”, there are still sailing areas – such as his home waters of Lake Minnetonka – that are doing just fine.
As current Commodore of Wayzata Yacht Club, Dallas provides some insight into what’s going right at his “inland lake fly-over world” in the U.S. state of Minnesota.
There’s no magic bullet or super genius running our programs, but there are some basics:
– We focus on having a well rounded board of directors who are focused on our club mission statement of being “a dedicated, passionate sailboat racing club”, and it’s a working board where everyone is expected to be energetic and do more than contribute their opinions. They take their jobs seriously.
– We own our club property: Year after year that Board of Directors has made the commitment to invest in our club (often against the wishes of vocal club members) and provided us with a substantial base of operations. We do not live like a bird on a wire with rented or borrowed property smiling at how little we spent to get there.
– Two tiered mooring rates. By far our biggest asset has been to provide “owner” mooring rates to boats that race at least 15 races per year. All other boats pay about double for a slip rate which is equivalent to commercial marinas on the lake. This gets rid of the dead wood.
– One Design racing fed by handicap fleets: We love the simplicity and comradeship of one design, and we structure our fleets to have different flavors of non-competing one design fleets so that even the casual/family racer has a one design fleet to join. It’s not an accident that we are home to J/24 and J/22 fleet #1.
– Great RC: We spend copious amounts of money on our RC equipment and paid RC staff. They provide us with what many visitors tell me is the best staff in the country.
– Seminars: I’ve lost count of how many seminars we do each year. All of them are inexpensive and mostly volunteer run.
– Inexpensive Crew Membership levels: All those people who don’t own boats can join or club for a measly $100 per year, and it creates commitment.
– Crew Needing A Ride Table: Before every race we have a table on the patio reserved for anyone who wants to pick up a ride (member or not). Excellent recruiting tool.
– Women: Specifically, women sailors. We court them, encourage them, train them. Women are half the population, it’s a big market, and they are really fun to sail with and somehow they bring in more men to the club. I am told that many clubs are not female friendly.
– Free Beer: Another obvious thing. Along with free soda we provide a free keg after most races. (note: the women are not free, anything but).
– Kids: Women + beer = kids and families. And nothing kills sailing more than an uncooperative family. So we focus very hard on trying to make our club family friendly, and we strongly support our youth sailing center and its programs.
– The things we don’t do: We don’t have a bar, a restaurant, a “model room” of our past glories, blue blazers, and anyone who suggests getting a pool is thrown off the dock. We are not a country club with a sailing program, and our lack of “ancillary revenue sources” like a bar or restaurant means that we are free to throw some great parties after the race and make everyone feel welcome.In short, we focus our energy on providing a solid base for excellent racing programs, and we try to keep it simple, friendly, and fun.