Class Layers - Part 6 - Time for Change?

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Class Layers - Part 6 - Time for Change?

Post by ROBERT ALPE » Mon Aug 14, 2006 8:59 am

Discussion Paper - Part 6 - Class Layers - Time for Change?

For those who review this Forum, this is the fifth in a series of papers. While the proposer/writer is an IDA Officer, the contents are his notions/observations and are not necessarily those of the IDA or fellow IDA Officers.

If you wish to join into this discussion. please read and comment on Part One - Class Layers Forum, Part Two ASPIRATIONAL Class Layer, Part Three ENTHUSIASTIC Class Layer, Part Four AFFLUENT and PROFESSIONAL Class Layer and Part Five SWOT Analysis topics before reading this paper. And please feel free to post your responses to each paper on this Forum. Thank you!

Part Six

Class Layers - Time for Change?

While the SWOT analysis is being built [if you have not contributed to this analysis, it is very important you do so in this Forum,] I would like to canvas some other ideas ...

Whether or not we agree with the thesis behind the Class Layer concepts Discussed in Papers Two, Three and Four, one would have to agree, that we participate an extremely successful International One Design Racing Class that attracts paid skippers and crew at the one end, and the the entry level keel boat sailor at the other.

Well yes! But is this any different to many other sporting endeavours? Perhaps not! Most other multi layered sporting endeavours seem to muddle on, and survive [some very well]. So do we really have problems because of layers within the Dragon Class? Do we have problems because the expectations of each layer are in conflict from time to time [all the time?] Are the differences between the Layers more divisive than those things the Class Layers have in common?

Could we change our Class Structure? Is there a new Dragon 'World Order' just over the horizon that offers a panacea; that addresses our problems and offers 'layer sensitive', forward focused solutions? Other sporting genres have successfully lived through what we are now experiencing. Should we simply review how they tackled the issues, analyse the models used, and consider adapting their programs for the International Dragon Class?

What models do we review, Motor Racing, Power Boat Racing, Other Yachting Classes, Tennis, Basketball, Rugby, Football, Major League Baseball et al? You will note all these have fully Professional structures at the pinnacle of the sport and totally Amateur structures at the lower levels. Wholly Amateur [?] structures exist in major sports as well, Athletics is a fine example, and they have the Olympics at their heart. Perhaps there are hybrid structures worthy of our inspection also?

To be fair, any major change to the existing Dragon Class structures by following one of the above models, presumes the current structure is either very flawed or in need of major overhaul. Is it? We are a very successful class after all, run with few formal structures, manageable guidelines, considerable volunteer contributions and minimal intervention. Do we want professional management [as in, paid and accountable] to better integrate the current Class Layers? Will managing the Class more like a business produce more professional, better integrated outcomes?

Please remember our objective here: to develop growth programs, systems or structures that play to the strengths of each Class Layer, while allowing effective integration of all four.

Any thoughts or comments?

Robert Alpe

Michael Reinert
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Post by Michael Reinert » Tue Sep 05, 2006 8:27 pm

To my opinion there is not very much wrong with the dragon class and therefore it was very interesting for me to read your 4 essays concerning the "classification" of the dragon sailors. I agree that a lot of dragon sailors fit in this 4 groups, but in my opinion your analysis lays too much weight on two aspects.

1. money / income of a sailor
2. racing

To aspect 1: Does success and sailing ability depend so much on the money or the income of a sailor? Is a "rich" sailor automatically sailing the better boat? I know dragon sailors with a relatively low or normal income who are very good in racing. They are absolutely enthousiastic and amibitous not only in local club racing, but also sailing the big european regattas quite successful. Of course they do not reach the top ten, but they are able to keep contact to the top sailors, without being professional and good training and practise can surely not be completely replaced by money.
The other way round I know people who are very wealthy and even well known in society who are sailing a dragon just for fun without any ambition to win.

To aspect 2: Does a dragon sailor automatically has to be an ambitious regatta sailor?
I am sailing at the lake of constance in Germany, there are estimated to be more than 60 dragons, only 26 are registered in the national class organisation and only 2 or 3 are frequently racing major events.
Don't think that all the others are not active sailors. A lot of them are sailing every free minute, but just for fun. racing a dragon is only one side of sailing a dragon. As you might know more than 1000 dragons were registered in Germany surely a lot of them are not existing any more, but I'm sure 600 to 700 are still sailing. There are only 417 listed in the national dragon class of Germany and only 135 are registered regatta sailors.

So the majority sails the beautiful boat for other reasons than racing. Some are sailing a dragon for prestige, some are sailing it because it is so easy to handle ( in cruising, not in racing) even single handed. A lot of them are sailing it as a classic yacht and because it fell in love with the beautiful shape and lines (for example me).

Because this very mixed group of dragon sailors is the majority and does not fit in one of your four categories, I would add a fifth category, which I'd like to call "the sleeping fleet". Maybe this is a very german point of view, but as far as I can say, the situation in Switzerland and Austria doesn't differ very much, and I think you can also find a lot of members of the sleeping fleet in the UK. In the US the situation is surely different, because they have so many other attractive classes for daysailing and for US conditions, the dragon is maybe too small.

Don't think the sleeping fleet is not interested in dragon affairs in general. As far as I know most of my dragon mates are really into dragon sailing and do identify themselves with the class. What can a class organisation do for all of these to my opinion five groups of dragon sailors?

The class organisation should be the frame around all these different interests. I am sure, professional sailing is necessary and good for the progress of the class, as long as the class rules are strictly enough.
Of course the class has to support newcomers and ambitious young sailors. I as a member of the sleeping fleet would be glad if the class organisation is not always laying weight on the racing aspects, but also on the social aspects. Dragon sailing to me is also a sort of lifestyle, as sailing is in general. Because the majority of the sleeping fleet is sailing a classic, it is maybe an interesting thing to think of organising also a classic or non-professional event parallel to the big regattas at the same time and the same place, like it was at the worldchampionships 2005 in Neustadt. Maybe this parallel event should have more the character of a meeting or a festival. The success of St. Tropez 2004 is surely based on the fact, that it was more a festival than only a big regatta. This can not be repeated every major regatta, but a big meeting once a year for all types of dragon sailors, with a nice social program could be successful, as long as it is promoted and supported by the IDA.

As long as the strict class rules allows me illusion to be able to beat even a modern dragon, it makes fun to sail agains top sailors (in the anniversary regatta we beated in fact a few plastic boats). As long as it is not too fierce and everybody is seeing it a little easy (because we classics don't like these triangular marks in our planks) there could be one race of such a meeting for all kinds of dragons together quite successful and funny, like it was in St. Tropez.

Michael Reinert
D-GER 301 "Undine"

P.S. Excuse me for being so detailed but for someone who is not a native english speaker, it is not easy to bring this thoughts to a short statement, also I want your excuse for my german-english.
I am sure a lot of non-anglo-saxon dragon sailors would like to take part in the forum, but they don't trust in their own ability to write in english.

Mickey Lake
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Joined: Wed Aug 02, 2006 11:18 am
Location: Spanish Fort, Alabama, USA

Michael, thanks very much for sharing......

Post by Mickey Lake » Tue Sep 05, 2006 10:26 pm

a much needed insight into yet another segment of the Dragon sailing community.

We are working right now on getting a fleet in the Pacific Northwest of the US active again after many years of absence. The thing about it is that when they do come back this will be nothing but wooden Dragons in the beginning, sailing as a classic Dragon fleet. Another area of Dragon sailing that needs attention.

I was talking with the other US Dragon sailors at a regatta in Cleveland this week and a very interesting point was brought up. I/we want to build the Dragon fleet up again in North America. I am working to build my own fleet here on the Alabama Gulf Coast. The problem and the danger is that there are few boats here in North America available to be purchased. And if we take them from Cleveland or Toronto to build a fleet then those fleets suffer. So the obvious answer is Europe. But the dollar struggles against the Euro and shipping isn't inexpensive. A 10K euro Dragon from Holland can easily turn into a $20K boat for us here in America. It's not always a good value.

This class is so strong in Europe that I know that it's hard for many to see the obstacles those of us in other parts of the world face. Ultimately it may be a futile gesture to work so hard to try and build our numbers. In the end sailing and sailboat racing is not for everyone, it takes disposable income, and those of us who can not afford a Dragon will look elsewhere. What I would like to do is make it as easy for prospective Dragon sailors as is possible, with as much information as I can gather.

You are right that Robert's paper does not cover all aspects of Dragon sailing, but it does a great job as a starting point. Especially in that it comes from an officer of the IDA. This forum gives us a chance to have our voices heard and has been instrumental in the small but important growth that we have seen here in North America over the last couple of years. I have hopes for a better future on my side of the Atlantic in large part because of the dialogue that we have been carrying on here on the IDA forum.

Mickey Lake USA149
A disciple of the Norse God of aesthetically pleasing boats, Johan Anker.

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Joined: Wed Aug 09, 2006 2:10 pm
Location: England

Post by trw999 » Wed Sep 06, 2006 8:52 am


Here's an idea.

Get the IDA to organise an international regatta in the US. Attract European sailors to come over by arranging (sponsored?) shipping. Get some of these racers to agree to sell their boats to a US buyer. Line up the buyers so that the purchases are underwritten.

If the Europeans do not want to sell their superfast modern boat, ask if any of them would buy a cheaper secondhand boat to bring over to the US for the regatta and then sell on. Again, there would need to be a "guarenteed" buyer lined up.

Over the years this might help swell the fleet size.

What do you reckon?


Mickey Lake
Posts: 103
Joined: Wed Aug 02, 2006 11:18 am
Location: Spanish Fort, Alabama, USA

trw, what you propose is a good idea and sort of along....

Post by Mickey Lake » Wed Sep 06, 2006 10:11 am

the lines of something that I have been thinking of. US and Canadian Dragon sailors can talk and encourage people all we want but in the end the only way that the class is going to grow is with some help from the IDA. I don't necessarily mean financial help, but in planning and coordinating things like the event that you mention.

We have a bit of a delicate problem here. While talking among ourselves in Cleveland this weekend the idea came up of importing Dragons from Europe. A wonderful idea and hopefully it will come to fruition. The problem is that the newest boat in the US is about 25 years old. I believe that there is at least one newer boat in Canada, but you see the point? 99% of our fleet would be considered not much more than fleet boats in Europe. So we should upgrade you will say? Well, suppose I go and buy a new boat and win right away, what would happen then? Perhaps a couple of the guys sailing now would buy new boats, but the others would just quit and we do not want that at all. What we need is to bring in some more 25 year old boats.

Good clean used boats with all systems in place. Sounds like an odd way to build a fleet but it makes perfect sense when you think about it. The very best sailing is when many people have a chance to win, when the competitors are more or less equal as far as the equipment they are using goes. So what I am saying is that you are spot on with your idea and it would certainly be something that we could talk about.

Once again a good idea has come from this forum and I will try and bring it up to the other US owners and see how they would feel about it.

Mickey Lake USA149
A disciple of the Norse God of aesthetically pleasing boats, Johan Anker.

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