Regatta organizers across the country have been faced with adverse economic challenges over the past few years.Increasing and maintaining participation numbers is an on-going struggle for some. Bill Bradford of Hull, Mass. has proven that with creativity and teamwork, race organizers can host a first class regatta on a shoe-string budget.
Each year at US SAILING’s One-Design Symposium, awards for service, leadership, creativity, a club, and a regatta are presented to recognize individuals and organizations in one-design sailing. For 2009, Bill received the Creativity Award, which recognizes outstanding individual creativity and contribution in the year’s most innovative one-design event of national or international significance.
The Rhodes 19 East Coast Championship has experienced declining attendance over the past several years, along with a marked increase in fees to compete in the event. The Hull and Hingham Yacht Clubs collaborated to host the 2009 Rhodes 19 East Coast Championship. Bill knew that it was time for a change in approach to help turn this event around. He had plenty of hosting experience under his belt. As a host, his goals are simple and consistent. Bill set three attainable goals for this championship that would help increase participation… 1) Provide good race management; 2) Make it very affordable; 3) The party should be talked about until next season… Specifically, Bill wanted to increase participation by 50% and cut costs from the previous year’s regatta by 40%.
Bill pointed out, “It is critical that the culture of the fleet and the clubs organizing the event are geared toward supporting the goals. We see many clubs that view events like ours as potential profit makers, through charging for moorings, profit on food, t-shirts, etc. I see many fleets hosting with the expectation that dinners must be catered, and that sailors expect expensive prices.”
Bill mentioned that the two largest expenses at most regattas are food and trophies. They immediately targeted those costs and identified ways to reduce them. One group was designated to look for inexpensive/creative prizes, while another group organized home cooked meals for the participants. The regatta entry fee was set at a rate less than half of the prior year’s events.
“We exceeded our goals and more importantly, sailors had a great time both on the water and at the parties,” Bill said.
Bill was introduced to the sport by his wife, Ann. Their first boat was a 30’ Pearson Coaster. Bill started racing with his two children, Scott and Kate in PHRF events and became hooked immediately. Scott and Kate both raced for the University of Rhode Island sailing team. Eventually, Bill got involved in one-design sailing, including 110s, J/24s, and most recently the Rhodes 19.
“Sailing is like a chess game on the water, but someone keeps spinning the board,” explained Bill. “I don’t know of any other sport that would have someone with my experience have the opportunity to compete with a US SAILING Sailor of the Year.”