What Makes Classes Strong?

Paul Young, President of Rondar UK, gave a presentation entitled “What Makes Classes Strong” at US Sailing’s One-Design Symposium at Bay Head Yacht Club last fall. Rondar has earned a reputation as a pre-eminent builder of fast one-design race boats. Rondar hulls have won world championships in the Contender, the 420, the Fireball, the Enterprise and most notably, the highly competitive 505 class. Eight out of ten 505 World Championships have been won in a Rondar hull. Their reputation for quality and technical expertise is second to none. Rondar is based near Devizes in the county of Wiltshire, UK and produces between 200 and 250 boats a year.

Here are 15 tips from Young on how to strengthen your class:

1. Confidence – Have self belief, if you don’t believe in your own class, who else will?

2. Management – Have clear goals and objectives, incorporated into a rolling 5 year plan.

3. Communication – Frequent and regular communication with targeted methods, including newsletter, email, websites, social media, telephone calls.

4. Know your customers – Ensure that you really understand what your members want and expect from their class. If you don’t know, then ask them.

5. Delegate – This gets the work done, involves members, and builds a sense of shared ownership in the class. Many classes have 2 or 3 overworked people doing all the work.

6. Focus – Volunteer organizations cannot do everything all at once, so prioritize and achieve 5 things in succession, rather than start 15 things simultaneously and finish none.

7. Politics – Don’t take it too seriously, politics are the quickest way to undo all the good work and kill a class. De-fuse issues as they arise, and keep it balanced and on track.

8. Promotion – Sell your class to others, many classes only reach out to the existing membership within their class.

9. Progression – Allow sensible progression, one design doesn’t always mean identical, it should mean that boats sailed to an equal standard have an equal chance of winning.

10. Distraction – Lots of classes wind up spending 90% of their energy and resource being distracted by the most vocal minorities. Don’t let the tail wag the dog.

11. Make life easy – Invest in online payments, paypal, credit card payments, for subs, entry fees etc. More people will do it if it is easy to sign up, pay and use their boat.

12. Charge enough – Providing good class structure costs money, just make sure that the class has adequate funding streams and charges enough to provide good service.

13. Builders – Work with the builders in a partnership to get the best possible boats at prices that keep the class building new boats and growing. Can also be an income stream.

14. Modernize – Classes are often bound by Constitutions and rules that are based upon their heyday, with unwieldy requirements and needless complication.

15. Enjoyment – If people are enjoying their boat they will sail it more often. Ensure that the back half of the fleet is enjoying their sailing. The front will look after itself.