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The future of yacht clubs

Phil Herring

Dethroned Admin
Mar 25, 1997
Hunter 450 Bainbridge Island
What's the future of yacht clubs? Growth, as the tail-end of the boomers slide into retirement?

More of the same, as boat ownership stagnates?

Or dire, as younger generations sit on the couch and live through social media?

Share your prognosis of the venerable YC right here.

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Oct 10, 2011
Tartan 34C Toms River, New Jersey
Phil that is a good question, I for one am not a fan. I find them to be a little broom stick up the butt type of sailors.
That said I think it will remain basically the same. The few people I know who are members have children that are in the sailing clubs which I assume will carry over into adulthood.
If the younger generation stays active I hope it will continue as they get older.
I think social media has taken over TV in creating couch potato types.
I don't have a Facebook page or any other social media. I prefer to communicate face to face. Except of course for this forum.
I'm a 70 year old kind of stuck in the past, which I guess you can tell by my boat.:cool:
Oct 19, 2017
O'Day 19 Littleton, NH
I couldn't begin to know, not having been a part of one, but I can imagine a strong future for them in the next few decades of they can adapt to the Uber/AirBnB/Blogger World.
I would picture them as a more and more connected network of reciprocal travel and destination services that offer local sailing schools and host racing and trade venues, AAA style discounts for rentals and equipment purchases.
The stigma of
broom stick up the butt type of sailors.
will have to be overcome for most, but for the high end clubs, exclusivity and celestial prices will always have a viable appeal in the top circles.

-Will (Dragonfly)
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Dec 2, 1997
- - LIttle Rock
I would picture them as a more and more connected network of reciprocal travel and destination services that offer local sailing schools and host racing and trade venues, AAA style discounts for rentals and equipment purchases.
That's actually what most of them are...although many are just local member--owned small marinas, some of which have --0- amenities except for a "clubhouse" or even any paid staff. Members--typically 100% sailboat owners--do all the necessary maintenance work...dues and occasional assessments when necessary pay for the materials and the cost of hiring a pro (electrician for example) when needed.

Whether even these can survive in a society in which most younger people no longer have or want any actual personal interaction, connecting only digitally even when sitting next to each other, remains to be seen.

Jul 27, 2011
Bavaria 38E Alamitos Bay
To a large extent, yacht clubs are social clubs that center around boat ownership, but where many non-boat owners are also members. Increasingly, non-boat owners include members who have sold their boats as well as newer members who have never owned one. The former is a partial consequence of an age-related progression from sail to power. To the degree that young people retreat from face-to-face social contact, it will adversely affect membership in social clubs generally. In addition, there appears to be a shrinking “demographic” to support yacht clubs as is also seen in other non-profit organizations. There are some clubs with junior sailing programs for the kids of their own members, but there are many others where a very high majority of kids enrolled are not the children of members. Kind of a community service outreach effort. When you consider that as much as one-half of members of many yacht clubs are power-boat owners, it’s clear that many clubs are not being effective in building their future membership with regard to sailboating.

Also. I doubt that the structural organization of yacht clubs would allow them to effectively run any sort of public marina. They are non-profit, the “administration” changes every year with new officers. Members are there for recreation, not to put up with or address complaints from non-member boaters, not to pull derelicts and auction them off, not to patrol for sneak-aboards, etc. If yacht clubs owned the marinas, then the tenets would have to be members. That means going through a membership approval process. I don’t think the boating public at large would happily sign on to that.
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Jul 12, 2011
Catalina 36 1771 Ft Pierce, Florida
Our local club is what Will and Peggie described - Bay City Yacht Club
It's more a boating club, rather than a "yacht club" with all of the blue blazers and white tablecloths. Our uniting theme is having a safe, attractive place to keep your boat while docked, and easy access to the Bay when not. It's attractive to boaters, but not social climbers. Costs are in-line or below the local for-profit I think that's a model that will work well for the boat owners, but those are decreasing in the coming years. Fewer young people are buying boats, and fewer still are into sailboats.

We've had presentations from local tourism and advocacy groups, and they note generational shifts affecting us. As some noted, 'young folks' in the US are not buying boats, and much of any capital goods including houses. This is due to a variety of reasons, but educational debt, reduced employee benefits (healthcare and pensions), and stagnating wages are the chief causes. There's not much luxury money to go around for the majority of working folk.

The social media trend that people noted actually may drive more activities as the Instagram culture show pictures of friends doing stuff, which drives desire, or a Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). Seeing a social media post of friends enjoying a sail on a local boat is captivating. Unfortunately, most people seeing the post have no entry to boating, or sailing in particular - like seeing great pictures of your friends' Indonesian vacation when you're broke. Our club tries to allow for entry by sponsoring racing which encourages crew, promoting a local community sailing organization for youth training, and inviting local professionals to go for rides on our boats as part of corporate team building exercises. We should spend more on social media campaigns to capture and promote all those great selfies of people having a good time. Unfortunately, many of us are older and cannot devote the energy to learning how to do this well.

Another great entry is renting, or lending, smaller boats for members. We've seen several of our retiring member's smaller boats cut-up and scrapped, or donated to Sea Scouts. Could these become a fleet of loaner boats that could get younger folks hooked until they can afford a Tartan 40? All sorts of details involved including liability, maintenance, and scheduling, but not insurmountable. Perhaps next year ...
Jan 4, 2013
Catalina 270 Rochester, NY
One of our members who moved away donated his racing boat to the club. Club members could use the boat for the season for a couple of hundred dollars. I admit I thought it was a less than stellar idea since most members already have boats. What happen was we gained 5 members who wanted to race but couldn't afford to buy a boat. Now they are thinking of getting a second boat.
Nov 1, 2017
Catalina 25 Tall Rig Watergate Marina, Kemah, TX
Writing from the perspective of someone who is unfortunately part of this newer generation, I can attest that the majority of young people prefer to stay in a small group of friends, and will pay money to go to a place where they can "hang out". Yacht Clubs and marinas are fantastic places for people to gather and have a good time! Also, I believe that if sailing was actually introduced in today's culture just as Football, American Football, Tennis, etc., it would take off. Kids I have worked with in sailing absolutely LOVE the sport, and the traditional aspect of sailing itself is seen as "cool", as well as timeless.
Jul 27, 2011
Bavaria 38E Alamitos Bay
In my observation, that sort of thing (use of club-owned boats by non-boat owning members who join for that reason) doesn’t lead to long-term memberships. They are great, however, for members who may own a boat but wish to race in an actual race boat. The social core of yacht clubs is boat ownership, or at least a long history of it, not a desire to participate in boating activities.
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Apr 2, 2013
Catalina 310 Niagara-on-the-Lake
If yacht clubs owned the marinas, then the tenets would have to be members. That means, going through a membership approval process. I don’t think the boating public at large would sign on to that.

Our club is different than most, it is actually called a Sailing Club and was started in 1964 with a handful of people that had foresight. We limit the number of power boats, it is in our rules and regulations. The club and property are owned by the members, and you have to have a boat at the club to be a member. The club is located in a rather wealthy, high end location, surrounded by multi-million $$$ properties, in a tourist area.....but no one is ever in these weekend homes, and none of them are at the sailing club. Club members are mostly regular working or retired people, some with tons of $$$, some with not so much. Social events are well attended, club cruises to reciprocal clubs are a blast....there has been a waiting list for many years. We also have a Jr sailing program and an adult sailing program.
We have a manager and a small yard crew, and we are allowed to work on our boats. We also have a Commadore and a board that is changed every 2 years. Sometimes board members move to different positions, sometimes they leave and new members are appointed.
High water this year has affected us, we created a volunteer work crew of multi-skilled members, and we are raising some of our shoreline to protect the facilities etc.
I like the fact that my $$$ isn't going into some marina owners pocket, we are investing in ourselves. This arrangement is of course not without issues, but it has been working for 55 years!
As for the next generation....I don't know. We do not have many young members, they are still paying off their mortgages etc. but we do have a active racing program, mostly with smaller boats, and this definitely is appealing to a certain demographic, many of these racers came up through the Jr sailing program.

Jun 29, 2010
Beneteau First 235 Lake Minnetonka, MN
I love it when people generalize, broom stick up the butt.... LMAO. :rolleyes: Wayzata Yacht Club is far far from that. We are racing club, that's what we do. We have a community sailing center next door where we are growing the sport. Multiple high school teams sail out of there. many a regatta, even at the college level. The sailing program starts with kinder prams when kids are 5 or 6. What is your club doing to grow the sport, would love to know as people tend to sit back and watch while lamenting the downfall of something. 50+ years so far, we are currently growing a new J/70 fleet, home to fleet #1 for J/22. We also have a large J/24 fleet, MORC, 2 PHRF fleets, S2 7.9, Sonar, Ensign, & Capri 25's. In addition to that we have the Apostle Island Station for big boats on Lake Superior, Apostle Islands.



Sep 11, 2015
Merit 22- Oregon lakes
I've only owned a sailboat for 6-7 years, and been retired for a couple years more than that. My wife and I spend about 30 days a season on our boat, mostly in 2-3 day segments, but really have no desire to enter organized racing events, which is the main reason why we haven't joined our local yacht club. We've been to a couple "open house" events, and enjoyed chatting with the mostly friendly folks, but it felt to us like if you don't race, the club doesn't understand why we would want to be members. My question is, why would I want to pay $120 to 275 a year, and obligate ourselves to (required) assisting in weekend race events that we don't participate in, or even know the rules of, in order to become a member? we prefer to sail on weekdays to avoid the power boat crowds, but always enjoy having others to sail around, the unspoken "race" to the other side of the lake, and a friendly beer afterwards.
A little less "organizing" and a lot more sailing is what I'm looking for.



Feb 14, 2017
Catalina 310 211 Lake Guntersville, AL
We have 2 clubs in our area at the 2 primary sailboat marinas. The first club I joined when my O'Day was at that one, it was mostly a racing club and the events were pretty well supported with smaller keel boats under 25'. Life is complicated now so we pretty much never managed to make any races but a single long distance river race, which was fun. Our new boat is in the other sailboat marina that is closer to our house and it is a social cruising club. They have races but are pretty laid back and they organize several cruises in the area during the year, including a week long cruise to Chattanooga last week. We have managed to make 1 race this weekend and 2 social events and enjoy the group a lot. The competitive person in me wants to be more active in the races, but time is not on my side with 2 kids and life, so right now the social club is working out better for us. We found both groups great and welcoming so never had any issues with attitude always helpful and embracing to grow the sport.
Nov 26, 2012
Hunter 34 Berkeley
It's a matter of deciding what you want the club to be and putting forth the effort. Community outreach and fostering a younger membership is a constant topic of discussion at my club. It has been an issue for sure. We recently hired a 35 year old, energetic manager and that has been a great first step.
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Feb 14, 2014
Hunter 430 Waveland, MS
To a large extent, yacht clubs are social clubs that center around boat ownership
We belong to a club for our friends.


My Card will allow us into Any Club in the World [for all practical purposes]


I can use your Club facilities.:pimp:

PS: Also my Card is a Yacht Club Credit Card.;)
Jan 7, 2011
Oday 322 East Chicago, IN
We have a yacht club at our marina. Membership is not mandatory, but the restaurant is closed to the public most of the time. I have buddies who live on their boats in the summer, and they have memberships. One guy is blind and can’t drive, so for him it gives him a place to go.

I have had a beer with him occasionally. And I ate lunch there once or twice (open to the public for lunch I guess).

I dont spend enough time there to make a membership worth while.

Nov 9, 2012
Oday 192 Lake Nockamixon
Our club is the most basic - we meet at our local state park lake. We have no property at all, being that we sail on in a state park, but we do have a small pontoon boat as a committee boat and a 35hp skiff as a chase boat for racing. We rely on marina docks and dry sail parking lots as individuals who happen to join the club. We have 3 times as many "cruising" members as "racing" members, yet as Commodore, I know maybe 25-30 of our "cruising" members? Sometimes I think we have members who only join for help hauling boats out and using our pressure washers to clean the boats. We try to have cruising events to address the larger membership, because our racers (mostly Thistle, Flying Scot, and a slowly growing Impulse 21 fleet) can pretty much always be counted on to show up for races.

We have a fleet of 6 Sunfish which we lease from the park for a very nominal amount. I have struggled to try and get membership to use the Sunfish, and I have also struggled to try and figure out how to have more kids involved. I think we have finally made it over the hump in 2 ways: first, we have a sailing school at the lake which teaches ASA keelboat classes on a Capri 25, and we have 2 members who teach for this school. They talk up the club and the Sunfish to all students, so we have seen an increase in new members who don't own boats. Secondly, a member made the mistake of challenging me on what our plans were to involve kids. I knew he'd had several drinks too many, and I flipped it back on him, and made him our "Family Fleet Captain." He's done a great job organizing kid's lessons on the Sunfish, getting parents involved, and dragging the Sunfish out for kids on a fairly regular Thursday night basis. There are so many other activities like soccer and baseball, it's very hard to get the kids interested let alone involved. Also, we are on an inland lake, and there probably aren't as many water rats created on Bucks County farms and McMansion neighborhoods as you might find on, say, the Chesapeake around Rock Hall or Annapolis. (I grew up as a water rat in Delaware.) I plan to do everything I can directing the club's activity with regards to requests from our "Family Fleet," with the hope that we can keep some interest going in the kids.

It is difficult not having any property or club house. I've only ever hung out at Cooper River Yacht Club near Cherry Hill, NJ, visited Wayzata YC in MN once, and I see how cool it can be to park at the clubhouse for the day, while a parent or kid sails, and the other parent relaxes, sunbathes, reads, or whatever. When it gets cooler, it's a place folks can hang out and watch sportsball and drink beer. That's another one of our difficulties, there are no alcoholic beverages permitted in the park. Not to say we don't have our "red cups" and beer, but for some people, drinking is a big deal.
Jul 27, 2011
Bavaria 38E Alamitos Bay
I find them to be a little broom stick up the butt type of sailors.
I really wonder what this means. Many of these yacht-club folks are international sailing champions; even Olympians. The other week I was visiting the LA Yacht Club and saw this marvelous picture of Humphrey Bogart sailing his schooner Santana here off California. These crude, negative generalities are not what thoughtful discussions are made of. If there is something up the butt here, I wonder if it might not be a part of your own anatomy.:doh:
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