At committee meetings and yacht club bars across the country — and no doubt around the world —there’s a debate that appears to play on repeat: how do clubs boost participation in sailing and grow fleet racing? While the debate rages on, one man has jumped right in and is offering a million-dollar solution.
Tom Pearce grew up sailing dinghies in the UK, but after retiring he made the move out to Australia. Restlessly cheerful and passionate about grassroots sailing, Tom now spends his time volunteering with various sailing charities and importing RS sailing dinghies through his company Sailing Raceboats.
Through Sailing Raceboats, Tom has already helped out a number of clubs with discounts and interest-free payments, and is constantly looking for ingenious ways to help clubs build up their training fleets. But his latest initiative is on a much grander scale. Tom is offering a million-dollar subsidy to allow not-for-profit sailing clubs to receive two boats for the price of one, therefore instantly creating the beginnings of a fleet.
‘There’s still a perception that sailing is a bit elitist, and the high-performance sailing gets all the attention’ says Tom. ‘We want to make it easy to get newcomers into the sport, to have fun on the water and to get them trained up. Discover Sailing and other similar programmes have been successful, but more can be done to get families regularly participating in club events.’
There are two different boats on offer under the scheme: the RS Feva, which is the highest selling double-handed youth dinghy worldwide; and the RS Quest, another double-handed dinghy, well-suited to adults and training. Both boats are designed to be easy to maintain, robust and affordable, and their global popularity is an indication that they are also likely to become increasingly popular here.
Tom’s personal goal is to see 50 new RS Fevers and Quests in Australia before Christmas. Australian Sailing is supporting the initiative, and so far Tom is well on track to meet that goal with strong interest from clubs as far afield as the Whitsundays and King Island.
Interested clubs can find all the relevant details and an expression of interest form here.