Friday, December 21, 2007


How Corinthian is your yacht club?

In the past, I’ve had fun describing and “rating” hypothetical yacht and sailing clubs primarily from the perspective of their formality, budget, facilities, and programs. Leadership, atmosphere, and friendliness were mentioned, but were only a portion of the description.

But, docks and decks do not a yacht club make, and trophy cases tell only one piece of the club’s story. The serious glue that makes a club succeed is the devotion and friendliness of its members. How do the members treat visitors, prospective and new members? How do racers and race officers treat competitors out on the race course – and after the races are ended? Is the club a respected, giving member of its community? What does the club give to the sport of sailing? The answers to questions such as these reveal the true heart and Corinthian spirit of the club.

Which grade would you give your club? Do you recognize anything at all familiar in the following six profiles?


This club is a dazzling beacon to showcase the sport to the world.

The members of this club eat, drink, live, breathe, and bleed yachting and sailing in a selfless quest to improve the sport and turn the rest of the planet into sailing and yachting addicts. Religious cults and the military could learn tremendously from their recruiting techniques. Major corporations would be delighted to recruit CEOs and board members from club leadership – but no one wants to leave this club. Former members and alumni of the club’s youth sailing programs will do almost anything to return to their club. Seasoned club members and leaders are completely unable to survive very far from a boat on sailable water.

Officials, industrial magnates, and community leaders all brag about the club and are eager for a chance to cooperate with club leaders. This magic extends even to entrenched bureaucrats. Marine safety officials praise the safety records and progressive programs of the club (which comes as no surprise to those who know that club members share a profound respect for the sea). Zoning and regulatory officials immediately agree to implement club requests. Members of the club receive instant respect. Leaders of charities are eager to partner with this club because partnership means success; the club has a well-deserved reputation for overachievement in community service as well as in traditional yachting endeavors.

The club has many cherished traditions and a strong sense of history. Members are enthusiastic participants in club traditions and rituals.

At the same time, the club members and leaders deserve a reputation for a healthy sense of humor. They laugh readily at their own mistakes, don’t take themselves too seriously, and show real devotion to the simple joys and pleasures of sailing.

Prospects and new members “feel the love” immediately as they are made to feel part of the club family, welcomed at social events, asked about their sailing dreams and interests, invited onboard multiple yachts to cruise and race, involved immediately in organizing club events, recruited by competing club programs, and generally cherished and cosseted. New and prospective members learn what it really means to be wooed as leaders of club activities court them.

The club sponsors all sorts of programs, on and off the water, and the programs are well designed, organized, and attended. It’s not just that there’s something for everyone – it’s that there are a great many highly engrossing activities for everyone. Club leaders and members are eager to try new programs, host regattas for their region, and provide strong educational programs. Member feedback and input isn’t just requested; leaders follow up persistently to make sure that every member has a voice in the club and is heard – often.

New ideas are embraced with passion, as is just about everything and everybody else here. Education is supported everywhere, from casual bull sessions, to carefully planned clinics, to a lovingly maintained library. Supportive leadership and competent but friendly security also contribute to making people feel secure here. Commitment to environmental stewardship is real and not just a fad. Club communications are thorough, abundant, and well-thought-out; newsletters are a joy to read and are eagerly expected, whereas the club’s web site is a joy to navigate, a treasure trove of useful information, and painstakingly checked for accuracy and updated. Suggestions and questions are immediately routed to the people who respond quickly. Care is taken with even tiny details to ensure that members and guests feel welcome and appreciated.

No one is surprised when a windsurfer and a keelboat skipper swap boats for a weekend or when monohull sailors and cat people forget to count hulls and hop between boats. The club commodore is as likely to be zipping around the harbor in a little dinghy as calling tactics on a big boat in an ocean race. Nor do eyebrows raise the least bit whenever spontaneous, good-natured, low-key parties break out in the club on out on piers.

Abundant racing programs provide rigorous but friendly competition at all levels, with just a bit of slack and quite a bit of support for green crew members. Committed and casual racers have a choice of one-design and handicap fleets; in any given week a racer can enjoy serious or fun races in large or small keelboats, dinghies, or single-handed boats. The club is particularly committed to matching compatible skippers and crews, making boats readily available, and helping skippers maintain their boats.

What is in common for all types of racing is post-race camaraderie, in which seasoned sailors are happy to socialize with newbies and share tips and observations about sail trim, boat speed, tactics, rules, weather, equipment, and anything else. The race committee, race officers, fleet captains, and leading sailors are all eager to share tips with less competitive skippers and crews and help bring them up to speed with useful advice, practice and tuning sails, clinics, and appearances by guest experts. Experienced sailors are readily available to hop on to boats with less skilled crews. Racing fleets each have their own esprit de corps with traditions and fondly remembered stories.

Junior sailors, women sailors, special needs sailors, novices, and everyone interested in racing gets solid support from every quarter. Serious competitors get the full support of the club in seeking to win high-level championships and perfect their skills.

The junior sailing program gets consistently top marks from participants, parents, boat owners, and host clubs. Junior sailors are noted not only for their skills, but for the values of courtesy, friendliness, helpfulness, and sportsmanship that they learn from the program.

The race committee is thoroughly trained and has an almost uncanny ability to get off good starts, outguess the weather, and adapt to changing conditions. Race officers combine experience on the race course with training and certification at a high level. Pre-race briefings are well planned and organized to meet the needs of both experience and novice racers – and to respect their time. Notices of race and sailing instructions are written clearly and completely, are models of consistency, and serve as models for other clubs and sailing programs. Of course, racers are not the least bit surprised when they return to the harbor to find that accurate, legible, and complete preliminary race results have long since been posted.

When the club hosts large regattas, visitors are impressed with easy-to-follow, helpful signs, smooth parking and launching arrangements, abundant and solicitous volunteers, the lack of waiting in line, and thoughtful touches to be found everywhere. Time seems to pass very quickly at these events.

The racers’ protest room is so well run that it could be accredited as an institution of higher education. Law students, judges, and IYRU International Judges and Umpires come here to take notes.

Leaders and members are gung-ho, with a whole lot of cross-over activity going on with racers supporting cruisers, cruisers supporting racers, sailors embracing motor boaters, and everyone giving complete, wholehearted, undying support to junior sailing programs and to events that benefit the community. Volunteerism is epidemic, with members volunteering for multiple jobs and eager to be trained to do the jobs right. Employees are treated well, cherished as dear friends, respected and paid as professionals, allowed to do their jobs, and eager to work at this club. Club members serve effectively in leadership positions in regional and higher-level yachting and sailing organizations.

Members of other sailing organizations deeply fear members of this club as competitors and hold the members in awe for their accomplishments, organizational abilities, sailing wizardry, hospitality, and genuine friendliness. Fortunately, the leaders of this club are interested in going sailing and in making new friends, instead of boring old world domination. In fact, members of this club are perfectly content to play with only about 71% of the world’s surface.

“Walking on water is fine and well, but sailing on it is more of a challenge.”



Corinthian spirit is very much alive and well
at this outstanding club.

This club enjoys a nice mix of old and new members and good support for youth sailing and community involvement. The club is proud to host regattas and events to benefit sailing and the community, and is respected in the community. The club supports community outreach and sail training programs. Other sailing clubs are delighted to welcome visitors from this club. Members are interested in becoming better sailors; a variety of classes and presentations are held and are well attended. Staff members are cherished, enjoy their jobs, and are proud to work with the club. Club members have grown tolerably amphibious and would deeply regret being away from the water and from the club for very long.

Racers will find good opportunities for one-design and handicap fleet racing. Cruisers will also find their needs met with interesting, fun programs and destinations, along with support to achieve their cruising dreams, whatever their scope. The race committee is well supported and has a good mix of education and training. Fleet captains take their jobs seriously and vie to have the most active and most improved fleets.

Junior sailors are also well supported and have many opportunities to become better sailors, as do all members. Kids are well taught and supervised, well appreciated, and enjoy the club as a second home; members and parents in the community are pleased to bring their kids. All worthy accomplishments are recognized and celebrated and this certainly is true for kids and every other group at the club.

Volunteer participation is good and is evident everywhere in the life of the club; the club feels vital. Committees and groups are active and willing to try new programs and activities. The club is an important part of the lives of its members. Members are enthusiastic about recruiting new sailors, inviting them to the club and out on the water. New members will find it easy to get involved in activities. Members serve in sailing leadership positions or as ambassadors for their club. Leaders want and expect to hear from the membership about ways to make the club better.



Typical mainline, relatively healthy sailing organization.

Members are active racers or cruisers and the club has active on-the-water racing and cruising programs. On-the-water activities are balanced with education and social programs. Leadership is active in doing the right things and in trying to run a good club. Participation could be better, but it’s not bad, and the leadership encourages members to get out on the water and learn new skills. Leaders will respond to input from the membership or the community. The club is relatively active and respected in its community and is a member in good standing in the sailing community. Other clubs are not embarrassed to welcome its members.

New members are generally made to feel welcome and some effort goes into recruiting. At least a few “old salts” are willing to “show greenhorns the ropes”.



An ordinary, run-of-the-mill club.

Members of this club are sailors, but maybe they’re getting a bit lazy. Dues are paid to the national and regional sailing associations, regattas are hosted, and existing programs continue to be run. But, there isn’t a lot of new energy or vitality; not much new is happening. Participation has slipped a bit, members are a little too comfortable, and there’s a tendency to hire staff to get things done. This place has more of a social feel as people hang around to talk about past glories as much as they gather to do something on the water. Competency varies from event to event.

Still, there is still a core of active sailors who get out racing and cruising; there are yet some newer and younger members, and there are probably still some kids around learning their way around boats.



We’re a yacht club, aren’t we?
Remember when our club had better days?

The members of this organization might talk about sailing or yachting, even if they don’t really do much about it. This club may have hosted yachting events in the past, but isn’t doing quite so much in the present. Any trophies are likely gathering dust on the shelves and community involvement is a thing of the past.

It’s probably best that this club doesn’t try to host big regattas, because in the past the members never were quite able to make things go right even for small events. Intentions were good, but no one quite knew where to get started and stories about monumental foul-ups are still swapped whenever members imbibe sufficient lubricating fluid.

Don’t expect to hear the laughter of kids as they return tired, wet, and exhilarated from a day of sailing; there aren’t any (too much bother). On the other hand, some of the social events might still be pretty well attended, especially if the booze is cheap or free.

Yacht ownership isn’t really terribly important within the organization (but it’s nice if members have enough money to buy yachts), and there’s no requirement that leadership or anyone else have much knowledge of yacht racing, seamanship, or other things nautical. But, they’d really love to have some real sailors come by the club to entertain them with a presentation.

~~~~~~~~ $$$ XXX $%^&**%!^*!@#! $$$ XXX ~~~~~~~~~


A harbor-view restaurant that charges dues?
a.k.a. the drinking (yacht) club from hell

This organization doesn’t have much to do with sailing or yachting except for appropriating the name “yacht club” for commercial purposes. This joint is run for profit. And maybe for some things you don’t need to know about. Ya got a problem with that, pal? There may be some flashy yachts in a marina somewhere near by, but this is just a social club that’s set up to separate suckers from their investment accounts or wise guys from their laundered money. The club might look ritzy, but in important respects it’s more of a cesspool. This club offers counterfeit prestige and a dubious connection with legitimate yachting, but all it really has is a more direct connection with overprized booze or vendors of other mind-altering substances.

Education is a dirty word here, and kids are certainly NOT welcome (nasty little buggers; they’re all rotten mistakes). New sailors aren’t welcome, of course, unless they are accompanied by the right sort of overseas tax shelter and conform to the quirks, prejudices, and pet hatreds of established members.

The feeling here is, “Why bother learning to sail so long as chumps think you have enough money to buy a yacht and some nice-looking trophies?” The members lurking in this club don’t mind paying flunkies to do their dirty work – so long as the hired help isn’t paid too well, doesn’t need any respect, doesn’t mind being cheated, and is willing to put up with abundant abuse, insults, lechery, or bigotry from the members and their hyper-inflated out-of-control egos.

Established members may be surrounded by a cluster of associates falling into well-defined categories: (a) sycophants, suck-ups, go-fers, (b) drinking/drug/whoring partners, (c) decorative members of the opposite gender (ambulatory-pneumatic trophies), and (d) professional crew hired as part of the business of acquiring trophies. All of these had better do what they’re told, and shut up when they’re told, or else.

Club denizens tell stories that sometimes involve a yacht’s throttle, spirit (liquor) locker, or berth cushions (boudoir). But they’re really quite comfortable

(a) trying to impress each other with how important they are as masters of the universe,

(b) trying to swing big bizness deals (or at least pretending to do so), or figuring out new swindles and con jobs,

(c) swapping stories about how to cheat customers, employees, the government, prosecutors and juries, other sailors, and spouses,

(d) telling (the same old) dirty jokes,

(e) cursing and insulting the rest of the planet, and

(f) slithering out to play a nasty little practical joke at the expense of a new, naïve member.

Failing these fine examples of sportsmanlike behavior, they will fall back upon ridiculing, humiliating, and abusing a defenseless employee or bickering with each other if nothing better is available.

“So what if we pass water and puke in the harbor? You gonna stop us?”

Someone ought to round up a very tough posse to persuade these creatures to remove any reference to yachting or sport from this organization’s bad name.


At 5:51 AM, February 11, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know of one club that meets the A raitting and prbably some of the AAA+ Davis Island Yacht culb In tampa Fla.

At 10:10 AM, June 29, 2009, Blogger David Fuller said...

Can you tell me in what sense you are using the work 'corinthian'. Seems everybody thinks they know what it means, but nobody can tell me how it came to mean what they think it means.

Certainly it is not limited to sailing as there are football (soccer) clubs called corinthians, but I can't find anywhere how the link came to be.

Seems everyone just uses it and feels good about it without any sense of meaning or derivation.

At 3:39 AM, June 30, 2009, Blogger Pat said...

This will also be expanded upon in a post...

Corinthian is an adjective that denotes “amateur” in sports and as such is predicated on what degree athletes are or aren’t compensated. But, the word has been loaded with connotations such as sportsmanship, fair play, volunteerism, pursuit of pleasure, competence, individualism, dandyism, dilettantism, social elitism, avoidance or denigration of professionalism, and opposition to the pursuit of profit or role of business in sport.

Dictionaries may not be a great deal of help as they may send the reader on an exploration of architectural columns, brothels, currant fruits, ostentation, and the ancient southern Greek city of Corinth.

My own use of the term “Corinthian” does not confine itself to the simple definition of amateur participation, but instead also reflects the associated values of fair play and sportsmanship. In the context of a yacht or sailing club, I would consider a true Corinthian club as one that has strong volunteer participation, both on and off the water, and a deep desire to give back to the sport.

At 4:16 PM, August 25, 2011, Blogger Travelling Tales said...

This is a truly great post that sets out the objectives of great clubs in far more detail than I've ever seen in clubs' stated aims.
It also puts into words many of the things that most clubs suffer from to an extent in some aspect or other. Useful warning for club members, boards and managers.
I've referred back to it often. Thank you Pat.

At 1:17 PM, September 03, 2011, Blogger Pat said...

Thanks. Partly it was meant to be humorous but yes, there are clubs that have maybe lost sight of the basics of sportsmanship, volunteerism, helping people get access to the water, improving safety and seamanship, and passing on a love of sailing and the water.


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