Quite a bit of discussion in the sailing blogs has circulated around the topic of Nick Hayes' book and blog, Saving Sailing
Junior programs have been criticized for the small number of participants who remain in the sport as adults. But the idea of individual mentoring, mostly within sailing families, seems grossly inadequate for keeping sailing from shrinking much less for growing the sport.
As the shrinkage of sailing participation has many likely causes, saving sailing and growing the sport also likely has many solutions.
Some more ideas to kick around as saving sailing
Promoting an understanding within sailing and yacht clubs and other sailing groups that they have an obligation to welcome more people to the sport. Partly, this appeals to altruism as well as indirect self interest, but also clubs must realize that they or many of their sister clubs depend upon public goodwill for their existence -- in the form of leases or concession contracts from port authorities and municipalities, marine event permits, seashore access, favorable tax arrangements, etc. Without friendly voices in the community, some clubs may be forced off the water. Haul out the cat, or at least some wet noodles, and flog any nay-sayers who get in the way of keeping the clubs alive.
Offer junior programs that focus on fun and skill-building instead of competition as an alternative -- not replacement -- for the more competitive programs that sometimes alienate the "losers" or trun off kids who get no positive motivation for competition. Who knows, maybe the retention rate will be better for the "Cool Future Cruisers" group. Did you know that the Boy Scouts were born with a trip to an island?
Target the elusive teen and young adult market with easy-to-get-into-but-exciting activities such as boardsailing lessons and rentals, liaisons with youth organizations, and communication and support for groups such as surfers and high-adventure groups.
Target the tough young adult singles group with ready-to-jump-into but fun to sail boats, single social activities, etc.; bring single social activities under the club roof.
And, round up those young families with family sailing events that involve parents and younger siblings and combat the idea of junior sailing programs as the parent-taxi-drops-off-the-kids-at-this-week's-activity; hire creative day care as needed, etc.
Host nature cruises, lectures, and other activities to bring people into the club and make it a familiar, welcome part of the community -- and this is something that a few clubs already do well.
Be sure to welcome groups that may not have felt welcome in many clubs in the past -- such as kayakers, beach cat sailors, dinghy sailors, power boaters, anglers. Often, local yacht or sailing clubs are the best-positioned organizations to serve as a strong, unified voice for all water recreationists.
Host regatta viewing parties or package meals at the club with a cruise to watch racing close-up. And, do other semi-outrageous p.r. stuff such as challenging non-sailing local celebrities to be part of a sailing challenge.