In an era when most sporting clubs are having to increase membership fees to offset rising costs, the Cambridge Yacht & Motor Boat Club have halved their boat-use fees.
They’ve been able to do this by attracting local sponsors to meet their growing costs. Ten companies subsidise their junior and youth sailing programmes, which has allowed them to limit increases to their membership fees.
“It’s made a monster of a difference,” Cambridge commodore Chris Raynes said.
It won’t come as a surprise to know that they have nearly doubled their membership from about 40 to 70 this season. Fortunately they have the space and resources to cope, having moved into a new clubroom they share at Canoe Racing New Zealand’s high performance centre and they recently took possession of six new 420s for their schools programme.
Six companies have their logos emblazoned on the sails of the new 420s and another four are on the sails of Optimists. They also received $85,000 in community trust funding to purchase the boats and volunteer coaches has allowed them to keep their prices down.
“It’s all about setting a price point,” Raynes explained. “With a nominal annual sponsorship, some are committing to the programme for five years.”
It matches Cambridge’s long-term vision.
Their sailors have achieved some success in racing but it’s not really their priority. They’re more intent on creating positive experiences and capturing youngsters long-term.
“We’re not pushing racing, unless the children want to, with the emphasis on learning how to sail properly," Raynes said. "About half the kids want to do the racing and we have enough boats to do two streams.
“If you provide the resources, people will come. The new Z420 boats are perfect to also take out families and adults wanting to learn to sail. No one wants to buy boats these days, so this is a way to increase participation.”
The club purchased six new Z420s. Photo: Cambridge Yacht & Motor Boat Club.
The teams racing programme is proving particularly popular. More than 20 high school children have signed up for the first term when the club had been expecting about a dozen and a couple are even travelling from Hamilton to sail them.
The club opted for six LaserPerformance Z420s, which are used in American college racing, rather than standard international 420s. They're the first New Zealand club to bring them into the country and are expected to have a working life of about 15 years.
"The only issue with the standard 420s is they are fragile," Raynes said. "With 15-minute races and close-quarter racing, contact is inevitable.
"We opted for college boats out of the United States. They're 15kg-20kg heavier than the standard hull but designed to take the bump and grinds. They're bullet proof."
The fact they’re stored in the club’s new shared facilities will help.
The old yacht club built in the 1940s was in a bad way but they were approached by Sport New Zealand six years ago to participate in a joint venture along with Canoe Racing New Zealand and the Waipa District Council. Other community groups also have access to use the facility.
The impressive new building was completed in February 2018 and the yacht club have a hard stand and storage sheds for their growing fleet of boats.
They now have 14 plastic Optis, three fibreglass racing Optis, one P-Class, one Starling, two Splashes, two Yamaha 13s and the six new Z420s.
“The fleet allows us to offer sailing to all ages and sizes,” Raynes said. “The focus of the club is on youth sailing, but boats in the fleet are equally suitable for family sailing, which is our planned growth area.
“The growth in the youth sailing around the 420 programme has seen participation more than double in the 11-17 age group.”