Americas  Regional CONFERENceS

Annual meetings are held in each of the regions to continue the work of the previous forum and to plan for the upcoming one. It is also a great opportunity to meet with fellow yacht clubs in the region without having to travel the sometimes international distances. The meetings take two days, often over a weekend, and are a good way to introduce junior flag officers to the ICOYC process.

Each of the regional meetings are presented in detail in the table below. Pull down on the tab to read the conference report or reports and take a look at the conference arrangements and delegate housing.


  • 2017 - Chicago
    • Americas Regional Conference - 2017
      20-22 October 2017

       

      Hosted by Chicago Yacht Club



      Read about Chicago Yacht Club on Member Club/Chicago YC

      Stay tuned for more information.



      Last updated 2/26/2017

  • 2015 - Annapolis
    • ICOYC Americas Regional Conference 2015
      Annapolis Yacht Club – 11-12 October 2015




      Last updated Saturday, October 24, 2015

      Conference Report

      ICOYC Regional President - Americas, Jim Burns presents the conference report. (PDF download)


      ICOYC AMERICAS’ REGIONAL CONFERENCE

      ANNAPOLIS YACHT CLUB - 11-12 October, 2015



      The 4th annual ICOYC Americas Regional Conference was hosted by the Annapolis Yacht Club on October 11th and 12th, 2015.   Council Delegates from the Annapolis, Chicago, Eastern, Long Beach, Newport Harbor, Royal Canadian (Toronto), Royal Vancouver, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern, and St Francis Yacht Clubs were joined by guest delegates from Coral Reef YC (Miami) and Royal Southern YC (Hamble, UK) and partners.

       

      The conference opened in the Skipjack Room of the Annapolis Yacht Club overlooking the United States Sailboat Show, the largest on the water sailboat show in North America.  After a warm welcome by RC Jim Ellis of Annapolis YC, President John McNeil introduced Gary Jobson who reminded us that Yacht Clubs continue to be the cornerstones of sailing and he congratulated us on our ongoing efforts to collaborate and to move the sport forward.

       

      REINVENTING THE CLUB

      The conference began in earnest on Monday morning with an inspiring presentation by Commodore Greg Miarecki of the Chicago Yacht Club.  He described CYC’s reform initiatives over the past several years.  Careful capital planning, strategic planning, and refocusing its efforts towards on the water activities and delivering tangible member value were key components of this initiative.  CYC built a comprehensive capital budget, hired a waterfront director and keelboat director, introduced new distance racing formats to the Chicago area, purchased a fleet of Sonars for member usage, and stepped up its efforts to host world-class regattas.

       

      In terms of its leadership, CYC has moved towards younger racing sailors.  All three of its Commodores were younger than 50 years of age at their election.  Under their leadership, the Club began implementation of a new strategic plan, which called for even more focus on the water, with new paddleboard and kayak offerings.  CYC also completely revamped its food and beverage team, emphasized a renewed focus on membership recruitment and retention, and launched a number of new community service and engagement initiatives.  CYC also added new activities to drive member usage, including a number of women’s activities (happy hours, networking event and Women on the Water -racing Club Sonars) and activities focused on families.

       

      Engagement is a key goal of CYC’s new Flag.  For example, Flag officers searched the database to look for members with the potential to become the next level of leadership both on Committees and on the Board and these members were encouraged to get involved.  Commodore Miarecki writes a two paragraph e-mail each week to the membership in order to engage members.

       

      The results of all of these changes are quite impressive and include: a substantial increase in operating revenues; a 50% reduction in resignations; a significant increase in membership; more events being sold out; and, a substantial increase in membership engagement.    In summary, Commodore Miarecki provided these conclusions from the CYC experience:

       

      1. Strategic planning is essential, as is aggressive implementation.

      2. Yacht clubs must focus on the water.

       

       

      1. F&B is a critical aspect – everyone eats.

      2. Obsess about member value.

      3. “Youth movement” is generating excitement among all member classes.

      4. Actively cultivating young talent is key.

      5. Focus on the entire family drives positive results.

      6. Clubs must be led by active, serious boaters.

      7. Club leaders must adopt a “one Club” mentality, and actively promote “crossover” between different groups and fleets.

      8.  Active leadership is essential.

       

      CLUB OWNED KEELBOATS – IS IT STILL WORKING?

      One of the common themes in the ongoing effort to keep “Intermediate Members” engaged in the Club was the provision of a Club owned keelboat fleet to enable them to transition from race team participation to keel boat match racing and team racing.

       

      Most Clubs either: owned boats (including: J24’s J22’s, Sonars, Harbor 20’s & Elliot 6’s);

      chartered boats from another organization; or borrowed boats from Club members.   Only one Club did not have a “captive” keelboat fleet.  

       

      Invariably, Clubs that owned keelboats charge for their use and have dedicated staff for maintenance but only one Club (which has the boats in use 7 days a week in season) was able to “break even”.    However, all Clubs with keelboat fleets felt that they were important for member engagement and to serve as a bridge for younger members to stay engaged in racing and involvement in the Club.

       

      One Club has started a fleet of radio controlled sailboats that they race in the club’s indoor pool (with the help of large fans) during the winter months to keep members engaged.   The races have become extremely popular as the “heats” are televised with a live feed from the pool to the bar for those not racing.  A brilliant idea!

       

      FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR MEMBERS AT AWAY REGATTAS

      This topic arose in part because 8 of the 17 participants in the latest New York Yacht Club Invitational Regatta were ICOYC Clubs and many of the Clubs in attendance in Annapolis  have incurred the very substantial expense of supporting a team for the event.    

       

      The discussion was led off by describing the fund raising efforts one west coast Club that enabled them to participate in the last two Invitationals.  These efforts included primarily the direct solicitation of donations from members as well as the use of a Sailing Foundation to support the extraordinary cost, especially if the team must charter a boat to participate.   

       

      Another Club that has participated in all three Invitationals, acknowledged that they could not have done it without the participation of a key member willing to have his Swan 42 be used almost exclusively for the event.    

       

      However, many expressed the concern that, while their Club did support members, especially youth members, participation in away regattas, they didn’t believe that funding for the Invitational was a reasonable expenditure given the extraordinary amount and the relatively limited number of Club members that would benefit from it.   Others felt that it was a reasonable investment in that it became a “Club wide” event.  A large number of members had actually travelled to Newport, simply to spectate and that, together with the prestige of being invited to participate, added tremendously to the concept of “member value”.

       

      It was agreed that the Invitational was an exceptional event and not one in which every Club was either willing or able to participate.  The discussion turned to whether Clubs were willing to pay for their members to attend away regattas and if so, their guidelines for doing so.

       

      While most Clubs appear to have dedicated funds for such expenses, many are very limited in what they do pay for such as only entry fees or only travel and regalia but not for food and accommodation.   While most US Clubs appear to have an associated sailing foundation that is able to fund at least part of these expenses, Canadian tax laws do not permit members to receive tax receipts for donations to their in-club “Corinthian Funds” or “Olympic Funds”.  As a result the Canadian Clubs assess their members automatically for these Funds but the members have the ability to “opt out” of the assessment and about 20% of members do so.

       

      All Clubs who provide such support have dedicated committees to “vet” applications for support and have a set of criteria to determine whether:  a) the event in question is one that that the Club is willing to support; and b) the applicants have the appropriate skills to properly compete in the event.

       

      ALTERNATE VOTING METHODS – ONLINE VOTING

      After an absolutely splendid buffet lunch, the afternoon session began with a presentation on alternate voting methods for Club meetings. The only Club to adopt such procedures so far did so because despite having over 2000 voting members, only about 250 to 350 members would actually show up at an AGM or SGM to vote.  As this group tended to heavily weighted with older members, they could be successful in showing up in sufficient numbers to effectively block any proposed motion to which they objected (usually dues increases).

       

      Nevertheless, the change to online and telephone voting was embraced by the membership as sufficient numbers in support of the initiative did show up to vote for the change.  An obvious issue with such a system is how to ensure that the membership is sufficiently informed before voting on an issue without actually attending a meeting.

       

      In the case of issues such as by-law changes or dues increases, this is dealt with by using various media (mail, newsletters, website and e-mail) and is helped by the fact that over 60% of the members have opted to receive Club communications by e-mail.

       

      For the voting of candidates for positions on the Board, an “all candidates meeting” is held at which all candidates for contested Board positions have an opportunity to demonstrate their suitability. As well, all candidates for office have an opportunity to broadcast a limited campaign statement through the Club’s media.   This required the implementation of an election campaign policy that appointed a Chief Electoral Officer to ensure that these statements are made with respect, dignity and fairness to fellow members. 

       

      The actual web based voting system was developed and operated by Simply Voting (www.simplyvoting.com) and the cost to the Club is about $18M the first year and $12M thereafter.  It can also be used for membership surveys. 

       

      Concern was expressed that members would not inform themselves and simply vote “no” regardless of the issue because they would not be subject to the “peer group pressure” that a meeting entails. This does not seem to have occurred as the first vote for a dues increase passed easily as apparently the need for the increase was adequately explained.  

       

      The change has resulted in an entire segment of the membership being re-enfranchised as almost 900 members voted, a 250% increase over the most votes at any AGM or SGM previously.  As well, it is likely the case that many of these newly voting members are somewhat younger than those who traditionally show up at meetings and thus the change has re-engaged a demographic of the Club that is crucial to its long term success.   

       

      SOCIAL MEDIA – HOW TO ENGAGE IT AND MANAGE IT

      Most Clubs present were split with about half not being very far along using social media and the other half making significant levels of progress.  A webinar based “Social Media for Yacht Clubs Boot Camp” firm touts the benefits as including the ability to: increase revenue; attract new members; retain members and reduce the average membership age.

       

      While not all of the delegates were convinced of the merits, one Club has “jumped in with both feet” and has a closed group Facebook page that does daily postings of everything from dining room menus to race results.  They also have a member driven Twitter feed that publishes race results from the race course.  The junior fleet has an open Facebook page with 775 likes.    Another Club has 6 closed Facebook pages for various member groups within the Club and tried Twitter but couldn’t get traction.

      Most Clubs on Facebook have “closed” pages and one has 3700 likes.  They publish a quarterly newsletter and a downloadable monthly calendar on Facebook.  Another has involvement with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Flickr, re-tweeting member posts and also posting on Instagram and Flickr.  

       

      Virtually all Clubs with active Facebook pages also continuously monitor the pages by a communications committee and/or by dedicated support staff.  Many Clubs closely monitor these media on Google Alerts and one was heartened to find that, when harsh and inappropriate comments were being made on the Facebook pages, it was the members themselves who countered the criticism.  As such the pages have become “self-policing” without the need for the Board to step in and impose restraints.

       

      However another Club experienced a group of disaffected members who created their own closed Facebook page, complete with unauthorized Club regalia, and used it to disparage the Board and espouse their own candidates for office.   The Club managed to have the page taken down but not before significant “damage” was done.  

       

      The conclusion is that, if a Club is to have any hope of engaging younger members, it must be involved in social media but vigilance is required and a dedicated staff person is needed to monitor various media using Google Alert as well as a daily review.

       

      ATTRACTING AND KEEPING YOUNGER MEMBERS

      Once again, the discussion of social media was a good segue to the perennial topic of how our Clubs are to attract and keep younger members.    Many clubs have scaled dues and entrance fees steeply in an attempt to move the bulge in the demographic curve to the left, the average age of Club members stubbornly remaining in the 60’s.

       

       

      Some of the more interesting ways in which Clubs have striven to meet this challenge included:

      1. a “Serve to Sail” Program where a prospective young member with skills needed by the Club can receive a substantial discount to their initiation fees putting in 50 hours of sailing related service to the Club.  It adds 50 members a year using this program.
      2. a “fast-track” for membership applications from a prospective member who is a member of another recognized YC and has moved to the Club’s city from elsewhere;
      3. extending the discount both for dues and initiation fees to age 30 to facilitate young members joining and staying with the Club in their early working years,
      4. enabling Intermediate members attending University in the Club’s city to pay the same dues as non-resident members (away at University) to encourage them to remain members during this period.

      THE BEST AND THE WORST THING THAT WE DID WAS: ………

      It has become a bit of a tradition to end these conferences with a bit of a “tell all” session where we each tout our greatest success and admit our greatest failure.    For obvious reasons, no Clubs or delegates will be mentioned by name.

       

      The experiences of many were similar and generally related to the interaction between the Board and the membership and sometimes between the Board and the General Manager.  

      Remarkably, while a number of Clubs indicated that the best thing that they did was to fire their General Manager, many said that in fact it was the hiring of their current GM that was the best thing that they ever did.

       

      Others said that one of the best things that they did was to discipline a member that had become a bit of a “wrecking ball” in the Club and that there was “nothing like a pelt on the wall” to get the membership’s full attention and smarten up the grumblers.  

       

      One delegate said that one of the worst things was to respond to an “incendiary” e-mail from a disaffected member with a thoughtful, e-mail response, only to have the response excerpted, edited and broadcast to “the western world” as evidence of the delegate’s lack of: competence; knowledge; concern; engagement, etc.   Instead, the message was to telephone the disaffected member to discuss their complaint and NOT to respond to the e-mail. 

       

      COPENHAGEN FORUM TOPICS

      To conclude, each of the delegates were asked to pick one topic or issue that they would like to see explored and discussed at the ICOYC Commodores Forum in September of 2016.   As you might expect there was considerable agreement on a number of topics and, in order of popularity, they were:

      1. Capital Replacement – Analysis and Funding (including disaster planning)  - 6
      2. Governance – including recruiting, leadership development and structure – 4
      3. Membership – including development, discipline and family engagement  - 3
      4. Cost benefit analysis – for F&B; House; Programs; Outstations; - 3
      5. Staffing – paid staff v. volunteer members – 2
      6. Sponsorship – the care and feeding of – 2
      7. External Relations – with local governments, first nations, etc.  2  

       

      CLOSING DINNER

      Having completely exhausted topics the delegates retired to freshen up for the closing dinner and, once again, AYC did not disappoint.   The unwise stuffed themselves with appetizers of freshly shucked oysters, famous Chesapeake blue crab and giant prawns only to sit down to an outstanding dinner of yet more crab, lobster AND beef tenderloin – an unforgettable “surf and turf combo”.  When General Manager Brian Asch introduced the AYC Executive Chef, Michael Herr, some unruly delegates attempted to hire him away on the spot!   It was a delightful end to a great conference in a great venue.  Thank you AYC!



      Download Files

       The following documents are ready for download in MS Word or Adobe PDF format:


      Conference Announcement

      The next conference for the Americas region will be held at Annapolis Yacht Club on 11-12 October 2015, directly following the Chesapeake Bay Cruise, and while the United States Sailboat Show is running. Read the material below to get information on the hotel, cost of rooms, and how to make your reservations.

      Jim Burns, ICOYC VP Americas, says (in part):

      "We have invited Gary Jobson to speak at the Opening Reception on Sunday, we will have an all-day conference and Partners’ Program on Monday and a splendid wind-up dinner on Monday evening.

      During the conference, we will introduce the latest ICOYC developments, discuss current issues of mutual interest, and briefly review the recent worldwide Commodores' Forum held at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland. We will also have an opportunity to discuss possible topics for the 10th Commodores’ Forum which will be held at the Royal Danish Yacht Club in Copenhagen in October of 2016.

      Discussion topics will include the challenges presented by a changing membership and how the Chicago Yacht Club has “re-invented itself” to meet this challenge. Another topic that is an increasing issue in all of our Clubs is “electronic communications”, including online voting. How do your “manage the genie” of social media and other online communications, once they are out of the Club’s bottle. "  Read the complete text of the invitational letter
      HERE.

      Take a look at the draft agenda and download the registration form from the Download Files section below. Make your hotel reservations quickly since the week in Annapolis is a busy one.  

      All ICOYC members are invited, even if from other regions. Also, member clubs are asked to send more than one delegate, if possible. More the merrier. 



  • 2014 - San Diego
    •  

      ICOYC Americas Regional Conference 2014
      San Diego Yacht Club – February 8-9, 2014

       


      Report by Americas Regional Vice President, Jim Burns

      The 3rd annual Americas’ Regional Conference was hosted by the San Diego Yacht Club on February 8th and 9th, 2014. Thirteen clubs were represented by 20 delegates and almost 40 people participated in the event including guest delegates from both the Royal Canadian and Royal Victoria Yacht Clubs.

      But the numbers do not tell the story. A lucky number of delegates and partners who arrived early were able to enjoy an unforgettable sail on the schooner “America”, a replica of the 1851 winner of the Around the Isle of Wight race in the UK. The annual migration of grey whales down the coast of California was in full flood and the shipmates were treated to a spectacle of breaching off Point Loma.

      The America returned to the dock right in front of the San Diego Yacht Club clubhouse and we were fortunate enough to have our opening reception aboard. However splendid the venue, the warmth of the sun completely disappeared at sunset leaving the partners huddled together. They were immediately dubbed “the blanket ladies” but their spirits (and their glasses) remained high.

      Read the rest of the report HERE. Note: This link is "members only" and requires a login to the private side of the ICOYC website.


      Other Conference Reports and Presentations

       

      Nancy Glover, Eastern YC and Chicago YC, presented a detailed discussion on Tax Issues for Yacht Clubs. Items discussed included accounting and tax issues, Social Clubs (501(c)(7)), public charitable foundations (501(c)(3)), Unrelated Business Income (UBI).
      The report can be downloaded HERE




      Report to the Board, Seattle Yacht Club, by Dick Haelsig


      Photo Gallery

      A photo slideshow can be viewed in Photo Gallery.
       


      Downloads for the Conference Arrangements
      (PDF format, signed-in members only)

      Invitation
      Hotel Reservation
      Conference Registration 
      Saturday Whale Watching Ride on the historical racing yacht  America
      Partners' Program

  • 2013 - Newport
    • Americas Regional Conference 2013
      Hosted at New York Yacht Club – Harbor Court, April 5-6

        

      The conference was opened by the Conference Chair, Regional Vice President-Americas Jim Burns of Royal Vancouver YC, on Friday evening. Council delegates from Annapolis, Chicago, Eastern, Newport Harbor, Royal Vancouver, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern, and St Francis Yacht Clubs were joined by guest delegates from Bayview (Detroit), San Diego, and Seawanhaka Corinthian (Oyster Bay, NY) Yacht Clubs. The group of 40 plus experienced boaters and their partners came together at the Opening Reception in the Library of the New York Yacht Club’s spectacular facility overlooking the world famous yachting town of Newport, RI.
       
      ICOYC President John McNeill of St Francis YC, presented an overview of the results of the Commodores’ Concerns Survey and outlined the four main conference topics to be discussed on Saturday. These were Membership Growth and Retention, Club Owned Fleets, Sponsorship, and How to Involve Clubs and Their Leadership in ICOYC. President McNeill reiterated the ICOYC promise that “the comments made during these meetings are to be kept confidential within ICOYC to encourage the participants to speak freely.”

      After the opening reception, the attendees broke into several groups and headed out for dinner in the fine restaurants in Newport. These ‘off-the-clock’ informal social gatherings are a great way to talk with other yacht club leaders and to share experiences. Saturday morning arrived on a bright, but chilly day and the conference sessions started after coffee and sweets. Spouses and partners headed out to visit Newport’s famous mansions built during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

      After a full day of discussion, PowerPoints, and a working lunch of DIY sandwiches, delegates joined their partners in the Dining Room at Harbour Court for a delightful meal and great conversation. After dinner, those who attended the Americas 2012 Conference at the Southern Yacht Club were delighted to learn that their old friends from the Louisiana bayous, Mr. Boudreaux and Mr. Thibodeaux, also were at Harbour Court. The entire room was roaring in laughter at the tales of Boudreaux and Thibodeaux, artfully told by Guy Brierre, Secretary/Treasurer of Southern YC, in authentic Cajun dialect. It was a wonderful end to an enlightening and entertaining conference at a splendid venue.

      Proceedings of the conference can be downloaded by logged in ICOYC members from HERE

      The agenda can be downloaded by logged in ICOYC members from HERE.

      Photos of the conference can be found (members only) in the Photo Gallery page.

  • 2012 - New Orleans
    • Americas Regional Conference 2012
      Hosted March 9-10 by Southern Yacht Club in New Orleans

         

      All but two of the US and Canadian member clubs in the ICOYC were represented in a most useful Regional Conference in New Orleans. Commodores from two guest clubs joined us – Chicago YC and San Francisco YC. The Conference was chaired by Vice President John McNeill and I was pleased to join in and learn more about the day-to-day interests of the American clubs in the International Council. It was also my first opportunity to enjoy some extraordinary Southern hospitality.

      Our host was the Southern Yacht Club at their rebuilt clubhouse right on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain. They have exceptional sailing opportunities and their post-Katrina clubhouse has been purpose-built to a high standard, somewhat along the lines of a grand ante-bellum plantation house.

      A stated purpose of the Conference was to suggest topics for discussion at the worldwide Commodores’ Forum in UK in September 2012. This we did, passing a number of key ideas on to the next Conference in Europe in the following week. We also discussed many specific North American issues, some of which were tax-related, and under John McNeill’s steady guidance ranged over many of the aspects of running a large yacht club in today’s environment. There was extensive note-taking with quite a number of new ideas to be followed up in subsequent weeks. 

      The Regional Conferences are proving to be a most useful addition to the range of ICOYC activities. Through them we have the chance to get to know other clubs in more depth and can ask many questions to help resolve our own issues, or give our own members an even better deal. In New Orleans there was complete trust and openness among the Commodores present. When one of the Commodores asked all of us about our biggest mistake while in the role, the results were fascinating, but will never be published more widely! The mistakes fell into three main categories – failures in member communications, staffing and financial issues.

      The Southern hospitality extended to a special welcome for the wives of the Conference delegates. They had the opportunity to see more of the city, and the shopping, than the rest of us who were largely confined to the club. However we had the chance to sample some of the SYC’s excellent food, with all its creole influences, and to gather in the club’s new bar. We were briefed on the impact of Hurricane Katrina,  the pronunciation of the city’s name (something like ‘Nawlins’), and the need to say ‘y’all’ on all possible occasions. Which we did.

      It was a most valuable event and a great way to spend a long weekend.
      Submitted by John Stork


      Details

      Please be sure to read the detailed Conference reports for both Genoa and New Orleans in the ICOYC Newsletter for July 2012 found in Library/Newsletters.
       

      Downloads

      The conference report and information on delegate lodging.
       
  • 2011 - San Francisco
    • Americas Regional Conference 2011
      Hosted 28-29 January 2012
      by St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco



      REPORT TO ICOYC BOARD

      The first ICOYC AMERICA’S FORUM was a great success.   Quality, not quantity was the order of the day throughout.   Note only did the Forum provide for a stimulating dialogue with many good “take aways”, but also it has resulted in two formal applications for Membership in the Council, one from Annapolis Yacht Club and a second from Newport Harbour Yacht Club. 
       
      The Forum was held on the afternoon and into the evening of January 28 th and on the morning and early afternoon of January 29th at the St. Francis Yacht Club.  Staff (past) Commodore John McNeill, ICOYC Vice President of the Americas, presided and kept us all moving forward.  
       
      Attending the forum were the following Clubs and their representatives:  

      Annapolis Yacht Club   Commodore William Torgerson 
      Newport Harbor Yacht Club   Commodore Jeffrey Gordon
      Rochester Yacht Club    Commodore Charles Ross 
      Royal Vancouver Yacht Club   Past Commodore Jim Burns      
          Past Commodore Sarah Howard 
      Seattle Yacht Club     Commodore Kim Lorenz
          Past Commodore Jack Sullivan
          Committee Chair Bob Miller  
      Southern Yacht Club     Past Commodore Jim Wade
      St. Francis Yacht Club    Commodore Patrick Nolan
          Vice Commodore Peter Stoneberg      
          Staff Commodore John McNeill


      We were give a very warm welcome by Commodore Nolan, who noted the high value that St. Francis YC places on its ICOYC membership, and began the session with an outline of the Agenda from Commodore McNeill. This set out an ambitious timeline for the topics to be covered.  Clearly we were going to have to “sing for our supper”.  
       
      Commodore Sullivan from Seattle then gave us a preview of the structure and program of the Seattle Forum in September and details were provided regarding venues, the social program and some of the likely topics.   There is  little doubt that SYC is pulling out all the stops to make this a most memorable event.  
       
      Many of the Club representatives were accompanied by their spouses and after the initial session ended, we all moved into one of the many spectacular waterfront dining rooms at St. Francis for a truly memorable dinner. The General Manager of St. Francis personally supervised the meal and advised us that with very few exceptions (the salmon) all of the ingredients for dinner, including the wine, had come from within 100 miles of the Club.    
       
      Replete with dinner and after a toast to hosts, the assembled moved back to the meeting room for a presentation from Vice Commodore Stoneberg who is also the Vice Chairman of the 2013 America’s Cup Organizing Committee.  It was a rare treat to be briefed on the intended venue and “tools of battle” by the Vice Chair of the AC Committee.  It became abundantly clear that the proposed changes to the boats, the races and the venue will very much make it a spectator friendly event.  Details such as two sizes of catamarans (one for regional events, one for the “big show”), potential 30 knot closing speeds and circular courses with gates should ensure plenty of excitement.  
       
      Having sailed a number major regattas in the Bay I can attest to the fact that in the summer, “the hurricane kicks in at noon” and on a sunny day, you can be guaranteed 25 knots of breeze.    It certainly appears that the Americas Cup will once again be an exciting sporting event.   
       
      One of the highlights of the Forum for some of us was to be a ride on Vice Commodore Stoneberg’s own Formula 40 Catamaran.   However it was not to be as Saturday morning dawned foggy (it was San Francisco) with no wind.  
       
      Saturday was also the day for the annual Three Bridge Fiasco Race, a doublehanded event whereby over 400 boats have to sail under all three of the major bridges in the Bay in whatever order they choose.   Even though there was little wind, it was nonetheless very distracting to have all of these sailboats milling around just outside the window of the “Starting Line Room” where day 2 of the forum was held. 
       
      Commodore McNeill drove us on however and as the morning progressed, it became clear that the delegates were becoming comfortable in each other’s company and the discussion became more animated, direct and fruitful.  
       
      A number of issues were examined with a view to determining whether they would be suitable for a wider exploration or exposition at the Seattle Forum.  They ranged from the “macro” such as Governance to the “micro” such as adjusting the “minimum charge” to members for food.   
       
      Primary topics and some of the “take-aways” included: 

      1. Sponsorship – How to create and maintain an organized and targeted sponsorship program in your club.  How to deal with potential conflicts between Regatta Chairs and sponsors/sponsorship organizers. 

      2. Member volunteer participation – How to deal with the growing trend of having more and more Club activities completed by staff as opposed to volunteer members.   How to recruit and motivate members to actually “get the job done” in a professional and timely manner.  

      3. Membership development – Most clubs appeared to be actively seeking new members and lively discussion ensued on how we deal with the aging membership demographic and how “deep discounts” or “seat sales” do not appear to have not resulted in long term members.  There was a lengthy discussion of the entrance fees and monthly dues being charged by most Clubs and the range was considerable.   A very interesting sidelight was that when one Club raised their “balance to minimum” not a single member resigned as a result and it added approximately $80,000 to the “bottom line.” 
       
      4. Communication – most clubs appear to be moving towards the dissemination of Club news and activities by electronic means but most still publish a monthly newsmagazine.   Many clubs now have interactive web sites allowing members to book events online but some expressed concern about “too many” emails from the Club being ignored by members.    
       
      It was good to hear Bob Miller’s views on this topic, being the Chair of the Communications Committee of Seattle YC.  More and more members are demanding wireless communications be available at the Club.   There was also discussion of the increased use of Social Media by many members and a question as to its security and utility for the Club.   Commodore McNeill has found that Facebook in fact provides a secure platform for discussion.  
       
      5. Governance, - or, how to Keep the “College of the Sea” on the side of the Board instead of moaning about how it was in “the old days”.     Many of the senior members of most Clubs (including many Past Commodores) are still well respected and seen as Opinion Leaders.   It appears that the senior Flag Officers or the Board of many clubs engage these members on a semi formal basis (by way of a lunch or a morning briefing) on a periodic basis.    It is found that this was a useful method of floating “trial balloons” and ensuring that a significant power base in the Club remained in the know and were more likely to support Board activity than oppose it.  
       
      A secondary consideration in Governance was how voting by members was permitted and specifically whether proxies, mail or electronic voting was permitted.   It is apparent that some Clubs permit voting by mail for the election of Officers but require voting in person, although occasionally by proxy on substantive Club issues such as by-law changes or major expenditures.  
       
      6. Home Port Moorage.   This was not a topic that was universal and few of the Clubs offer extensive Home Port Moorage.    Nevertheless, with one notable exception, those that do typically charge moorage rates were in the range of 90-95% of commercial moorage rates.   One of the Clubs that subscribes to this practice generates substantial net revenues in this fashion which in turn enables other Club programs to be funded.  An interesting sidelight to this discussion was that it was the advice of a well respected  Marina consultant to one of the Clubs that the Club should NOT build additional moorage in light of the aging demographic of the membership and the general decline in boating activity.  

      7. Club Owned Boats.     In part to address membership recruitment and retention issues and in part to participate in the growing trend of Team Racing, each of St. Francis and SYC has acquired a fleet of J22’s.    It was fascinating to learn that in Seattle, the Marine Trades Association has a program called “Butts in Boats” which is specifically designed to increase the ’publics awareness of and participation in boating.    A direct result of this has provided SYC with boat moorage and chandlery support for their J80 fleet.   

      Summary.   The topics were wide ranging and varied, the discussion was lively and candid and I think that every delegate learned a great deal at the Forum.   It is indeed a credit to the St. Francis YC and especially to Staff Commodore McNeill that the first ICOYC America’s Forum was a resounding success.    
       
      Respectfully Submitted. PC Jim Burns Royal Vancouver YC


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Snapshots from recent regional conferences