Of course, there are always challenges in maintaining a healthy and vibrant Class. Generally, attendance at our regattas is down a bit with Nationals participation becoming more dependent on the proximity to our strong base in the Mid-West region. We have seen a decline in the number and size of fleets, with some fleets (mine included) that are right at the required 3 boat minimum and a handful that are on probation with fewer than 3 boats. So we have plenty of opportunities to improve and grow our Class. Fortunately, there are also success stories, such as the recent reinstatement of Fleet 169 in Newport, RI. Through the efforts of several enthusiastic sailors, Thistles have returned to one of the most storied sailing venues in the country. According to the fleet members, the Newport scene was missing an affordable, family-friendly boat; a niche for which they say the Thistle (and the Class) sells itself!
The TCA was faced with another challenge in recent months regarding the 2016 MWE schedule. Due to a confluence of events, St. Pete Yacht Club is not able to host us for the traditional Monday through Friday racing on Tampa Bay. Kyle Finefrock, our now past president, has worked diligently with St. Pete Yacht Club as well as Sarasota Sailing Squadron to come up with the framework for the 2016 Thistle Winter Series, which will incorporate 6 days of racing split between these two fantastic venues. (Please check out Kyle’s article in this issue for additional details.)
Over the past several years, there has been a lot of discussion among our members regarding the Nationals and MWE formats. Some of the topics have included event length, number of races, course length, and expansion of potential venues. We now have the opportunity to try some of the ideas that have been proposed. Based on feedback from attendees at Nationals as well as various regattas across the country, there was no real consensus on the best format for the 2016 MWE. Therefore the schedule for the 2016 Winter Series is a compromise that is intended to provide something for everyone as well as an opportunity for us to learn firsthand. However, in order to learn from everyone’s experiences we need your support. For those interested in a new venue with three days packed with racing, come to the first leg in Sarasota. If you enjoy the traditional MWE experience but cannot swing a full week of sailing, come to St. Pete for the final leg. If you want to maximize your sailing and/or time away from the cold weather and snow, then come for the whole week. You could participate in both events and enjoy what each of these venues has to offer or mix in some off the water vacation.
Enjoy the off-season and start making plans for 2016! (This article was originally published in the Dec 2015/Jan 2016 "Bagpipe" and is being reprinted with permission)