Making like Kai Ryssdal (sp?) today.

Lots of people say a lot of stuff about North Americans participation, and we all like to put on our rose/sepia colored Kaenons and think back to when 50 boat NAs fleets were the norm. Based on the data, those days might once have existed but they haven’t in a long time.

That sounds like bad news, right?

I’m typically as big of a pessimist as you’ll meet, but this topic is my outlier. The NAs as a regatta, since 1997, has been doing quite well, thank you.

The average (mean) participation is 31.21 boats, the mode (most frequently occurring) is 35, median (mid point) is exactly 32. For you would-be stats geeks out there, median is the most resistant to outliers. With a data set like this that doesn’t have big outliers, the mean works well and hey look at that it’s 1 away from the median. The mode is useless but I included it because.

The standard deviation is 7.85. This means that 90% of the time, participation is going to fall +/- 7.85 boats from the mean. What this means in bar talk is that a 25 boat NAs is lame turnout, and a 40 boat NAs is really good turnout.

1997 35 ABYC
1999 14 Corpus
2000 45 Santa Cruz
2001 35 CORK
2006 27 Unknown
2007 30 Unknown
2009 32 Gorge
2010 23 Chicago
2011 32 American YC
2013 27 CORK
2014 40 Santa Cruz
2015 33 Annapolis
2017 25 Buzzards Bay
2019 39 CORK

Through this time period, we’ve had 2 “really good turnout” years – both in Santa Cruz. We’ve had 3 “lame turnout” years – Corpus, Chicago, and Buzzard’s Bay. Note that I excluded the 100+ boat NAs in Hyannis 1998 because it was a Pre-Worlds. There are other years with missing data from the info I referenced. Interestingly, CORK has hosted the most NAs through this period, and of the 3 they’ve hosted, one has come really close to being statistically lame, one has come really close to being statistically really good, and one falls just above average.

There are several missing years, and I’ve done nothing other than ignore them. This little project comes out of an exercise I’m doing for a different thing so it’s a fringe benefit and not something I have lots of time to pursue right now. I know, for example, that 2016 in WA was good but the place I looked didn’t have it. Oh well.

What can we take away from this? By and large, participation holds steady, the trend line is pretty flat when the news of the world is that dinghy classes are dying and a plague of locusts is at the door. We’re doing well. There are some lessons. Iconic venues like Santa Cruz (in particular) and CORK are safe bets for NAs. Places that are far as from everyone and have no native fleet (Corpus) are risky business. Stay more or less in the fairway between those two extremes and people will come.

What can we do with this going forward? Well, first you have to commit to using NAs participation as a proxy for Class health. Can we do that? Fine, then we could set a goal to grow mean participation by 10% without increasing standard deviation (i.e. not have one 120 boat NAs at Santa Cruz Pre-Worlds and say “well done, Class, we did it!”). That’s 3 to 4 extra boats a year, and easily within our collective grasp.

The goal for Newport 2021 (register here, kids) is 50 boats. That would be a huge number, but we can get there. The planning number we’ve used with Sail Newport is 40, and honestly I think that’s a layup. To come out of the COVID crap with a 40 boat NAs would rip. The logistics for leafing it in with Worlds work great. Let’s make this happen.

Moral of the story? To me it’s that the Class is doing well to hold steady in a challenging environment. Given what we’ve seen in Region 1 with fleet growth and some of what we’ve heard and seen elsewhere, the 505 makes a good case for itself as the home for refugees from dying/too expensive/too pro’d up/too boring/too hike too hard classes.

Good chat.


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