Riverton Yacht Club — 9 Years Old

Mark Schneider

We are not really nine years old - it is the conclusion of our ninth year as a revived fleet 228.

November 1989, Allan Crew, Hugh Hutchison, and I got together and committed to a year at Riverton Yacht Club. By year's end we had doubled in size and the momentum was building! Watching the momentum move us to a fifteen boat fleet over the nest two years was really fun. I spent time looking for Lightnings at every price range. I found them for sale and in barns, backyards, and garages not being used which became for sale. Now another 5–6 years later we are still a 15 boat fleet, but the boats have changed. Those who have sailed over the years have all upgraded their boats. Now instead of a so-so fleet we have a tough group.

Why am I writing this? I guess it is because I don't rightfully know where to go from here. Fleet sailing is the future of Lightning sailing, it is where the seasoned veterans nurture the new sailors. It has to be fun, otherwise the new sailors are intimidated and walk away not wanting to be involved with people like us. That was easy when it was just Hugh, Allan and me. We went into races a little cautiously, we would use old sails and make it possible for new sailors to have a chance. Now we have fifteen boats, the majority could sail in any regatta and be great competition. The fleet races are good practice but they are fast and competitive. What happens to the newcomers? This is the dilemma.

We are lucky in a way. Riverton is what I call a "convenient" yacht club. We sail every Wednesday night on the Delaware River only minutes outside of Philadelphia/ It may not be a championship race course, and weekends people leave for the shore or the Chesapeake, but we sail every Wednesday night and being within three hours of real good fleets we rend to travel quite a bit. When our fleet was young, I would promote that a new sailor try one or two regattas. Usually recommending fun regattas where there were people their speed. Now, if we don't have two or three boats at the NAs or Midwinters it is unusual. Our boats sail in regattas all up ad down the east coast. We average 8-9 boats in the District Championship. This is a group of top sailors who are active.

We will be concluding our ninth season, averaging 11 boats per fleet race - totaling 18 fleet races and two regattas. Is that success or are we in trouble? We need new blood. How do we get that blood? How do we make it fun? How do we keep this group happy while bringing new blood to the scene? The ultimate questions!

(Appeared in September 1998 Flashes)

Other Fleet Building Articles:
Fleet Building 101

Happinin' Fleets Don't Just Happen

Lightning Fleet Development - will you be 'Plus One' this year?

Fleet Sailing