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Classic Keelboat Syndication and why you should try it

by Roger Yeoman 20 Oct 2019 14:18 BST

Itchenor Sailing Club offers some of the best one design keelboat racing in the UK. We have racing water at all states of the tide and three different classic keelboat classes to choose from, all of which boast a strong double-digit average turnout.

All sailing abilities are catered to and challenged, from Olympic and World Championship standard sailors through to racing beginners.

The Problem

The thorny topic always seems to be money! These boats are cheap enough to acquire, depending on your perspective and ambition. Competitive XODs can be bought for significantly less than £10,000. The same is true of the Swallow, although the Sunbeam usually starts at a higher price point. In any case these are one off costs. The problem lies in running them.

Swallows are generally the cheapest, because they are all mostly fibreglass. Sunbeams come in wood or fibreglass, whereas the XOD is all wood, including the rig.

How much do they cost to run? You should expect to see annual bills of between £5--- 10,000 including race fees, insurance, scrubbing, maintenance, sails and storage, but excluding occasional Open Meeting entry fees. Not cheap for most people, especially since many of the owners and sailors are in the latter stages of their career (or beyond!) and looking to closely manage their outgoings.

The Solution

Here's where syndication comes in. Let's take £8,000 as a starting point. Clearly if you split it four ways you're down to a far more manageable £2,000 annual expense each. Of course the devil is in the detail. These boats are typically sailed by three people, so on the face of it one or other individual may have to stand down from time to time. Besides more than one person might want to helm all the time. Whilst all that is true, these things can easily be navigated or otherwise put into perspective.

Itchenor programmed around 150 races for the XOD last year, including BST racing on Wednesday evenings and Points Week! Just how much racing can you stand!? And that leaves aside the excellent Solent Safari opportunities, including but not limited to Cowes Classics Week and Cowes Week. XOD sailors can enjoy an even more extensive programme away from Itchenor, including Lymington Week, Poole Week and a range of Solent Open Meetings.

So, there are plenty of races to target. The more you race the lower the per race cost, but you could be paying as little as £20 per race each, not bad if you compare it to a round of golf, a session at the gym or an evening in the pub/cinema! And it belies the myth that this is like standing under a shower tearing up bank notes, or that you can't really justify the expense so you had better not tell your domestic partner!

Syndicate Chemistry

The key to a harmonious syndicate goes beyond sailing with people who you get on with. It is important to understand how ambitions and appetites fit together. It would be frustrating to have four mad keen helms on the same boat. It would also be tedious to sail with someone who wanted to take their racing extremely seriously when all you wanted to do was enjoy a nice day out in the open air. Take some time to talk through expectations and roles. It is usually fairly easy to reach any number of compromises, but it is better to broadly agree at the outset.

Managing the Money

At least two easy pathways spring to mind:

  1. One or other syndicate member might be happy to manage the bill paying process and make cash calls to other syndicate members regularly or from time to time.

  2. Some syndicates set up a joint bank account and each member contributes, say £150 per month each by direct debit, topping up or reimbursing from time to time.

Final thought: Get Radical, the Super Syndicate!

Let's take the same £8,000 running cost. Let's assume you choose to afford £70 per month (gym membership, approximately) that means you would need a syndicate of ten. Sounds daft? Well cast your mind back to the 150 race programme which Itchenor offers. That's forty five races each. I reckon that's about as often as many people would choose to race in any case!

Call Haines Boatyard, Itchenor for a detailed pro forma cost breakdown. Call Itchenor Sailing Club for further details. Happy sailing!

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