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Phantom Class Association ask the questions

by Mike Webster & Rob Cook 8 Dec 2023 22:14 GMT
Ovington Phantom Nationals 2022 at Lyme Regis © Ian Wallace

At the Phantom Nationals in September this year a changing of the guard took place which saw many of the committee roles changing hands and the standing down of our long serving Chairman Phil Longley following the appointment of our new Chairman, Rob Cook of Northampton SC.

With new faces on the block it's always an opportunity to explore new ideas and initiatives to build upon the hard work made by the previous Chairman and officials.

The class has seen a steady increase in Phantom sailing around the country since the pandemic, where single-handers have become increasingly popular with lots of new faces joining the fleet.

With a couple of committee meetings under their belts the new committee have identified some priorities and key principles to drive further improvement to the Phantom Class Association:

  • Enhance communication with members & evolve how we promote the class with the broader sailing community to attract new sailors into the fleet.
  • Creating additional value for Class Association members.
  • Offer a tailored sailing programme that incorporates feedback from Phantom Sailors to encourage greater support, participation and enjoyment across all regions and abilities within the fleet.

On the final point, as the 2023 season draws to a close, the committee prioritized gathering feedback from all Phantom sailors around the UK. The objective is to develop an events programme for 2024 and beyond that is meaningful and structured to what people want. This is not to say that the previous years haven't been successful, but with so many new faces to the class in each region the dynamics are changing.

The survey requested input across the following categories:

  • Profile & location of Phantom sailors
  • Regional events and training criteria
  • Inland Championships
  • National Championships
  • European Events
  • And finally, how can we further improve the Phantom Class Association

Rob Cook, the Phantom Class Association chairman commented, "Hearing from our Phantom sailors across all regions of the country has been fantastic and with over 160 responses has created a database of information about what people want out of their sailing and racing.

"The profile of the class is changing and we're seeing a wider range of ages and crew weights, the old tag line that a Phantom is only for the 'big boys' is now outdated. This has mainly been brought about by the advanced carbon rig configurations together with multiple sail designs from leading sail makers such as P&B, North and HD.

"Personally, I joined the class less than 3 years ago, having sailed a Solo for a number of years previously, following a few seasons in a Musto Skiff. The Phantom itself is an exciting and exhilarating boat, which is surprisingly easy to sail. The sailors are incredibly welcoming and actively seek to share their knowledge with new members of the fleet.

"With over 46% of the survey respondents owning a Phantom less than 3 years, it's great to see the class attracting sailors from other classes such as Solo, Lasers and other popular single handers together with double hander helms struggling with crews.

"Competition is strong at opens and national events with sailors of all abilities keen to improve their skills. Training and quality racing for all is at the heart of how we take the class forward, yet we're also keen to stay close to our roots - remaining well known for our friendly, inclusive and social nature.

"I am looking forward to working closely with the new committee to further improve the overall experience for existing and new Phantom sailors.

"We'll be feeding back to the class the results of the survey where we have seen some common themes and trends and where possible, we'll be incorporating the these and key takeaways into the 2024 racing and training programme."

Just a few examples of facts and comments reflected in the survey are:

  • Active fleet evenly distributed across the Midlands, Eastern, South West, South East and a growing number of boats in the North (just in time for the 2024 Nationals at Sunderland YC)
  • The age profile of the class is changing, with a higher proportion of the fleet under 40 years old
  • Over 50% of sailors attended at least one Phantom open meeting throughout 2023
  • 48% of the sailors in the survey tend to only sail at club level, providing an opportunity to further expand attendances on the open circuit
  • Overwhelmingly 85% of those surveyed wanted to see more training linked to open events or at club level
  • The current three day format for the National Championships was voted by 76% as being their preferred duration.

What the class are doing well:

  • "Friendly, welcoming and approachable"
  • "Well run regional events"
  • "Supportive and sharing of technical and training knowledge"
  • "Good communication and enthusiastic fleet"
  • "Free training for members"

The Phantom class is going from strength to strength and the class association is passionate about making it accessible to anyone who loves sailing an exciting, manageable and responsive boat.

If you are interested and want to reignite your sailing in 2024 get in touch with the Phantom Class Association to discuss with our regional representatives, who will be able to help with advising of your nearest clubs sailing Phantoms, boat sales and availability and anything else you want to know. Even perhaps a taster session at a local club?

The class will also be at the RYA Dinghy and Watersports Show 2024, in Farnborough on the 24th-25th February, stand B41, showcasing a new Ovington Phantom. Come along for a chat if you dare!

"Get one or it will haunt you forever..."

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