Justin Chisholm Article

With traditional sailing club membership levels around the world dwindling year by year, it’s rare to hear of new clubs being formed. However, the Brooklyn Sail Club is one such venture and the US Sailing sanctioned operation is hoping its innovative pay-to-play model could help it buck the global downward trend.


The club is based out of the newly completed ONE°15 Brooklyn Marina situated in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge on the eastern edge of in New York Harbour.


When I visited in the summer of 2016 the last of the pontoons were being installed. Aside from a scattering of ribs and other small power boats the only other craft in marina was a fleet of six Melges 24s and eight J80s; all in tip-top racing trim.


Intrigued, I sought out director of sailing operations, Stephen Yip, to ask him to explain how the new club worked.


“We run a club operation and we also run a sailing school,” he told me. “People can join the club kind of in the same way they would join a health club: you pay your membership fee and then you can book a boat and take it out sailing.”


The club screens individual members’ sailing abilities and only those authorised can take charge of one of the club’s fleet.


“For those without skipper’s privileges with the club, coastguard-certified captains can take you out and we have coaches that will train you to become skippers.”


According to Yip, the club’s philosophy revolves around helping people to become better sailors, whatever their starting level.


“Whether people come to us as beginners, advanced racers or advanced cruisers, we think we can really open up the waterfront to people in Brooklyn and to anyone else who comes to visit our facility.


Yip targets two types of customers. Firstly, the people who already know how to sail and want to go sailing but don’t want to own their boats.


“Those people want to join a club with a fleet of nice boats that are well looked after so they can take their families and friends out sailing. It’s very much an alternative to boat ownership.”


The other people Yip is targeting are the ones who live in and around Brooklyn or the skyscrapers of nearby Manhattan.


“People who live and work in the local area are never far from the waterfront. We are trying to inspire them to come and make use of the waters just off their city. Through us they can take lessons and if they like it they can join the club and keep on developing their skills.”


Certified skippers and their crews can join in organised racing on the Melges 24s or J80s at weekends and Monday and Friday evenings. There is a range of membership levels, including pay-as-you-go and a non-racing option.


A top of the range Platinum Membership for $2300 per year means you can sail and race as you want – to my mind, not bad a deal compared to the cost of owning and berthing your own race boat.


When I visited the Brooklyn Sail Club had around 150 members. Yip seemed happy with that level after less than two years of operation.


“We believe success will come from building a quality base of members who are part of the community and want to help us grow our teaching and learning philosophy,” he said.

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