By Andrew Kerr
Mark Forrest has long been an active member of Eugene’s Fleet 19 and along with his team an active campaigner of his boat “ Radost”. Currently the class Vice President, Mark can be see racing and promoting the S20 class all over the country.
AK: Tell us about your team on “ Radost” and the racing you have been doing:
MF: I have been sailing with my father, Scott Forrest, at middle and Summer Bauman at foredeck for the last three seasons. I feel like our team really stepped up this year. Since there was no water in our reservoir in 2001, we ended up sailing only two regattas together that year. We basically started over in 2002 and spent most of the season on fundamental crew work. In other words, we had our heads in the boat most of the time.
This year, Nationals was a real turning point. When we came back from Huntington, we suddenly found ourselves sparing with the boats at the top of the fleet and not making the errors we had early in the season. Our crew work is more automatic, so we are able to get our heads out of the boat and focus more on the tactical aspects of the race. I have attended Nationals every year since I bought the boat in 1999, and I believe there is no better way to improve than to spend a week at nationals with the best sailors. We have improved every year after Nationals.
AK: You were a very popular choice for class VP – tell us about your role in the class and some of the ideas you would like promoted to help class growth and popularity.
MF: My focus this year will be on fleet development and recruitment. The fleet is the basic unit of the class organization. Where the national organization creates a common forum through the website and newsletter, the fleet is the community that offers every member an opportunity to contribute on a weekly or monthly basis. There are a number of small fleets with no formal organization or growth plan. My first task has been to identify all the fleet captains. I will then be working with fleet captains to get members involved in promotion and recruitment at the local level.
There is a network effect in one design racing. The more active boats in the class, the more fun it is for everyone. The people in this class are great, and anyone who has made a trip to nationals knows it is a lot like a big family reunion. The Santana 20 is easy to trailer, and promoting more travel to national and regional regattas will benefit everyone. In addition to building relationships between members, it will help diffuse knowledge and make everyone more competitive. Growing our reputation for being a fun, active and competitive class will naturally attract other talented sailors.
AK: Eugene’s fleet 19 has long been a very well organized and big fleet. Typically the Memorial Day regatta features 26 to 30 boats- what are the ingredients of this success that we can spread to other areas and please tell us about fleet 19?
Fleet 19 is lucky to have a number of dedicated class members who freely offer advice to help new members. At least one or more members of a local fleet have to actively encourage new members to join up. Once again, I have to emphasize the network effect. If you want to race a sailboat on Fern Ridge, the Santana 20 is the boat to get. I can’t understand why anyone would want to race PHRF when there are over a dozen S20s on the line every Thursday. There are some fleets that have already reached such a critical mass, and I would like to help more fleets get there. With both new and inexpensive used boats available, a strong fleet can be built fairly quickly. Eugene’s Lido 14 fleet built this kind of momentum in just the last two years through the efforts of a handful of local sailors who organized extra events and located boats for new members.
Fleet 19 only has water to sail in six months out of the year, but we have monthly fleet meetings year round at a local restaurant to keep our members involved. Some of our most spirited meetings are in the off-season when we are all frustrated to have our boats under tarp. We also have a traditional year-end banquet where we get family and friends together to celebrate and give out awards. Perhaps smaller fleets could co-ordinate regional events to get this kind of tradition started. I also have to acknowledge Kevin Goodrich, our fleet captain for the last two years, as well as his wife Jeannie Goodrich. They both put in a lot of effort and did a fantastic job.
AK: “ Radost” travels to many events – what advice would you give to class association members who are making a trip to a new location or who are first time participants in the Nationals?
Arrive early. Allow some time for hanging out in the parking lot, looking at rigging on other boats and asking questions. When I bought Radost, it was a real fixer upper with factory rigging from 1977. I totally re-rigged the boat based on a survey of deck layouts at the ’99 Nationals in Wyoming. Also, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Many class members are very generous with their time and advice. The first couple of times I traveled with the boat, I had help from more experienced sailors. Like anything else, the more you do it, the easier it gets.
AK: We would like as many new teams as possible to attend the Long Beach Nationals – how do we attract them?
I think the weekend schedule will help produce a good turnout, and that will make for a great regatta. There are a lot of boats in Southern California, so the weekend schedule and streamlined registration makes it very easy for them to participate. I also think emphasizing the social events at the regatta will make it an attractive vacation destination. In addition to a Hawaiian Luau, there will be burgers every night and social activities for family and friends. The class also plans to provide a free seminar and post race briefings that will enhance the educational aspect of the regatta. For me, it is a week of summer sailing camp.
This is a National class regatta, and I would like to meet more members from other parts of the country. Britt Williams in particular has been a true road warrior, bringing his boat out to the west coast from Oklahoma each of the last three years. For those who don’t want to haul their boat that far, the race chairs have offered arrange boats to charter. That will make it a lot easier for sailors from the Midwest, South or the East coast.
The value of this event is there, what has to happen next is to build enthusiasm at the local level and get it on people’s calendars. This has to happen through the fleets and fleet captains.
AK: In a recent sailing World magazine we saw articles on lake sailing – both Lake Pleasant in Arizona and Lake Elephant Butte and Lake Herron in New Mexico. There was a picture of S20 # 475 on Lake Herron, it really illustrates that S20’s are sailing everywhere. Class President Phillip Infelise is embarking on a nation wide tour of S20 events in an effort to recruit and promote the class. What other promotional methods do you think we can use to increase participation?
MF: Of course, it is fantastic to get free publicity in a magazine like Sailing World, but the class depends on the initiative and involvement of its members. The small number of volunteers on the board cannot make growth happen without local initiative. Individual members and fleets need to take it upon themselves to promote the class, and the national association is here to help support, publicize or facilitate these efforts. The class organization is designed to promote participation through the fleet captains and regional directors. I will be talking to fleet captains about what ideas their members have, and how the class can help make it happen. Both Phillip and myself are open to suggestions and are willing to help members who want to make a contribution to the class.
AK: Typically the class VP is the stepping-stone on the class association board to Class president – in that possible instance what is your vision of the class for post Long Beach 2004 Nationals and 2005?
Those of us who own one know the Santana 20 is a fun boat to sail. It can also be relatively inexpensive to own and stay competitive. With the large number of active members and both new and used boats available, I think the class is in an excellent position to grow its ranks. So how can we attract more members?
This year, I would like to see a strong turnout at some high profile regattas, such as North Sails Race Week and Whidbey Island Race Week. This is our best opportunity to show PHRF sailors how much fun one-design racing can be. It could also help us to get some free coverage from prominent sailing publications as well, and that will help introduce potential members to the class.
We don’t yet have a site confirmed for 2005, but I’m certain that a strong turnout at the 2004 Long Beach Nationals will help build momentum for the future.
AK: How does your upcoming schedule of racing in 2004 look?
Fleet 19 gives a “Road Warrior” award every year at our fleet banquet. This year it went to a new member, Jerold Skeen, who put over 5,000 miles on his truck just to Santana 20 regattas. Radost will sail a couple of spring regattas before I finish graduate school in June. I plan to sail a lot July through October, including Nationals, but I have my work cut out for me to keep pace with Jerold.
AK: Many thanks Mark.