by Steve Vurno

Recently I had the pleasure of attending the spring meeting in Chicago. The Des Plaines fleet organized a productive and enjoyable weekend.  I'm certain that their effort and hospitality was appreciated by all those who attended.  The opportunity to meet with old friends and to make new ones, once again reminded me what a special group of people the Rebel class is.  I feel fortunate to have grown up socializing, sailing, and racing in a Rebel.  I would like my children (when I have them) to have the same opportunity, but this will only happen if we continue to promote our class.  In this article I would like to talk about some of my ideas for increasing class membership.
The Rebel Rabble is our greatest asset for class development.  However, it is under utilized.  The Rabble is primarily used as a means of communication among the membership.  Communication is vital to the survival of our organization, but it is my opinion that we should expand the role of the Rabble to ACTIVELY promote the Rebel and our class.  Four times a year the Rabble is mailed to 250 people all over the country, many of whom already own a Rebel.  Only a fraction of these people are active in the national organization or attend the national regatta.  These are the people who we should first focus on. We should use the Rebel Rabble as a forum for advertising our class.  The Rebel Rabble ought to be a concerted marketing effort as well as a means of communication.  Are there any members with experience in advertising who could make contributions in this respect?
The National Championship Regatta is vital for the success of our organization. Without it we are no more than a collection of disparate individual fleets.  It is largely at the Nationals where we develop our unity of spirit and purpose.  However, participation in the National Regatta has been declining steadily. We need to increase participation by attracting those people who have never attended a Nationals. How do we attract such people?  Most people who are actively involved and successful in racing will eventually attend with a minimum of encouragement. Our target group would seem to be those who have never raced or have not been terribly successful in racing. 
The first thing we can do to attract such people is provide social activities.  We need to stress the fun on and off  the water in promoting the Nationals.  We also need to communicate that one need not be an expert racer to participate in the Nationals.  We could even offer a free racing "clinic" the weekend before the start of the Nationals.  This could be an on the water clinic where the participants learn the basics (or more depending on their ability level) of sailboat racing.  If we offer such a clinic we may attract some of our unattached (to a fleet) members who have never raced or have limited racing experience.  I am confident that if we get them to attend one Nationals, they will attend many.  Maybe they will even be inspired to start a new fleet if there is not one in their area.
One last idea-  the creation of another national sanctioned regatta.   Perhaps  Great Lakes Championship or Atlantic Coast Championship would be an appropriate designation (or alternating between the two as the regatta shifts from the East to the Midwest).  This could be a two or three day national regatta; sort of a mini-Nationals.  I believe such a regatta would promote class unity as well as offer some darn fine racing.  Also, we may give some members who are scared of "The Nationals", or hesitant to spend five vacation days racing, a taste of what a Rebel national regatta is like.  
The Rebel is a great boat and, taken as a whole, the people making up the class association are the finest I've met.  It is my hope that the Rebel class will grow and thrive.  Hopefully, my ideas will be a start.