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Feb 14, 2019

Viking FleetI have heard a lot of talk lately about trends in yacht clubs where senior membership is getting older, less active, and quickly disappearing – a trend that can’t be reversed. As well, I hear a theory that young people are not buying boats.

I am here to say, as a Viking sailor, that I don’t believe the hype.

I believe there is a different way to approach attracting members to a sailing club; the future of clubs lies with incredible vintage boats out there that have a whole second life waiting to unfold. The Viking28 is such a vintage boat: manufactured in the hundreds during the 1970’s, easily purchased today, and a great performing boat under sail. This is the boat of our One-Design Fleet.


Viking FleetThe Viking28 Fleet at Ashbridges Bay Yacht Club has been the embodiment of this approach. We have built up a fleet of seven Viking28’s (soon to be eight) that race regularly, with trophies organized for the top boats, and a schedule that includes the ABYC OPEN in the spring, the QCYC OPEN in the fall, and a variety of regattas between. The fleet has brought in at least ten new senior members to our club in the past two years and has been effective at bringing Viking owners from other clubs to get involved with our events. The fleet is awash with crew who are consistent, keen and excited. The fleet presents great sailing, camaraderie, and it is all happening in boats that are worth little to nothing where every dollar invested goes to greater performance.

The fleet has become a focal point within the club, attracting skilled sailors and changing the idea of what a one-design fleet can be. People ask: how is it that we are doing this?

The Viking28 fleet at ABYC started with simple deceit. Two friends owned the ever-venerable Viking Blythe Spirit. Knowing of another Viking available for the taking, they conspired with another buddy: he would purchase a third Viking, the robust Firefly, after roping Greg, the writer, into adopting the second Viking Tecumseh. It took some misrepresentation for their plan of subversion to go off smoothly. Immediately, we had a fleet nucleus of owners who were good friends with competitive spirit.


Viking FleetThis playful jousting proved to be attractive, as there are many sailors out there who want to have a keel boat suitable for loafing, but also something they can use to show their racing skills. Perhaps taking a second mortgage for a boat is not an option; maybe a race boat should have some scars and a few stories to tell. This is our mantra. As a result, in the past 16 months, the fleet has grown by another 4 boats – but this was not by chance. To make growth happen, the fleet core has gone to lengths to get new members, including delivering a Viking from Hamilton to Toronto, sharing sails, and purchasing a boat when we weren’t sure there would be an owner to take over – above all, the enthusiasm for these boats has consistently won people over - and so the fleet grows.

Mike Greg and TeecumsehThis really, is not a new formula: when sailing during my twenties on the east coast of the US, I saw club after club, fleet after fleet employing these methods. Be it Thistles, Lightnings, or Stars, these fleets focussed on low capital cost, good sportsmanship and having boats immediately available for like-minded sailors. Our fleet is constantly looking for ways to overcome the mental and financial hurdles of joining our fleet. In the end, we don’t try to sell potential members ‘boat ownership at a club’, we show the excitement of racing eccentric old yachts with friends, while being the stewards of an ethos that has drifted through the doors of our sailing clubs for decades.

I suspect this was the mindset in the past, when sailors raced Tumlarens in the ‘40s, or Dragons in the ‘60s: fixing boats, racing boats, building your fleet.

I am quite certain it is the future.

- Greg Reuter

Greg Reuter is a Viking28 sailor, ABYC club member, and President of World Viking28 Class Association. We are always looking to expand our Fleet! For more information, find us on Facebook at Viking28 Sailboats.