Is it just me or does it feel like there’s an elephant sitting in the corner of sailing clubhouses around the country, listening invisibly as club leaders discuss the challenge of attracting new members and retaining junior sailors? It can’t just be me who’s noticed that the great majority of sailors are Caucasians?
I’m sure there are those who will urge that many cultures simply don’t have an interest in sailing, but that feels like a bit of a copout. Saying that those from a certain heritage don’t enjoy sailing is like declaring you don’t like Vegemite without trying it. Then again, Vegemite is an acquired taste—and maybe sailing is too.
Last year, there was some chatter from the US suggesting that sailing should be following the country’s changing demographic. But other than that, nada. Nothing. There is so little information and no discussion on the topic. Our national sporting agency, the Australian Sports Commission, describes Australia as one of the most diverse countries in the world - but walk into any yacht club and you might find that statement a bit hard to believe.
Although we still haven’t reached gender equality, we have been making great progress in that area. We’ve been talking about, measuring and acting to ensure greater gender diversity. But cultural diversity in sailing isn’t even on the radar—and I’m not going to apologise for that nautical pun.
This bugs me because I want more bums on boats and for more people to experience the competition or adventure of sailing. I would dearly love to see sailing become one of Australia’s favourite sports or hobbies, but I don’t see how that can be achieved if such large segments of the community aren’t participating, or even showing an interest.
From a more selfish perspective, I’d like to see a greater level of diversity. By spending so much of my time sailing or hanging around yacht clubs, I’m missing out on some of our country’s great multiculturalism.
Other sports are talking about multiculturalism, acting to encourage it or even using sport as a tool to break down barriers and bring communities together. But what are we doing? I have no clue how we can make sailing more inclusive and multicultural, but maybe it’s about time we started talking about it. Is it just me who would like to see sailing become more multicultural?