State of the nation

Peter Bentley philosophises over the health of dinghy sailing today
With the 2002 edition of the Sailboat and Windsurf Show kicking off tomorrow, it seemed like a good time to contemplate the health of UK dinghy sailing and how we come to be where we are. The fact that I can remember when it was quite simply the Dinghy Show probably says as much about my age as it does about the ancestry of the show. Way back when the Dinghy Show was invented, the UK small boat scene was populated by numerous classes each built by one of several small companies. Class associations ruled the roost. The individual boat builders had little money to spend on marketing and promotion (even if they understood the need to) and the Class Associations were harder up still. Even in the halcyon days of the 1960s very few dinghies ever made it to the rarefied air of Earls Court. Enter the RYA. Acceding to the wishes of a significant part of its membership they decided to try and revert the balance in a cost-effective way. And it is as well to remember that at this time the majority of serious racing was in International or National class, the latter all administered by the RYA. In its original guise, the Dinghy Show was a pure class association benefit. Ernest members of the Enterprise class worked hard to persuade you why it was better to buy into their fleet rather then the GP14. The 505 was set against the Flying Dutchman and so it went on. Those who can remember back to the heady days of Crystal Palace will recall the debate as to whether 'commercial' exhibitors should be let in at all. And when they were, it was to a draughty and often rain-soaked stretch of footpath outside the main building. How things