charismatic individuals" would describe the Stuart Walker and the Soling Class experience.... He and a very spirited competitor held a local fleet of soliings ex olympic class together for 20 years beyond. It was competitive and valued in Annapolis.One thing I have noticed is that club fleets are built with great difficulty, typically by charismatic individuals, and fall apart with great ease if the individual departs or changes class. If sailors were really as focussed on class racing as is often stated then as soon as a critical mass is reached fleets would grow and grow. If anything, my observation is that its something of the opposite, and what is more, a firm 'pecking order' tends to be destructive of numbers.
In practice folk seem to be as happy to be racing Fred, who is slower in a faster class, or Jane, who is faster in a slower class, as they are to race someone in the same or very similar class. Now I think of it, I wonder if handicap racing tends to have less intense boat on boat tactics, and thus is less pressured and more relaxing. And thus more fun.
A pecking order is human and inevitable..... what is destructive is a firm pecking order where nothing changes.... What you describe with fred and jane are the pecking order for fun competition. ... Its just dynamic and that is what keeps it vibrant. (note added... See Martin T)
The conundrum remains..... US Sailors won't put any effort into handicap racing on the travel weekends. they only value one design.... What am I missing about the US Experience or what is unique that we in the states value?
Is it simply that the charismatic individual is completely vested in the one design class for their own reasons and that is the only game a float because that is what they do? Or is it .... The successful boat dealer combines their business with their fleet building and that is how it works??? (see Gouv in laser threads) One other idea is that my local clubs would only award you a boat parking slot IF you had one of the one design classes that the club supported..... Handicap was not a sustainable club growth strategy.