Sorry that the below seems a bit rambling, but just my thoughts on the matter:
That boat looks to be in pretty good nick. I think that if sailed well, you could do ok, and have a ton of fun. The Didi38 Black Cat just did the Cape to Rio Race - she's a 22 year old plywood boat, home built. She came in 7th on handicap out of 20 something boats (TCF 1.05 or something). If it wasn't for a less than spectacular tactical move earlier on she'd likely have come in better.
I'm quite surprised at the level of agreement here, and I also find myself agreeing with some other posters with whom I'd rarely agree.
So we see a number of issues and broadly these can be broken into 2 groups.
- no time
- no cash
- no enthusiasm
and Boat/organisational issues:
- Clubs/organisers not catering to the majority demographic
- A focus (perceived?) on dinghy and big boat racing (the snobbery effect?)
- Older boats
- Regulation (directly related to point 3) caused by risk aversion and shifting of responsibility/blame away from skippers/crew.
No time and no cash is strongly correlated to the era in which we live. The is no doubt, and the numbers show this, that people have to work a lot harder these days to buy the house, which is still considered the main achievement and what people strive for. All other things fall by the wayside in pursuit of this admirable goal. This is not a matter of people's expectations being too high, or a case of a sense of entitlement. The cold hard facts show that housing now is a crap load more expensive than it was in the 70s or 80s (high interest rates aside). Those who work full time jobs for the median wage are now just struggling along. In the 70s/80s, those who worked full time jobs for the median wage still had disposable income. Sure there are exceptions and examples of people who work hard and save and buy their house - but these are exceptions, they are not the rule and they are not a model for what should be achieved nor a model that can be applied to the majority. Disposable cash is at an all time low.
Because of that, yachties likely spend longer working to afford their boats, and that extra time working is time not sailing, time not given to racing a multi day (week) event.
Time poor is also a thing to look at. Especially in relation to age. Who were the skipper/owners of the boats in the big fleets of the 80s 'n 70s? Were they younger or older than those now? I can't be arsed looking for stats to back up my musings here but the median age at which we have children has increased. Time was your kids would be leaving home and fending for themselves when you were 40. Now they're still there when you're 50, and now you're also still helping them with uni fees or whatever. Time was your kids could leave home when they were 17 and get a job and fend for themselves far more easily than they can now. So you get whacked from both sides - you spend more time looking after them, or earning money to help them. And those years when you had more energy are now gone.
Also expectations of what your kids need have dramatically increased. As a kid, there was honestly bugger all spent on us other than food. We wore hand-me-down clothing. Schooling was free. You got a couple of pencils and some empty books and you held on to them. Apparently now, you gotta get your kid a smart phone and pay the connection, which as a kid I would have had to pay myself. So it's about expectations. If those skippers and crew back then had kids, How did they do it? Would you nowadays consider leaving them with their mother as the sole career for a week or 2 while you and your buddies go off to Fiji and back? Did fewer mothers work back then? (honest question) Was it easier back then to do that because you didn't need two full time jobs to pay for everything? Just random thoughts, and not suggesting we should keep our wives at home - personally I'd like to take mine racing because she's an incredibly competitive person and will stay up all night trimming just to gain a couple of miles.
These things above lead to people not having the enthusiasm to spend their now much more precious time and cash on a week or two of racing where they will be at the back of a fleet and likely not make the cutoff. Far more rewarding to just cruise over to the Barrier for a long weekend, or that summer holiday. You gotta feel valued if you enter an event - and not just have that "also ran" feeling.
That last point takes us back to organisation.
For events to be successful you have to plan and organise the event around the participants you can get. If you want more participants, you gotta broader the inclusion criteria, and target the population you have and sell them something they want and can afford.
It's an age old business rule - meet the market. I can set up a shop in Murapara selling only Champagne. I'm not likely to sell a lot of Champas but I'd likely sell a lot of Waikato. You gotta aim for what the people want or can do.
The Fastnet organisers are doing it right, IMHO. They cater well for ALL boat types. There are big flashy boats and there are small cheap ones. It causes a sensation simply because there are so many damn boats. I think it's vital that the big boats are there, it helps to dispel the perception that they're all rich pricks. It's all about the sailing and the common enjoyment of sailing, whether you're rich or poor doesn't and shouldn't matter a jot. It's not what you have that makes you a good person, it's who you are and your attitude.
The Kerikeri race could have been saved, maybe. But it would likely require a lot of energy put into dialogue with not only the 2 boats who paid up and entered but also with those who were considering entering. Those 20 boats that weren't paid up. The answer lies with them. Survey those people, and ask what the reasons were for not signing up fully. I think timing and money and regulations are likely going to be the first 3 reasons given.
What are our expectations?