Written by Scott Alle
The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia has announced the highly regarded bi-monthly publication will be cut back to just two issues per year around the Club’s major races. A “reduced format” version of the magazine will be available primarily online, but still offered as a printed option to members. Ocean Media, the publisher of Offshore since 2006, as well as Sails and Ocean magazines, has thanked the CYCA for its support of the publication. Ocean Media has indicated it is willing to continue to work with the Club to supply content for the new undertaking, but will also offer Sails magazine to any club member to ensure they can still access the most comprehensive coverage of new yachts and trends, articles on the latest technologies, reports on overseas races and regattas, including the America’s Cup, along with practical advice on seamanship, racing rules, tactics and strategy.
Now Australia and New Zealand’s only dedicated racing sailing magazine, Sails will also include a special section featuring content directly aimed at those who want to tackle the challenges that only the ocean can furnish. As well, there will be expanded coverage of the proliferation of new types of racing and cruising multihulls which are revolutionising our sport.
A general assumption about the CYCA’s decision being another example of the decline of magazines, doesn’t hold-up under closer investigation.
Offshore and Sails have both experienced recent and significant spikes in paid subscriptions; indicative that print is still holding strong. Similarly, our growth is also reflected in recent Roy Morgan Readership research showing magazines in specialist categories have recorded increases in their print readership over the past 12 months. So it points to a complex, counter-intuitive situation – while readership and engagement with magazines remains static or increasing, advertising support has declined somewhat.
Specialist magazines in print, are still valid, and experiencing growth in certain sectors, even some of the major broadsheet newspapers have experienced growth year on year, demonstrating that print continues to be an important medium for readers and for advertisers who want to target to key demographics.
There has always been a strong nexus between sailing magazines and the sport of ocean racing, which experienced a symbiotic birth in the 1920s with Yachting magazine in the United States. Yachting offered sound commentaries on the technicalities of the fledgling sport and stirring accounts of epic passages, and quickly became a staple for a new generation discovering racing small boats over long distances.
In Australia, the founding of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, and a demanding race from Sydney to Hobart proved a catalyst for the growth of an offshore racing scene. It attracted more than its fair share of “colourful personalities” whose deeds were enthusiastically recounted by a number of boating magazines.
A Club magazine, Offshore, came into existence in 1971, produced in-house by volunteers and a committee headed by Tony Cable, with David Colfelt as Editor. Colfelt, who steered the title from 1975-1986, recalls a very enthusiastic small team turned out an extremely readable combination of Club news and more “serious” articles about ocean racing. He possesses a wealth of archival material that can be tapped, and is willing to provide selections that would be of interest to members in any new Club publication. But Colfelt cautions even a scaled back offering the CYCA is contemplating requires substantial pre-planning and editorial direction.
Peter Campbell, the Editor of Offshore from 1987 to 2004, has expressed even deeper reservations about the proposed changes.
“As the first editor of Offshore Yachting in its current, professionally produced format, I feel it is a backward step by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia to close the Offshore Yachting banner and revert to an ‘in house’ publication of much lesser quality in appearance, if not content,” he said.
Campbell is convinced the Club’s earlier decision to invest in a high calibre publication was the right one and “one that certainly lifted the status of the club.” He says he has immense pride in the many “fine” editions of Offshore which covered not only events in Australia, but also the exploits of sailors traversing seas and oceans all over the world. The veteran journalist and editor, who was awarded an OAM for services to yachting, has called for CYCA members to make their feelings heard on the matter.
“As a member of the CYCA for the past 37 years I hope that I will be joined by members in urging the Board to change its mind and retain this great magazine as its window to the world of yachting,” he said.
Whether as a journal of record, a forum for members’ views, or a portal to information and experiences, previous editions of Offshore reveal the rich history of ocean racing in Australia, inextricably linked to the CYCA. Whether it was technical or visceral, you could find it in the pages of Offshore. Hopefully the members will have the opportunity to have some input in deciding the future of their magazine.