What crisis? Sailing clubs sail through lockdown disruptions


You mightn’t realize sport is going through its most challenging year in living memory if you were to look at Facebook engagement levels for sailing clubs around the country that have registered little more than some choppy water. Can nothing stop sailors talking about sailing?

The five-year Shunt analysis (2015-19) of sailing clubs has shown that the number of posts published by clubs is up by 31%, audience engagement has climbed 132% and the performance of posts (an engagement to productivity ratio) has also improved by 77%.

Steady as she goes

It’s steady as she goes for sailing clubs around the country as they methodically upped their work rate for post publishing, climbing from 20,000 in 2015 to 26,000 last year.

Accelerating groundswell of engagement


Sailing clubs Facebook engagement profile is defined by two periods of intense growth. As can be seen here engagement levels benefit from a healthy boost between 2015 and ’16 before flatlining the following year (interestingly an Olympic year when you might expect a lift).

It then takes off again from 2017 right the way through to 2019 with total reactions, comments and shares leaping upwards by 180,000.

Performance follows engagement trend

The real test of how healthy and robust a sports social media presence is the performance of posts published. This simple ratio that divides total engagement by the number of posts is a key indicator of how efficient and effective they are.

When productivity growth levels are stable and you get spurts of engagement the end result is a strong spike in post-performance as is the case here for the 224 monitored sailing clubs.

The average number of engagements per post actually shrunk between 2016 and ’17 in line with flat engagement growth before it took-off again from 2017 (11.23) to ’19 (17.05).

Then along came Covid…..

Shunt has recently published industry-wide research examining the impact Covid-19 and associated lockdowns have had on the sector.

While sailing club productivity is roughly in-line with expectations, engagement appears to be largely unaffected in a major departure from the prevailing trend. Testament to the resilience of sailing and the audiences that follow it on social media.

Between waves

The productivity graph for sailing clubs collectively dropped steadily from a January high through to an April low as lockdowns took hold. Rather than recovering as other sports have done it remained stubbornly flat before eventually climbing back to March levels by October.

Productivity for 2020 so far is down significantly at 18,566 posts published to date. With only two-months remaining for the year this suggests end of year totals won’t get close to the 2019 result.  

Choppy but manageable

The most interesting aspect of the sailing analysis is how clubs have weathered the Covid storm with respect to engagement. From a January high, March results actually rose as lockdowns began to bite. Results are then up, down or largely flat before recovering back to March levels by October.

Interestingly, it’s not just sailing clubs that have come through this year largely unscathed with state and national sailing organisations one of only nine sports to post positive engagement results through this period. Proof positive that the active recreation type sports have been almost immune from Covid-19.

Despite the exceptional resilience of sailing clubs collectively they won’t be climbing the same heights as 2019 with total reactions, comments and shares as the end of October 2020 standing at 322,540. Making it likely that clubs will beat 2018 levels but fall-short from last year’s numbers which in itself represents a massive achievement.

CYCA cruises to top of table

As organisers of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race you might expect that the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia would emerge at or near the top of the Shunt rankings for audience size.

What is surprising is how close other clubs got to CYCA’s 9,000+ total with the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron and Manly 16ft Skiff Sailing club in excess of a 6,000 following with the Whitsunday Sailing clubs just under this marker (November 2020).

Having researched and monitored 1,000 of clubs around the country from a wide range of sports this level of followers is exceptional and speaks to the impressive job sailing clubs have been done to date.  

Cronulla a publishing powerhouse

Through 2019, the Cronulla Sailing Club averaged 1.66-posts per day to take top honours as the powerhouse publishers of the sport with a number of clubs operating at a 500+ level for the year.

Looking to 2020, as at the end of October it was the Townsville Sailing Club leading the way having already published an impressive 564 posts. It was a tie for second with both the Fremantle Sailing Club and Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club both having tallied 493 posts apiece.

Ocean Racing Victoria wins engagement race

The Ocean Racing Club of Victoria have excelled at engaging audiences in the last five years having gone from 8,237 reactions, comments and shares in 2015 too well over 18,000 last year. Great to see a couple of Tasmanian clubs make the cut with the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania and Bellerive Yacht Club figuring in our Top-10.

There’s a potential engagement tally surprise emerging in 2020 as the Southport Yacht Club currently leads the way on 11,900 reactions, comments and shares as at the end of October. Not far behind is the Sandringham Yacht club on 10,800 with CYCA a few reactions further back in third.

Yarra Bay tops NSW bragging rights battle

What club generated the ‘biggest bang for the buck’ last year in achieving the highest average engagements per post? The clear winner was the Yarra Bay Sailing Club as the only organisation to crack the +60 threshold (65.92) amongst a flotilla of other NSW clubs.  

It was a photo-finish for the minor placings with Army Sailing, Illawarra Yacht Club and CYCA all finishing on 50 plus reactions per post.  

Research notes;

224 Sailing clubs from around Australia were analysed as part of this report. Results are for Facebook only. Annual data from January 2015 to December 2019 inclusive. 2020 results from January to October inclusive.

Uncertain as to what 2021 has in store?
You’re not the only one! Throughout this year, Shunt has doubled-down on its work with our state and national sports clients to proactively expand their situational awareness. If you also want your ‘socials’ to deliver actionable insights that ensure you don’t just survive, but thrive then let’s chat. Get in touch at info@shunt.com.au



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