SW is looking for your suggestions on what to do to make the regatta experience better on and off the water? Tell us works in your town or what could happen to make something you don't like work better.
Be as inclusive as possible. I see a lot of regattas who have over the years have become more restictive in their eligibility, and then wonder where the boats went. Run small one designs on a modified course, examine what boats are being excluded with the requirements on PHRF boats and see if they should really be excluded, be creative and make it an actual goal to bring in a larger and more diverse group of boats.
upwind - reach - reach - finish, upwind - downwind - upwind - downwind finish, ugh. Our sport has become less creative over the last 200-300 years, not more creative. While going in a circle might be all NASCAR needs, it is can get boring as heck for some of us sailors. How about some new ideas for courses? Why not a spinnaker start? The same reasons that people avoid them, are the reasons they could be interesting and shake things up. Races like the three bridges fiasco have shown that creative courses will attract boats. There is no reason why you can not take similar ideas and creativity and apply them to your local club.
Use technology to promote and market the regatta, both before and after. More boats means more fun, which will mean still more boats the next time. Most regatta websites look like someone's nephew built it as their senior high school project. Look at the cumulative effort being put in to a regatta by all the teams, the host club, the race committe, etc. and tell me that just a little more effort is not warranted for the online promotion of the race? Along the same lines, the online promotion does not end with the regatta and sit idle until the next year. Put a media person on the committe boat or a dedicated media boat who films and photographs the starts, mark roundings and finishes. Put these photos onto the regatta site where they can be shared across social media sites, or used by the participants to make prints they could use. If you have 50 boats , with an average of 4 crew each (not to mention family/shore crew) , that is 200 people who could potentially be spreading the word about the regatta both before and after. 200 people can make for a very effective seed group for a viral marketing campaign, yet there is very little doen to take advantage of this. Nobody sails with canvas or cotton sails any longer, so why do most regatta marketing efforts look like they did when dacron was the newest craze in sail technology.
One more thought, why not have a plan in place for child care. I would bet you could see more couples racing if they knew that there was a place for little Johnnie while they are out on the water. If one spouse is shorebound with the kids while the other is out racing, the racing will start to be a point of contention and either the marriage or racing will end. Round up some of the teenagers and/or other volunteers and get a regatta daycare going. Take a small portion of the registtration fees, and buy the volunteers a small gift, and present it to them at the awards ceremony. I would bet that you could get a local restaurant to give them gift certificate or free meal in return for a small mention or branding at the regatta. This also presents a great opportunity to start finding ways to include the next generation at an early stage.