The recent growth of ASA in China has created the need for us to examine every aspect of how sailing education is conducted in the 21st century. We are learning how to serve a market that has emerging business and personal cultures, different language and symbolism, large time zone shifts, financial bureaucracy, and unpredictable shipping of books and certification materials. In doing this, we are realizing that changes need to be made, and that many of these changes will be for the better for all of ASA: Affiliates, Instructors and Students.
There are signs that ASA is becoming more and more of an international standard. There is awareness that the ASA provides a “Professional Sailing School in a Box”. The US blueprint for establishing and certifying a sailing school, creating and obtaining certified Instructors, and defining Student courses and certifications, yet operating as an independent business with a unique market plan and vision is very adaptable to the international market. Although we have been growing in Europe and Latin countries, the recent main international growth spurt has been in China.
A little background: as the industrialized Chinese economy grows, the trend is for increased urbanization and migration to the sailing-friendly East and Southeast mainland. The rise of the middle-class, along with a culture shift toward internationalization and Western activities has resulted in strong growth and awareness of sailing as a desired recreation. In other words: sailing in China is becoming cool. This is evidenced by the recent creation of new cities with artificial sailing lakes, modernized harbors with recreational marinas and sailing schools, high-tech sailboat manufacturing, and a desire to implement without delay. These factors all favor the ASA model. We have over 30 locations there, have translated and published the 101 textbook in Mandarin locally, and are likewise preparing the 103 and 104 texts. Conversely, they want the ASA logbook in English, even though it will be printed there. Status.
To illustrate how this culture is appearing, the accompanying pictures are from the Olympic Sailing Center in Qingdao. Note that the regatta signage projects internationalization using English and a sense of recreation and family fun.
The Poseidon Sailing School entry shows many familiar marine industry names as well as the ASA logo.
The Argonavis ASA sailing school is especially interesting. The panels in the front of the school are see-through from the inside and show instructions on how to tie sailing knots. Note the board in the middle with ropes, which encourages passers-by to try tying some knots. An ex-America’s Cup sailor manages the school. Creative.
OK, so how will this affect you? Key problems we are solving are the time delay, cost, and loss of hard copy items; scheduling, travel expenses and paperwork of IQC’s and Facility Evaluations; language and culture differences; and accuracy/quality of student contact and certification data. For example: the accurate and timely delivery (not to mention tracking) of student certification seals can be a time-consuming frustration. In looking at the China-stressed processes we recognize that they exist to a lesser extent everywhere, so our efforts focus on a way that will benefit all.
For example: China has a tradition of state-sponsored competition… including sailboat racing. They field Olympic and America’s Cup teams mostly from the best of their government programs. Many times when we do IQC’s in China we may have a portion of candidates who are expert racing sailors with years on the water, but not much breadth of experience in navigation, regulations, anchoring, route planning, International day/night ColRegs, etc. The country also does not have much experience with recreational sailing. Candidates entering the 201 IQC without this background raised some doubts about eventual ASA Instructor quality, so we created a new IQC 3-day clinic ASA#200 for China to get some IQC candidates up to speed before they take the 201. ASA IE’s have pro and con opinions on this, but many conversations I have had indicate that this kind of pre-IQC clinic might be an option elsewhere, especially when IQC candidates are coming from outside the ASA or Coast Guard system.
Our intention is to globally maintain the sailing education standards that are the soul of the company. We are working to increase the awareness of sailing as a worldwide recreation uniquely embodying both skill and knowledge, and thus, requiring proper education. As we grow more internationally, our current US-based procedures will have to become more globally efficient with a trend toward less hard copy, fewer multi-step procedures, and appropriate localization. This activity will have a positive overall affect as we continue to move forward.