I Am Sailing

My dad's a member of a yacht club in order to have sheltered jetty space for his motorboat. It's not a fancy affair, most of the boats being small and decades old. But many of them are sailboats, and for the past ten years the club has been organising family-oriented mini races in the evenings. A few weeks ago they were a guy short on a boat where my dad is a sometime crew member, so he asked me if I wanted to come along. I sailed dinghies as a kid, so I know the basics.

My first race was on a rainy evening. I got wet and I got cold and I still enjoyed it. The second race was on a lovely sunny evening, and it was great. And earlier tonight on my third race I had the pleasure not only of fine weather and a good wind, but there were only three of us in a J/105 so I had some more onboard responsibilities. Also the adrenaline rush of fast tacking in a stiff wind. And beginning to learn what goes where on a bigger boat.

A race takes only about an hour and then there's hotdogs and soda and light beer. People mill around on the quay talking while waiting for the hotdogs to get warm and the judge to get the results out of his spreadsheet. (Allowing for people to compete against each other using sailboats of different sizes, makes and models involves complicated math.) And though this is in a very affluent community and sailing is an expensive sport, the people in the club are pretty down to earth. My high-school gym teacher is there, sailing with his grown-up daughter. The vibe is amicable and unpretentious. These are people who, instead of hiring guards, keep a watch schedule and walk the jetties at night in person to keep thieves from stealing bits from their boats. I find myself enjoying their company. And the sailing.

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I started sailing in much the same manner and the bug hit me after my first race. I am now in my 8th year, I race with 2 crews and love every minute of it. I constantly reference my experience in handling situations and teamwork out on the water in many other aspects in life.
Welcome to "the club"

Family-friendly sailing includes getting the life jackets that are available even for domestic cats. It is fun to see the critters hanging about the boat at sea, looking as if they own the place!
My gym teacher was into speleology; not easy to race in caves.
But he also was into archaeology, and located herbs left over from the garden of the Kungsgård where Linnaeus stopped on his way to Lappland.

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 13 Sep 2012 #permalink

Sailing has been defined as "The fine art of getting cold and wet while going nowhere at great expense" and has also been likened to "standing in a cold shower while tearing apart hundred dollar bills".

So why do some of us love it so much?

Apart from the fresh air, the pure thrill of speed and the camaraderie, I think there is something more: the challenge of adapting to and utilizing elements that you have no control over. The wind, the waves and the currents are indifferent to our wishes; it's up to the sailor to assess the situation and make the best of it. The best sailors I know have learned its lessons well: they are humble but not afraid, independent but also collaborative and responsible, confident but not brash.

That seems to shine through in the people you met as well, Martin; let's hope many more get the chance to experience and learn those lessons.

Sounds like fun. Glad you enjoied it.

By Steven Blowney (not verified) on 13 Sep 2012 #permalink

Sympathetic shuddering just from reading it ;). Nowadays I keep my sailing like my scuba, if I need more cloth than a t-shirt against sunburn, the water and/or weather are too cold.
Limits my options, but living at 6000 ft altitude and 1000 miles from the nearest ocean requires long travel for good sailing anyway.