Yacht Racing is a complex sport! Combining art and science, endurance and intellect, yacht racing humbles the young and old alike.
We amateur “Beer Can” racers don’t make any money doing this, so what value do we receive from sailing?
It is said that, “man invented the slowest form of transportation, sailboats, and then decided to race them”. Yacht racing is also compared to standing under a cold shower and tearing up hundred dollar bills. So why would anyone want to do this to themselves? Just what is it that draws men and women down to the sea?
There is no one word to describe sailing and especially yacht racing and it’s impossible to rank the benefits we receive from the sport, so I’ll just throw some thoughts on paper in no particular order.
Nobody wins them all. The history of yacht racing is littered with stories of boats that led from the start and were ahead at every mark only to have a tragic turn of luck, giving up the race in the last few hundred yards. Two years ago a friend and fellow sailor had sailed a beautiful series. As we turned the last mark before the finish line he was half way up the course. No one was going to catch him. And then he sailed into a hole. When we passed him he had lost the race. When two other boats past him, he had lost the series …to us. The following year, same series, we couldn’t sail out of our own way and he easily beat us. Just when you start to think you’ve mastered the sport the elements conspire to remind you that you know nothing.
Nothing builds friendship like trusting your property and life to someone else. Recent events like the Around Alone and the Sydney-Hobart race remind us that sailing can be dangerous. In big wind and big water a crew must come together. Even without Mother Nature’s rath sailing is a wonderful team sport that builds life long friendships.
Sailing is half art, half science and half luck. Learning to fly between wind and water is a life long pursuit. On the water conditions constantly change and all of the controls interact with each other. Each time you adjust one line you have to adjust everything else to go along with it. The team that makes the fewest mistakes wins the race …usually. Nothing and I do mean nothing is as fulfilling as sailing your best race.
You can’t play hockey without a stick, you can’t play baseball without a glove and you can’t win a race without preparing your boat. Well, you can, but not very often. From the bottom to the sails this is your chance to go over every inch of your boat.
You have done everything right, the gun go off and you get a good start only to find that someone else has done it a little bit better. Most races are between you and the boat just ahead of you. Hours of challenge and reward reeling in your competitor. One by one you hunt them down and pick them off … if you can. The boat just behind you is trying to hunt you down and you have to stay awake … stay ahead. You are both hunter and prey.
The chess match
You develop your strategy and play out your tactics in anticipation and reaction to the rest of the fleet. Imagine playing chess where every piece is a queen, they are all moving at the same time and you have to beat them all to win.
Every race ends with a party. The winner gets bragging rights for the day, the rest plot their revenge. And in yacht racing every dog has his day. It’s all good fun and good friends.
Life! After 17 hours of pounding upwind in a gale life’s other problems seem very very tiny.