Let’s Change the Topic…Let’s Talk Sailing

Published on December 21st, 2016

by Kim Couranz, SpinSheet
I mean, literally, let’s talk sailing. Honestly, I need a break from talking politics. Not a forever break, just a short one, maybe a week or two—because to make our country a healthy place, we really do need all to contribute all our rational ideas and energy—but a break nonetheless.

Where’s the best place to talk about something you love with people who truly “get” you? Absolutely, it’s with sailors. And here’s the cool thing: For the most part, I don’t even really know the political leanings of most of the people I sail with and against. Yes, there are a few people with whom I have had in-depth conversations about our hopes and dreams for our country, and realized that we share a political kinship.

If they’re not active Facebookers or Tweeters, heck, I usually don’t even know what they do for a living, let alone whether they’re Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, independent, or just not engaged in our political process— just that they like sailing. I can probably tell you, however, how likely they are to let you cross in a port/starboard meeting in a tight race on the last weather leg.

There are sailors I’m friends with on social media with whom I passionately disagree about the direction our country should take. But when I end up on a boat, or at the boat park, or in a room with them, we talk sailing. To me, that’s pretty special. Because these are sailing friends I’m going to hang out with for years to come. I value that my time with them is, for the most part, a sanctuary where we talk about boathandling tips and tuning guides rather than health care and border policies.

A clarification—for the purposes of this column, politics is about how we handle health care for our fellow countrymen, how big the defense budget should be, whether marijuana should be legalized. It is not basic human rights; what color someone is, who they love, what religion if any they practice, their gender—that’s not up for discussion. If you can’t treat every human being with equal respect, no matter where they fit into the fabric of our society, well… you’re not going to be my friend.

Sailors often commit to one-design classes for a very long time—often decades. We see our friends go through ups and downs, successes and challenges. Young sailors choose colleges and leave the “nest.” Sailing friends have health issues, and we celebrate when they are once again able to join us on the race course. Friends take a few years away from the sport to raise a family, and then come back with their kids as crew. Older friends may spend a little less time on the water, but still join us as a sailing family at regatta dinners. I am simply not willing to sacrifice these friendships, these treasures, over differences of political opinion.

While we must not shy away from talking about critical issues in a respectful way—that conversation is essential to our nation’s future—I’d suggest that the building of community with others, no matter what their political opinions, is important too. To be best able to “lean in” on the tough conversations, when and where they happen, we need to make sure that we take care of ourselves, both physically and mentally. Sailing gives us the opportunity to do both.

There’s just so very much else to talk about when we hang out with sailors. Who just bought a new boat? What regattas is the fleet planning for next year? Are you heading down to Florida for winter sailing, and if so, let’s talk about caravanning down to make the drive more fun. Do you think the new sail design is faster, and does it mean different rig settings? And a burning question for this winter: What will the changes be in the Racing Rules of Sailing 2017-2020, and how will they change the game of sailboat racing?

So over the winter, let’s all take a collective deep breath. Talk about sailing with friends.

About the Author: Longtime SpinSheet contributor Kim Couranz is the new commodore of Severn Sailing Association.

Source: Spinsheet, December 2016

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