Slow Down and Smile

Published on October 31st, 2017

Our sport has lost its variety, with now windward-leewards being the main entre served. But we don’t eat the same meal every day, so why are sailing this way? Kim Couranz offers an alternative in Spinsheet magazine.


It can be dangerous. It can be frustrating. It can be humbling. It can be expensive. It can be painful. Why do we do this crazy sport, anyway? Because we’re all really in it for the fun.

We small-boat racers often equate fun with winning, which is a pretty high bar for “fun” because only one boat can win a regatta. Some fleets are effective at making sure that good sailing and competition on the water is balanced by lots of fun once sailors hit shore. They highlight crowded starting lines and adrenaline rush- inducing mark roundings. Sneeze and you lose three (or more) boats. Back on shore, stories are swapped, and laughs are shared.

But maybe that hard-core racing isn’t healthy to do 100 percent of the time. Maybe we need to dial it back to the core of why we really spend time on boats together: the joy of wind on sails and water on hull, shared with friends and family.

That sense of community we build with our fellow sailors and their families is key to the longevity of fleets, classes, and sailing clubs. So from time to time, why not make fun the goal of both time on the water and time on shore?

Severn Sailing Association (Annapolis, MD) held an event this year that did just that: fun on the water, fun off the water.

Thanks to “distance race” principal race officer Eric Johnson, sailors in DaySailers, Sunfish, Lasers, Laser Radials, and J/22s started at different times, intended to get them all back at the club at about the same time. The boats sailed up the Severn River in a gorgeous postfrontal northwesterly, rounded a floating mark, and arrived back at club roughly two hours later.

The surprisingly solid breeze for the day had two unintended positive effects: One team, planning on sailing a Lightning, decided the wind was a bit strong for their light team. So they simply jumped on with another J/22 team and made some new friends. An additional concept to do a short team racing clinic also wasn’t going to work well in strong, very shifty breeze in Annapolis Harbor, so the team racers nimbly changed direction and joined the distance race as well, adding more fun to the race course.

On shore, while the sailors were out enjoying the amazing weather, supporters readied the grills with hamburgers and hot dogs for the hungry sailors. A full-on buffet of side dishes and desserts had been provided by the sailors. The group shared stories from their sail up the river, traded recipes from those great potluck dishes, and caught up on summer vacation adventures for hours after coming ashore. That sense of joy in sailing and community with fellow sailors filled the day as the sun edged lower in the sky. Looks like this event will likely be an annual one in the future.

What fun are you having in your fleet or club? Share your ideas around— they’re good for everyone.

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