EVOLUTION: Not very good for the sport

Published on May 9th, 2013

By Fin Beven
It doesn’t seem that long ago, but it has been. It was 1958, and I was 12.

I totally enjoyed sailing in dinghies, and still do. None of us had coaches. At Los Angeles Yacht Club, we had Naples Sabots, Guppys, and the DinKitten, which was slightly bigger and faster than either the Guppy or the Sabot. All of these were combination sailboats-tenders. All had oar-locks, and were decent row-boats. All could be towed comfortably behind a cruising sailboat. Ours had a ring-bolt in the bow for towing.

We learned how to sail, and learned how to “mess around with boats”. We sailed alone from the dock to the starting line, and none of us had coaches. We rigged our own boats, experimented (I once built a spinnaker for my DK out of 4 panels from a war-surplus parachute) with the sheet led aft through bullet blocks tied to the oar-locks. These boats were durable, multi-purpose, and easily repaired with simple glass and resin.

The dinghies were not a destination. Very few of us anticipated in going to the “Sabot Worlds” or the Olympics. Certainly not me. Of course none of us had a coach. But a surprising number of us are still sailing and enjoying what we learned back then.

For some of us, the dinghy sailing had a nice by-product… getting noticed by the adults, and hopefully get invited to sail on the real boats, the boats that the adults were sailing, when they were not also sailing their own dinghies If we were perceived as having some skills, and being good to have on-board, we might get invited. Not because we were “rock stars”, but because we’d do our best, and were potentially good crew. But none of us had coaches.

And what I liked best, back in my teens, was being invited to crew, then being treated like an adult, by adults, when I was still just a kid. And none of us had coaches. It seems to be a sad version of training evolution these days. And not very good for the sport. You can probably imagine my attitude about “pros” sailing with amateur crews in amateur events.

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