You May Ask Yourself, Well, How Did I Get Here?

Published on June 19th, 2013

By Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
Whenever the question is asked about the current state of the sport, the Talking Heads song “Once In A Lifetime” always comes to mind…

You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
You may find yourself in another part of the world
You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife
You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

This letter from David M. McClatchy, Jr. arrived at Scuttlebutt World Headquarters:

I am reflecting upon the first one-half of my life which was totally consumed by racing sailboats. However, lately I have been thinking hard about what followed afterwards and am keen to know your thoughts.

* Why did it happen and when did it so that we moved away from sailing point-point?
* Ditto, government marks?
* Now, W-L’s?
* Today’s, “Paperclips”?
* And now, 3-4 races a day in big boats?

My questions are pretty simple but the answers are unbeknown to me.

I must admit, I ask myself these same questions at times. When random leg, inverted start races pull huge turnouts, it makes me wonder about the endless stream of carbon copy W-L regattas.

Near as I can tell, for those sailing regions that have seen a similar evolution that Dave describes, what we have now is a microcosm of what might be wrong with the sport. I believe this is the unintended consequences from the pursuit of perfection.

The best sailors are highly committed to the sport, and want the ‘ideal race’ as it improves their odds of success, while the majority of racers are seeking a recreational experience that meets a lesser commitment level.

The W-L course has become the ‘ideal race’; it is a harder race, which minimizes luck and takes more effort. This is fine for the best sailors, as they are up to the task. But people of lesser ability are not, and unless they are willing to put the time in to improve, they may seek other recreational pursuits that are less taxing.

The sport wants to improve itself too. There are now instructional courses on how to run races, and all this new knowledge is on the water, eager to host the ‘ideal race’. But setting the perfect race course takes time, so we may see more postponements and abandonments when the wind does not cooperate.

This pursuit of perfection has led us toward the ‘ideal race’ that the top racers want and the educated race management wants to provide. What we don’t have, quite possibly, is what the majority want, which are an assortment of different race courses that might offer the lesser skilled people an occasional moment to enjoy some undeserved success.

Now don’t get me wrong; there are times for perfection. The sport has levels of elite competition, and those sailors deserve ideal racing. I just worry that we are often serving the interests of the best racers at the expense of the bulk of the fleet.

Do you have another opinion? Please email me your thoughts.

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