Change for Sailing’s Sake

Published on September 9th, 2014

In his monthly column for Sailing World magazine, Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck shares a few thoughts on how we can improve and grow the sport of sailing. Here’s one of them…

Answer this honestly: Are you a giver or a taker? Our sport needs both in order to function, and each of us must be both. If we are only takers, we must consider the impact of our actions. When we are racing in a regatta, most of us are takers. Somebody else organized it, somebody else is running the races, and somebody else is scoring it and hosting the party. We are takers, and all those who make it happen are givers. We can’t be givers by simply writing a check. We must physically be part of it.

We race because we are competitive, but races don’t happen by themselves. A volunteer army sacrifices their personal time to make them happen. Some people take great pride and joy in helping with regattas; it’s their recreation. If racers don’t contribute on some level, however, the balance of nature will be negatively impacted. Volunteer burnout occurs when givers give too much and takers take too much.

Our sport is a community of people who enjoy sailing. When we’re givers we really connect with this community. When racing and taking we’re connected to our boat and our crew, and to those we’re racing against. The connection, however, is distracted by competition, and by how well we handle the emotions of competition. Giving is pure, however, and provides the chance to form deeper connections.

Those who struggle most with giving are the sport’s top racers. Their focus and time is committed to racing and consuming. For these sailors it’s hard to sacrifice a race weekend, or be distracted during an event to volunteer in some way, but there are still ways to contribute.

By virtue of their success, top racers are admired, so it’s easy to give back by sharing and socializing. Hang out at the bar, help on the dock, be friendly and strike up a conversation with someone other than your closest teammates. Go ahead and win the race and the party every once in a while. The top racer that focuses only on their racing, and doesn’t hang out, is a full-blown taker who adversely affects the balance and hurts the sport.

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