Let’s Keep the Fun in our Sport

Published on September 15th, 2016


Luca Devoti

Luca Devoti (ITA), who won the silver medal in the Finn class at the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics, is worried about the direction the sport is headed. Here he comments….

For most sailors, sailing is everything – a passion that deeply and extensively affects the entire life of sailors. The sailing community is one that creates friendships for life. What is better than discussing a windshift and enjoying social life in a nice yacht club?

However, in recent years sailing has moved more and more away from the participatory model. A trend of more and more races per day and longer and longer days have moved sailing towards some sort of strength and ultra-endurance sport.

In my opinion this is a huge mistake. In a complex system, small changes can lead to totally unexpected outcomes.

We have moved away from role models like Dennis Conner, magic big bad Dennis, to the ultra-ripped bodies of the America’s Cup sailors, most of them just grinding and training in the gym. This new breed looks more and more like the narcissistic bodybuilders of the 70s, flat down on their rotary pumps, but forgetting all the real pleasure of sailing with their helmets and boring hunt-for-speed-only.


Dennis Conner

So here you go, this move goes away from our roots and creates a new sailing community with totally different role models and people. We have less people, as only those who can commit 100% can achieve this level of fitness. And we are losing the club sailors as they split into these two communities. All this with decreasing numbers.

Sailing used to be for the clever and fun, but now it seems less of a tactical game and more a full-on sprint sport like swimming. Well I hate it! I might have never been the cut super athlete but bloody hell this development is wrong. Let’s go back to the bar and have a good beer and have fun.

We can’t lose moments like the mythical arm wrestling competition at the 1998 Athens Finn Gold Cup where Oleg Khopersky broke one arm to some crazy Greek bodybuilder that challenged him. Or where Mike Maier made sure Iain Percy had to see the physio every day for two months after one of those unforgettable nights.

Or the gala dinner at the 1989 Cleveland Star Worlds is another one, at least for me, as some good wine made me think I had found the passion of my life… I have to stop here as that was long before getting married and having two sons. Then there was the bar next to the Savannah 1996 Olympic Village in where, with Ian Walker and Johnny Merricks, we were partying like crazy.

This maniac sport will die soon if we don’t change direction. Which one was your best party you have ever had at a regatta? Post it here.

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