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Why We Sail: Passion or Payday?

Published on December 6th, 2016

Scuttlebutt friend Isao Toyama shares these observations from his keyboard in San Diego, CA…

During a recent High School Girls Invitational Regatta in San Diego, I spent some time with the Detroit Country Day School sailing team, and came away pretty impressed with how Coach Eric Ellison worked with the kids both on and off the water.

One example was at breakfast. All the kids had their cell phones in a pile on the table during breakfast, a fact I did not initially notice until one of the girls touched it and apologized. The result of this was, instead of playing with their cell phone while eating, all the kids were engaging in conversation.

Another time, after we hosted the team for an evening barbecue, Eric brought the kids over to thank us for inviting them. These are the small things nowadays, but when coaching kids on and off the water, behavior and discipline are pretty important.

More so, the girls were having fun during the sailing. While they weren’t among the top teams on the scoreboard, for them it was not all about results. This made me think about how we are doing as adults at sailing regattas. Are we too focused on the results instead of the fun?

I remember when I didn’t have much money and sailed with a bunch of friends or college kids who can have fun on the boat, instead of how much they will contribute to get better results. Maybe we’d pool our money to buy a boat and trade off helming.

Now I see more sailors in some classes hire professionals or recruit the best sailors from the yacht club. Instead of learning and growing as a team with friends, the boat owner wanted instant results. I see others as always looking for a good result as a professional crew, and they will not sail with local teams at the bottom.

A friend told me if he doesn’t get paid, he doesn’t go sailing anymore because he has other things to do with his time such as kids, house work, and other interests.

I have heard the example that hiring a professional crew is like a getting prostitute. It’s fun for a while but when the time is up, they won’t stick with you because they are only interested in the money. Of course, there are exceptions, as I see other professional sailors spend time with their owner outside of sailing and pursue other interests.

I guess my point is, are we losing our passion toward sailing itself, and having it become more work and instant recognition? Having a performance goal is great, but what comes after you win the medal or win the Worlds? I think we need to ask ourselves why we sail. Is it passion? Money? Recognition?

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