Bill Symes: Finding the magic

Published on October 30th, 2017

Bill Symes is the driving force behind the Columbia Gorge Racing Association, which for 21 years has hosted elite events at its base in Cascade Locks, Oregon. Bill is also pretty good in the Laser Radial, this year winning the 75+ year division at the Laser Masters World Championships.

For the Improper Course blog, Bill shared some insights into his victory. Here’s his conclusion.


Success in a sailboat race is the cumulative result of a multitude of small turning points: win or lose a clear lane at the start, wind up on the right or wrong side of a shift on the first beat, round ahead or behind the peloton coming into the leeward gate.

And of course, avoid the big mistakes, a capsize, a collision, a missed mark, or one of those dreaded three-letter scores (OCS, BFD, DNF, DSQ, etc.), all of which I’ve had my share of in past LMWs. Fortunately, this time most of the turning points went my way and I was able to avert any major disasters.

I’m an intuitive sailor. Unlike many successful competitors, I have no engineering background and little technical or mechanical aptitude. Fortunately, I have 60 years of sailboat races under my PFD.

I do best when I can turn off my thinking cap and sail on muscle memory. Call it “flow” or “the zone,” that elusive state of mind where relaxation and arousal find the perfect balance; you are focused, in the moment, running completely on instinct.

I don’t know the recipe (wish I did; I’d bottle it and uncork it when needed) but I believe it begins with the quality of life off the water, which in my case was superbly managed by my wife, lover, first mate, social director, travel coordinator, mental health counselor, and head cheerleader LauraLee. Thanks to her, I was able to find the magic.

To read Bill’s complete report, click here.

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