Managing the complication of sailing

Published on June 10th, 2018

Our sport takes many forms, and we have the ability to make it as simple or as complicated as we desire. However, in many cases, our sport has evolved to serve those that invest the most.

This investment may be in technology or crew skill, and while it is typical for the most prepared to succeed, the heightening complication of our sport does not bode well for its future.

Managing the complication of sailing is required if there is an interest to encourage participation. This does not mean to dumb it down, but rather keep the effort needed to compete at a more practical level.

Donald Street has found that level. He turns 88 in July and has not lost a lick of enthusiasm for sailing. Here he explains why:


Donald Street

Glandore is a small village 50 miles west of Cork in the southern tip of Ireland. It is here, for many reasons, where I am enjoying racing Gypsy – my 29-foot Dragon Class boat.

I have a five minute walk to the pier where my 18′ light clinker pulling boat waits, and then a five minute row to Gypsy. From there I am five minutes to the start line.

We have a growing Dagon fleet that should have 15 boats by late July. Our racing schedule is active during the four month season from May to the first weekend of September, with all forms of event formats during that span. After racing, there are three pubs within walking distance – two of which are looking down on the harbour,

We race around fixed marks and dodge numerous unmarked rocks. We do not do windward leeward courses unless for prominent events. There are wind shifts to be taken advantage of and holes to be avoided. No one can buy a super-fast dragon and be guaranteed to win.

At 84 years, Gypsy is the oldest dragon in the world still racing, is still competitive. I cannot remember when we ever came last.

No matter how hard it blows, in Glandore harbor there is nothing more than a small chop. Beating to windward in heavy weather, in Glandore harbor, feathering the Dragon through the puffs, no water on deck except a spray on the foredeck, is as close to heaven as a Dragon sailor can get without dying and departing to sailor’s Valhalla.

I also daysail a couple of days a week, as the Dragon is the best daysailor in the world.

All in all, an unbeatable set-up for an old man.

Editor’s note: Seems like a pretty good set-up for the rest of us too.

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