Ten Socio-Emotional Benefits of Sailing

Published on July 5th, 2018

by Samantha Yom, SingaporeSailing
There’s something about sailing that makes it quite unlike other sports. More than just skill and strategy, it teaches certain values that shape sailors into the unique athletes that they are.

Yet, we’re often so focused on the physical aspects of sailing that we forget how much we stand to gain from the sport – both socially and emotionally. So here’s a list of the top 10 socio-emotional benefits of sailing.

1. Grit
You could say that just about any sport offers a lesson on resilience, but sailing is a sport that demands an inner strength far greater than most.

In this sport, it’s sailor versus the elements. Whether you’re a novice experiencing strong winds for the first time or a national sailor met with three-metre high waves in foreign waters, you learn to keep fighting – no matter how uncomfortable it is. Capsize? Just upright your boat and keep sailing.

2. Confidence
Most sailors’ foray into the sport begins with the Optimist. It’s a single-handed boat, which means it’s controlled by a sole sailor. Alone on the boat, sailors – as young as six or seven – are constantly required to make their own decisions. They don’t always make the right ones, but the opportunity to think for themselves helps them grow in self-confidence.

Once you’ve conquered three-metre high waves, you can do almost anything.

3. Teamwork
Though they sail individually, sailors are forced to work together from day one. After all, no one sailor can lift his or her Optimist boat alone. Over time, sailors gradually realize that working together not only helps speed things up, but also allows them to learn more from one another.

4. Friendship
Perhaps one of the most valuable takeaways from sailing is the friendships forged. It’s inevitable that sailors bond with one another during windless days and scary storms. You also get to make new friends with international sailors as well, especially during those international regattas.

5. Sportsmanship
Touched a mark without anyone catching you in the act? Complete your penalty anyway. Sailing is a self-governing sport, which means it’s completely up to sailors to abide by the rules and uphold the fairness of racing. It’s a matter of integrity and sailors learn the importance of playing fair and respecting the rules of the game.

6. Learning to Lose
In sailing, the conditions are ever-changing. Regattas are held over a few days and every day presents a different sailing condition. As a result, positions are always changing during a regatta – and even during a race itself. Unpredictable conditions also mean that you could go from leading a race to coming in dead last.

You can’t win every single race in sailing, so sailors learn to accept defeat and move on – a particularly important skill since races are held back-to-back.

7. Patience
Whether it’s mastering a sailing maneuver or waiting for the next wind shift, sailing is a test of patience. Sailing maneuvers are so complex that it could take weeks of practice to execute them well, consistently.

8. Responsibility
Sailing is a sport that requires a fair bit of equipment. From bringing your sunglasses, gloves and wind indicator to cleaning your boat before a regatta – sailors learn to take ownership of their equipment from the very start of their sailing journey. They learn to be responsible for their decisions as well – be it a bad tactical decision or a sail setting.

9. Managing Emotions

As we’ve mentioned previously, sailing conditions can be quite unpredictable. It is through experiences of winning and losing that sailors gradually learn to control their emotions. They find ways to deal with their feelings when they’re alone on the boat – the joy, frustration, et cetera. At the end of the day, the best sailors are the ones who are able to best manage their emotions and prevent them from affecting their performance.

10. Discipline
Due to its nature, sailing can be quite a time-consuming sport. It takes up a significant amount of time on the weekends too – precious time that could be spent on school work or with friends. That being said, it builds a sense of discipline in sailors, as they learn to prioritise the little time they have and stay focussed.

Summary
And with that, we realise how sailing is not just a sport that keeps you fit, but also one that develops you into a well-rounded individual – something far more important than winning medals.

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