Leave beer can racing to the amateurs

Published on January 8th, 2019

by Chris Caswell, SAILING magazine
To quote Peter Finch as newscaster Howard Beale in the movie ‘Network’, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

What led to this state of affairs was a phone call to an old friend in California to catch up on his summer and to get his sympathy on my hurricane season. My innocent question, “How did the Wednesday beer can series go?” launched a rant that She Who Must Be Obeyed, a ranter of gold medal standards, would have appreciated.

“I sailed the first few evenings and then quit,” said my friend (we’ll call him Fred) with a twinge of bitterness, adding “It just wasn’t fun anymore.”

The essence of his rant was that the beer can fleet used to be a bunch of folks, including spouses and kids, who climbed on their boats at the end of the Wednesday work day and had a race followed by a burger bash, where everyone consumed beer and told lies about their sailing prowess.

But over the past few years, there had been an insidious invasion of hot sailors who had gradually turned the once-fun beer can evening series into a combat zone. They brought with them tactics more suitable for the Olympics or world championships, which led to lengthy protest hearings because of these tactics which, in turn, dented the burger and beer time as well.

“I don’t mind losing,” Fred said, “but it’s not much fun losing to people you don’t even know. Heck, I have a lifetime of losing to my friends. We joke that it’s part of the game. Sometimes I would win, sometimes they would. A lot of these hired guns just get in their cars straight from the dock and skip the burger bash. Where’s the joy in that?”

I’d like to say, with all modesty, that I’ve had some fine rants here on the pages of SAILING, and more than a few have been about how winning has become the all-consuming goal in a sport that is supposed to be fun. From the moment they first plant their little rears in an Optimist, kids are being trained to focus on one thing: winning. It’s no wonder so many kids drop out of sailing: It’s no fun! – Full story

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