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When enthusiasm is a bad thing

Published on February 10th, 2020

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
I’m one to often drone on about the variables that impact the general health of the sport, feeling it necessary because we are a loosely managed activity that easily evolves further than what can be sustained.

However, today’s variables are hardly new, as I was reminded when reading a story by Tom Price in Seahorse magazine about the Chesapeake Bay log canoes. What he described is as relevant today as it was a century ago:

An interesting comparison can be made between racing log canoes and the Sandbaggers. They both evolved from oystering vessels in the mid-1800s. Both became fascinated with sailing faster but took separate paths, the common elements being a centerboard and an unrestricted sail area.

The Sandbagger chose extreme beam and moveable ballast in the form of large crews and bags of gravel. The log canoes went for extreme narrow beam and a more athletic and extreme form of ballasting by large crews perched out on springboards.

As far as we know they never raced against each other, but the log canoe is the survivor, still racing today, while Sandbagger racing died out in the early 1900s, killed by the excesses of ‘enthusiasm’ and gambling.

I would surmise that the more pastoral, rural atmosphere of Maryland’s eastern shore kept the excesses at bay and the racing was a more wholesome form of sport, while New York City’s urbanity drove the gambling and poor sportsmanship that was the demise of the Sandbagger.

If there is an interest in building participation, it is worth considering the variables that encourage excessive ‘enthusiasm’.

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