Beyond the competition and trophies

Published on April 19th, 2020

Bill Canfield

Bill Canfield, President of Virgin Islands Sailing Association and longtime regatta director, reflects on what sailing has meant to him.


The release of The State of the Sport in 2020 made me look back on my 40 years of sailing throughout the Caribbean, and most of the good times my mind reflects on were not the races themselves but rather the experiences that came about through the sailing and the folks who shared these unique happening with me.

The 200 mile sail back after Antigua Race Week with a broken mast/ jury rigged jib at three knots and the wonderful dinner we had in St Barths on the way home.

The journey back from the Bitter End Race (after going 42 miles to windward) under spinnaker and awning, drinking Heineken and listening to Cheeseburger in Paradise with lifetime friends.

The Thanksgiving Regatta in Puerto Rico where it teemed rain for five days and nights and the battle to see who got to sleep in the sail locker under wet spinnakers, the best spot on the Pearson 26.

How hard we laughed when a fellow skipper was racing with the three naked girls as crew commented, “After the first tack they all looked like knees and elbows.”

Going door to door in the early days of Antigua Race Week asking for trays of ice for our rum drinks.

Sailing for 25 years with Dick Avery, who virtually invented the bareboat industry selling Pearson Yachts locally and chartering then to his New England friends. He made very few dollars but the stories he had were more than amazing.

These memories, wonderful friends, and boat loads of laughs… that is what sailing is for me. Sure there were trophies but more importantly sailing was more than a sport, it was a fulfilling lifestyle.

But the young sailors of today, for the most part, have never sailed to a regatta, they always have dry hotel rooms, and the best equipment available. They don’t drink morning beers to get loose. Many are paid so the parties are not part of their agenda. Other folks deliver the boat to the venue. They have coaches, physical trainers, and get massages after racing.

Sure they get to foil, go faster than we could imagine, have perfect race courses and the best instrumentation, sails are always new, etc. They don’t sail with friends because the weights have to be perfect. There are pre- and post-racing debriefs instead of rum drinks and beers. Their overall talent, dedication, and professionalism is amazing and inspiring.

But…

When they read a similar report on our sport 40 years from now, I wonder what their memories of sailing will be like.

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