Keep it simple, Keep it fun

Published on September 30th, 2020

When it comes to competition, we are our own worst enemy. One person invests a bit more time or money, and others follow, until the bar has gone up too far. A day of tuning between friends can now require coaches, drones, and analytical debriefs. So much for recreation!

Often lost among those seeking the trophies is how managing the culture of competition is the tonic to insure there is healthy competition, as in the absence of this wisdom, attrition follows. Here is some wisdom from the United Kingdom by Adrian Morgan:


“How to make sailing fun again” is a recurring mantra. To my mind fun is synonymous with cheap, as in “cheap fun”.

We all had cheap fun as kids, the cheaper the better. But is sailing cheap? No, not with kids from the very earliest age expecting pimped dinghies, designer eyewear, high-end sailing clothes and, worst of all, a 400hp RIB to shepherd them to and from the race course, and parents on hand to rig, polish and pay.

In the old adage: blame the parents. Life’s expectations begin at an early age. Once you believe that a $10,000 dinghy is cheap, by the time you graduate $100,000 will seem reasonable. If you run an America’s Cup campaign, $100,000,000 probably seems reasonable.

My example of cheap fun always starts on the shores of Swanage Bay and an old, home-built Mirror dinghy, and ends up on the shores of Loch Broom, by the village of Ullapool. Moored off the sailing club you will find eight Flying Fifteens, only one of them under 10 years old, the rest over 30, only one costing more than $2,000.

The courses are set, depending on wind direction, around convenient markers, only two of which are laid by the club: Otter Bank and Rhue Buie. The start line makes use of the eight visitor mooring buoys, laid in two lines, from which we pick two, more or less at right angles to the first mark. There are no sausages, necessarily, or triangles, just courses. And no one to start us.

We take it in turns to blow the horn at 5, 4 and 1 minutes and record our own times at the finish.

There is no committee boat, or for that matter, safety boat. When a rudder fell off one of the oldest Flying Fifteens, the startled crew was told not to worry, as he had a spare. “Phew,” she said and relaxed. “Where is it? Let’s fit it then,” to which he replied nonchalantly, “Oh it’s ashore.” They took a tow from another Fifteen.

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