Sinking in a sea of idioms

Published on June 9th, 2021

The idiom “you can’t have it both ways” is “as old as the hills” (another idiom), but we try anyway. That friend that is always helping you, but you never return the favor. Or the desire to lose weight, yet carbs remain your friend. “What comes around goes around” (bonus idiom).

As sailing explores the technical boundaries of performance, boat designs are becoming ill-suited for the sport. A third of the boats at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics can’t handle a strong sea-state, with any foiling boat regatta preferring the shelter of flat water.

And then there is the issue of what happens when fast boats with fancy appendages collide with what is in the water. Tim Zimmermann is questioning our relationship with the watery expanses of the planet, and the choices we make as sailors:

Foiling Fatality? I’ve long been annoyed? saddened? troubled? by the seeming increase in the incidence of collisions between fast foiling boats and undersea life (and also by the deliberate efforts by the self-proclaimed ocean- and planet-loving sailing community to obscure the fact that whales, sharks, and other creatures are being sliced and diced by our love of speed and foiling. (Yes, non-foiling boats also injure and kill sea life, but foils are faster and sharper so more lethal).

Here’s the latest incident, at the SailGP regatta in Taranto, Italy (click here for video) which evokes plenty of sympathy for Jimmy Spithill and SailGP USA, but absolutely none whatsoever for whatever they hit.

But, hey, it’s a viral moment. As long as no one worries too much whether the sailing world has taken out one more hapless animal just going about its business underwater, sponsors love that sh*t.

Sailing teams of course don’t want to be hitting anything (not least because it takes them out of races). But the truth is that, right now, there is no solution to this problem other than slowing boats down and getting them off foils.

I can hear the howls of outrage and protest already (except from the America’s Cup originalists who would love to see foiling abandoned). Fast is fun! Young people won’t watch or get excited! The sport will lose sponsorship and TV revenue!

Maybe. But I am not sure I care. Shouldn’t sailing have as a core principle the goal of doing no harm, or at least minimizing harm? In fact, isn’t that where humanity in general needs to be headed in all things? The oceans are in enough trouble already. If we can’t start there, then we are part of the problem not part of the solution (as so many sailing sponsors try to claim).

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