What lessons can you learn from sailing?

Published on December 5th, 2021

Sailing can be considered a sport, but many prefer to refer to it as a discipline. Sailing, especially single-handed and long-distance, requires an incredible number and combination of skills. Sailing can teach you many valuable lessons, and not just about boat handling and storms but also about yourself, your character.

Here is what some of the entries in the 2023-24 Global Solo Challenge share about the lessons they have learned:

• Frédéric Switala: When i met Eric Tabarly as a kid, I understood that you have to be able to arrive by yourself if you start sailing, and it’s better to do than to talk.

• Siegfried Studer: It taught me a great respect for nature and its strengths, humility, prudence! It taught me to forget time as a clock, to accept that I don’t necessarily have to get my intended destination if, due to the weather, it’s not possible!

Sail GP

• Sacha Creus: You have to be versatile, at times ingenious to get out of a certain situation, have foresight and above all be able to keep a cool head in all circumstances.

• Manu Wattecamps-Etienne: Nothing other than the evidence of having found my place in this world. At sea I feel at home and at peace. I love this life and sailing will always teach me a lot, but these are personal things that I do not wish to go into details here.

• Pavlin Nadvorni: For me, sailing has long become a way of life. I could easily say that everything I am as a person I owe to sailing. Sailing is freedom and immense pleasure but also a permanent challenge to strive for perfection. No one knows it all – we are all constantly learning.

Despite all that technology at our fingertips in present days, Nature easily shows us now and again just how much larger it is. Hard work, self-improvement, respect to the Ocean and respect to people, and not taking yourself too seriously – perhaps these are the most important lessons I have learned so far. Well, learning never stops, does it?

• Jamie Young: You never defeat or conquer nature – you might be let go after a terrifying experience that also offers exhilaration – fear – terror – calmness – relief – reflection – even boredom at times, but all the senses are woken and redirected from just being a cog in Homo Economicus.

Your fellow crew can also show heights and depths of human nature and teaches all how to live in or with that cake mix of ingredients and accept the rough and smooth edges that exist in us all.

• Peter Bourke: I’m sure I’ve yet to learn all the lessons from sailing, but the one that always comes to mind is the way it forces you to deal with the realities that exist, to be in the moment. No part of the enterprise will end well without looking at the facts – weather, equipment issues, tides, etcetera – as they are and not as you’d wish them to be.

• Antoine Douguet: Sailing is a source of inspiration and humility, it teaches attentiveness, anticipation, resourcefulness, patience and prioritisation.

• Willi Fantom: I have learnt more about who I am inside my soul and spiritual self, what makes me feel, what sets my anxiety off and being at peace alone among strange waters bound by the true elements of nature, a complete sense of freedom. I have never felt bound by Maritime Law.

A true real sense of worth, confidence in my ability to deal with what ever life throws at me and self reliance which I have lived akin to my heart. I have learnt and taught myself everything I know through life experience and hands on and this sailing is very hands on I love it and can’t wait to set ready for the race.

• Laurence Warner: You are never in control… but you manage risk.. and a sailor is always learning. Another valuable lesson was told to me by a famous old school sailor/pirate who said ´the sea is your friend, stay away from the land´… and over the years I have come to realise this!

• Brian Pattinson: Mother Nature will always win. Expect the unexpected and thoroughly enjoy every moment you spend of your life at sea. It’s special.

• Maxine Noury: Be prepared, have back up equipment…. It is okay to be afraid before a storm, stay calm when it is on you if you haven’t managed to avoid it! The sea decides.


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