Don’t hate the system, embrace it

Published on May 10th, 2022

That there are professionals in the sport is nothing new. Sailmakers, yacht designers, mast makers, etc. have a long history of promoting their products on the race course. The difference today is that the professionals are… more professional.

It is common now for boat owners to hire elite talent to support their sailing pursuits, and this trend has increased the cost to compete. But unlike most sports, Sailing has always offered that opportunity to race against the very best, and some amateur terams love it.

Henry Filter is one of those people, and in this report offers his comments on the current landscape:

I have always thought of myself as a consummate weekend warrior, as I have made my living from outside the marine industry, yet participated in too many World Championships, North American Championships, and National Championships to name them all. I was equally fortunate to qualify and compete in a couple Pan Am games.

I don’t mention this to impress anyone, only to give some context to support why most weekend warriors are out there and racing against the pros is a good thing.

If the truth be told, I can count on one hand the number of National titles I’ve won over the years. When it comes to podium finishes, I have forgotten most of them. Suffice it to say, winning or the prospect of winning is not the main driver that keeps me coming back for more. I believe most Corinthians/non-pros would say the same thing.

We do it because we love the game, we love the people, we love the vibe. When I’m racing a sailboat I can’t think about anything else but getting that boat around the course as fast as possible, with my buddies. Every regatta is a cleansing of the mind. No time to think about work, family, or the troubles of your day. It is about as refreshing as it can get.

That is the number one reason I race sailboats. Here are a few others. Now, at the age of 60, I have no plans of slowing down.

Racing against the best sailors is really rewarding! Win, lose or draw, you learn a lot. Pros and non-pros alike share information. Sailors realize that sharing information, techniques, and tactics makes everybody better. Better sailors equal better competition and we all grow together.

I love how our sport is both physical and cerebral. It has all the ingredients to keep body and mind functioning well into senior citizenship. I have met so many great people that share the same passion, with friendships around the world that have stood the test of time.

Plus racing sailboats transcends generations. I have been on race courses with 10 year old kids getting to know 80 year sailors on a first name basis.

I have now been sailing in the J/70 class for 10 years, mostly as a Corinthian. Will I ever hire pros to sail with me in the future? Probably!

We sailed the 2021 J/70 Worlds in California and it dawned on me that there was at least one 80+ year old skipper in the field. When you’re in your 80s, I imagine it is pretty tough to get your 80 year old buddies to come sail with you. So you hire some pros. Guess what? They beat us overall, and I say good on ‘em! Hopefully, I can do the same in 20 years.

Don’t hate the system, embrace it and sail against the best!

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