Random thoughts on the sport

Published on August 29th, 2022

Accomplished naval architect and author Roger Marshall shares some random thoughts on the sport:

I’ve been sailing since the late 1960s and forever I have heard that there are not enough people in sailing. Well, surprise! Sailing is expensive. To own, even a medium-sized thirty-footer, these days can cost around $10K a year if you want decent sails, a mooring, the bottom cleaned, winter haulage and storage.

If you mount almost any kind of campaign you can spend far more than that. Add to that the cost of entry fees, yacht club dues, entertaining the crew, and costs can easily get out of hand.

To my mind, the first item on any sailing agenda should be ‘How do we attract young talent?” There is a simple answer. ‘Make it FUN and social.” If you look at successful clubs, fleets, and regattas, the success is mostly due to the social part of the event. Socializing and fun are the best parts of keeping people in sailing.

In my younger years, most enjoyment came from the racing and convivial time in the bar afterwards for those who were old enough to enjoy it! Clubs ran ‘fun’ races where you had to negotiate a slalom course, or tie a certain knot before you could get in the boat or you ‘raced’ to the waterfront ice-cream store. The winner got to stand at the front of the line.

Kids got to sail on their own, often in their own boat (usually bought by mum and dad). Lifejacket use was optional, mostly at the parent’s insistence. Today there are so many other distractions that the ‘fun’ part of sailing seems to have been virtually eliminated by the goal of teaching kids to race and keeping them in a ‘racing ‘program.

Frankly, who needs racing when sailing to a swim area, sailing while trailing a fishing line, sailing up a mud creek just to explore, can all be part of sailing and will often have a huge impact on whether a child will stay in sailing.

As for lifejackets, they save lives, absolutely! For example, I raced in the 1972 Fastnet where most of the race was spent in a gale. The owner insisted on harnesses for all the crew, as did almost every other owner in the fleet. Lifejackets were aboard, but they were the old-style kapok ‘toilet seats.’ Later I did some research for a book and found that, if you were hooked on and being towed at more than four knots, you would go underwater and probably drown!

Lifejackets today, will turn you face up and support you until you can be rescued. Another thing that I learned was that it is almost impossible to get back onto a boat from the water without help. Transom steps are the best method for a solo swimmer to get back aboard.

When lifejackets first came out, yes, I was skeptical, but I bought one and used it. Did it work? Well, I’m still here and I’ve fallen off a boat three times. Twice at sea (both pre-lifejacket swims) and the third time in the driveway. I landed in the privet hedge. It hurt, and haven’t fallen off since!

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