Reflections and regret

Published on September 6th, 2022

Competition provides structure for improvement, and a test of abilities, but it can also get in the way of enjoying time on the water. More so, success in racing is a double-edged sword, and if not careful, can cut you both ways. In this report by Keith Burhans, he shares his recent struggles:


A few years ago, I decided it was time to hang up the skates.

I had been racing sailboats since 1971. I sailed Eight Metres, Solings, J/24s, Sonars, and mutts (PHRF). There was also some match racing with continental and world championships along the way.

I had even competed in the Sydney 2000 Games and help coach the Greeks at Athens 2004 as a Paralympian. I think my all-time favorite race was around the Isle of Wight on the Volvo 65, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.

Sailing has been berry berry good to me, but I had gotten bored and lazy and selfish.

I had a stable of crew for our club racing and when life got in their way, and my stable thinned out, rather than replenish my crew with hungry-to-learn newbies, I decided that I had had enough. Shame on me.

I regret it now, because I see the joy and enthusiasm of new sailors who think that sailboat racing is the best thing ever. It reminds me of me when I was that 15 year old kid trying to figure out how to do (and stay on) the foredeck of an Eight Metre.

So just a few thoughts to share with my contemporaries that might be contemplating ‘hanging up the skates’. Before you do, reach out to a younger crowd that will bring fresh awe and enthusiasm back into your program.

Be a mentor. Mix it up. Let your crew drive the boat. Teach. Coach. Laugh and enjoy.

I’m already planning to get my arse back out on the rail again next year – and erase those regrets.

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