SAIL: Keeping the Hands in Hands-On
Published on January 23rd, 2023
SAIL Editor-in-Chief Wendy Mitman Clarke reflects on how the evolution of the sport may be missing the point:
It was late afternoon just after the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis when I climbed aboard the last boat on the schedule. I and others who review and sail boats for the magazine’s Top 10 Best Boats had been on the water all day for several days, putting a gorgeous variety of boats through their paces.
Though it can be fickle, the Chesapeake in autumn had been serving up a series of stunning days for sailing—feisty 15- to 20-knot breezes beneath an alpine blue sky, studded now and then with dusky, post-cold-front clouds. Honestly, it was hard to resist the temptation to just keep going south, like so many of the snowbirds who’d gathered in the anchorage to check out the candy store that is the boat show.
So yeah, maybe I was a little distracted. And perhaps, at this point, a bit tired. But that all vanished once we started sailing.
Unlike the other boats I’d sailed earlier in the day, which had featured a cast of relative thousands (in other words, half a dozen people or so), on this one it was just me, a fellow boat tester, and a guy who worked for the builder. Also, unlike the other boats I’d sailed earlier, this one didn’t have a single electric winch. Granted, it was the smallest of the boats we’d sailed this day, but it was just us, lines, elbow grease, and winch handles.
Off we went, zooming like a waterbug. And even though the boats I’d sailed earlier had been exciting, powerful, and beautiful, on this boat I felt something different. On the wind, off the wind, steering, or trimming, it was kind of a relief to be so involved, to grip a winch handle rather than push a button, to feel the tension of a line through my hands and shoulders, to tweak this and adjust that, to have so much to do.
It got me pondering a recurring theme I’d heard at the show, about how so many new boats strive to make sailing as easy and as comfortable as possible. This is because, I am told, sailors—especially new sailors—want all the comforts. – Full report