Not every regatta is a championship

Published on October 11th, 2023

It has been preached in Scuttlebutt that better isn’t always best, as the natural inclination for improvement slowly eliminates those that choose not to chase the rising bar. Don Finkle with RCR Yachts provides his view on this topic:

We live in a world today where if something is not the best, or perfect, it is judged to be no good. In our opinion, this has crept into sailing and it does not help in growing the sport, or even maintaining the level we are at now.

Let’s look at it from two angles.

At the top of the sport, where the pros and the best amateurs play, at championships and major events, it is appropriate to strive to put on the best racing possible. Race committee work should be of high caliber as well as everything that goes along with it. These sailors expect and deserve this because of all the time, effort and resources they have put into getting to that level.

On the other hand, there are far more racers and programs that do not require things to be perfect to be fun and worthwhile. In fact, perfection might not even be desirable. For example, on a typical start line, the most experienced sailors not only know where on the line they should be, but how to get there. The result is five minutes into the race, they have left most others in their dust.

You could rightly say it is up to the others to learn and step up their game. However, human nature being what it is, many sailors will decide they don’t have the time to spend getting to that level, and they have too many other choices that might be less frustrating or even embarrassing.

This is where it might pay to mix in some other formats that introduce additional factors and even the possibility of some luck. Random leg courses, pursuit racing, or downwind starts are just some ideas. More sailors will feel they have a legitimate chance to do well, and the variety should increase interest.

We shouldn’t do this all the time because we need to account for those who want to play the game at a more serious level. Each club or fleet can tailor the racing to their own interests, with consideration for all, not just a few.

This is where those in charge need to be bold enough to do the right thing for the program as a whole, even when it is not universally popular. Someone is going to feel personally disadvantaged whenever there is a change, but they normally get over it. It is a balancing act for sure.

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