Earth, Wind & Water

Ramblings of an Earthling, Laserite and small boat sailor

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What ails sailing in the US?

Based on the mini Stonehenge in my backyard, I think it's around the winter solstice, so it's time make another blog post. There seems to me much gnashing of teeth about the demise of sailing in the US, how it's only old guys that do it these days, and that the younger generation are distracted by these newfangled interwebs, social networks, and updating their blogs once a year. Well, here's my take on what's wrong with sailing in America.

It's run by old farts for the benefit of old farts. The best example I can think of this is the phenomenon of sailing club initiation fees. This is nothing but a way for the old members of a club to screw the new ones. Oh you'd like to join our club and get into sailing? That's great, but first let us slap you in the face with this initiation fee. In fact, in fact in honor of Tillerman's latest group writing project, I name this the worst ever sailing innovation. (Tillerman may be old, but he's not a fart. See, not all old people are farts). I can think of plenty of other examples of the, well, old officers of sailing clubs acting not in the sport's interest but in their own. These are harder to generalize, and I'm not inclined to elaborate on the individuals and incidents I have in mind.

The second big problem is the American fetish for big boats. If you take ten sailors who like to race, are they going to have more fun on the water sailing one mega yacht, or sailing ten Lasers? Even ten Optimists would be more fun than one yacht. It's the conservation of fun principle. Each boat only supplies only so much fun, so you don't want to dilute it by having too many sailors on board. Better to have more boats on the water. Instead of spending all day trimming a jib, wouldn't people prefer to be their own helmsman, tactician, sail trimmer and meat on the gunwale? Of course, the old farts will say, "Ooh, wouldn't you like to sail on my yacht today?" as if they're offering you a treat. I would consider it more of a chore, and I'd rather race against them on the water.

A final problem, at least from my limited point of view in the midwest, is the predominance of old, cumbersome, and again big boats. I'm thinking mainly of the Thistle and the Flying Scot. I can't fault those who sail them, because everyone wants to sail like against like, but if impractical boats dominate, it's got to put some people off the sport. Who wants to sail a boat you have to launch off a trailer, you can't car-top, and you can't sail after capsizing? I'm sure more modern boats like the V-15 and 470 would have more broad appeal.

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