May 23, 2013 § 2 Comments
I’m sure no harm was meant when some sleepy editor let the phrase “sailing industry” slide into a piece about trends or boats or trickle down or some such thing, and the words became the de facto descriptor of our mode of recreation. According to Google, the phrase first appeared in 2007 a year before boat production in the US essentially shut down. Safe to assume that he or she didn’t give it a second thought, needing builders, brokers and sailmakers for income.
But now we need a new name.
It’s not simply a matter of semantics. Words have meaning, they take form, and they sometimes carry big risks. A recent online post lamented that the sailing industry fails its pros, who are unable to hone their craft year-round for lack of sufficient income from sponsors. It went on to suggest that we recreational sailors are obliged to ensure ample patronage, like some great Medici collective. Be honest, are you going to stay ashore so someone else can sail?
When industry goes egomaniacal, as ours is doing in San Francisco, boats become billboards and sailors are the low cost labor that move them into view, no matter the risks.
Following industry’s lead, most sailing media began the classic cycle of Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) after Andrew Simpson’s death while training aboard the AC72 Artemis. But the emotional outburst seems to be less about Simpson’s kids and wife, and more on the plight of the sailing industry. One blogger predicted the end of the line for catamaran makers. Another parroted that “any public relations is good public relations for the sport.” The most common retweet was it’s “a sad day for the sailing industry.” I just felt guilty, as if my fun had somehow contributed to a family’s sorrow.
Let’s face it; what they’re doing in San Francisco isn’t sailing. The on-the-bay display is unrecognizable to those of us that spend our free time under way. Early on, it was more like tuning into a space program; captivating, beyond day-to-day reality, and loaded with opportunity. Along the way it has lost all common sensibility; not because it isn’t thrilling, but because of how it is being industrialized. The course is deliberately square to fit on a TV screen. The crashes are live streamed. Footage of shredded, sinking carbon is backed with power chords and drum tracks. In this future, nobody will put down their tablet to pick up a tiller. That kind of sad, “they’ll never do this, but they won’t be able to turn their eyes” cynicism smacks of the WWF. Now that they’ve killed someone, why not move it to the Roman Coliseum?
If training on ultra dangerous boats like these had been framed and executed as a noble quest for a new, useful technology, to modernize transportation, to prove grand new inventions, to show how everyday people can do more, or to explore some new unexplored place, this tragedy might have been easier to explain. This was showmanship gone supernova. Turner turned Trump in a flaming Kenevil suit at Talladega. Opportunity lost. Now it’s all just risk.
Consider that NASA, when sending people to live on the space station, spares absolutely no expense to keep them alive. If you compare the unknowns of space travel with these huge experimental winged foilers, the metaphor is fair, but it ends there: Simpson was wearing a bike helmet and carrying a couple minutes of air in a can.
So the industry tail wags this dog.
Industry, by definition, is not what sailing is. Nor is sailing, by definition, an industry. All the costs to play games in sailboats doesn’t amount to a sliver of GDP. And, fun, whether theme park owners like it or not, is an externality, meaning it’s both free and priceless if want it to be. That is what makes it valuable and worth doing.
So let me suggest that anyone who cares about sailing — editors, advocates, participants, publishers, pros and amateurs — should begin calling it the sailing community instead of the sailing industry.
Why is this important?
- Industry thinks it is the source of ideas. Community knows that people are.
- Industry thinks it enables lifestyle. Community knows that friends and family do.
- Industry thinks that money matters. Community knows that time and relationships matter more.
This isn’t to say that smart, spirited, innovative, entrepreneurial folks shouldn’t make a buck when they do something good for sailing and sailors. Every community has ample commercial enterprise. It is to say that when the community is the focus of those enterprises, everyone wins. Even the pros and their families.
As a community, we can make certain that this is Andrew Simpson’s legacy. But as an industry, expect more victims.
April 23, 2013 § 2 Comments
If you’ve participated in a Saving Sailing town-call, you’ll recall talking about how sailing (and other important outdoor experiences) suffer under the media avalanche that buries most kids. Of course, the problem transcends sailing. Schools, family and neighborhoods have been crushed too.
I’ve started a new blog called FamilyNeighborhoodSchool.com to study the problem and discuss solutions. I hope you’ll follow it too.
- Nicholas Hayes, Author of Saving Sailing
Have you ever witnessed a kid fast forward through the previews on a rented DVD, or call out Britney Spears swigging a Pepsi as a ploy to get you to consume more corn syrup? Not all kids know advertising to be propaganda, but taking the lead from an adult, some do. Credit the young mind with the ability to grasp symbols and metaphor and see through distortion or exaggeration. When abstract thinking develops, bright colors and catchy music might still attract attention, but a kid can understand that it might be toward something being sold. Kids are smart.
To be clear, advertising messages do shape public opinion, especially those of the impressionable or the emotional. But like emotions, messages and public opinion are fleeting; they are just words, pictures, and fads that fade or shift with time. The impressionable grow up. The emotional find new cares.
Measured in durability over years, messages pale in comparison with experiences in defining who we are, what we believe, and how we act throughout our lives.
Kids don’t become what they see on TV or the Internet. They become what they do. Read more.
April 16, 2013 § 2 Comments
Say the words “sailing” and “mom”, and you’re likely to get complaints that she’s hovering, ruining the fun, getting in the way of self-reliance and confidence. Perhaps.
But here’s the untold story of women and moms in sailing, from the April issue of Sailing Magazine.