2013 Queen’s Cup: Hurling and Furling

July 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

Chris Gribble: Rafiki sailing the 2013 Queen's Cup

Rafiki sailing the 2013 Queen’s Cup
Photo credit: Chris Gribble

This was no Sidney-Hobart. But the 2013 Queen’s Cup was tiny reminder of the toughness of sailors.

Queen’s Cups are usually downwind and flat. Recent races have been warm and generally dry. I like to recall the year we wore shorts all night and flew kites exclusively by moonlight.

This year race organizers picked Ludington as a finish destination adding distance and northing to the course to shake it up. It worked. A solid and cold north wind came on with an icy rain burst and then the wind built and clocked east during the night, knocking the fleet onto 30 degrees of heel. It wasn’t unruly, but it was cold and wet enough to cause blue lips, shivering and some to wonder why they had eaten that last dockside burger with onions. The sea-state gradually built to 4-6 footers (late finishers said 8) with the gradient neared 22 knots at about 3 am. If you had chosen left, you could crack off a couple of degrees, but if you were south of the rhumb, you were close-hauled all night. Cooking, eating, dry clothes, or napping in a warm berth were mostly wishful thinking. One friend deemed it “hurling and furling.”

The on-the-water highlight, if you were lucky to have been looking up, was the brief appearance of ghostly white dancing spires of the Aurora-Borealis. One sailor said it was the best 15 minutes in 22 hours of misery. Shortly after the first finishers tied up at Ludington (where organizers had organized well) Facebook lit up too with tales of cloudbursts and fog, wind and spray, sleeplessness and vomiting, and a general agreement that next year would be just as much fun.

Talk about tough.

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Congratulations to the winners.

Industry Kills. Sailing Doesn’t.

May 23, 2013 § 4 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.

America's Cup Crash Kills

Source: NY Times

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?

NASCAR Crash Kills

Source: Huffington Post

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.

Sail-to-the-sea

May 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

Read page 43 of the May 2013 issue of Spinsheet to find out what one great children’s book can do.
Sail-to-the-sea

Sail-to-the-sea

Sailing moms: not what you think

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.

Sailing Moms

Sailing is better than soccer

April 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

’nuff said.

Sailing is better than soccer

Let’s #GoSailing in Denver. Seriously.

March 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’m very excited to be speaking at this year’s Spirit of Sailing Gala, the annual fundraiser for Community Sailing of Colorado. It’s a worthy program, offering sailing scholarships and outreach and with a reputation as a leader in adaptive sailing. And I’m excited meet co-presenter Jen French, a Paralympics silver medalist and the author of the new book On My Feet Again; My Journey Out of the Wheelchair Using Neurotechnology.

The Gala will be held at The Denver Athletic Club in downtown Denver on April 20, 2013 beginning at 6:00 PM. You can still get tickets here.

As a bonus, CSC will be hosting two sidebar events. Jen will be telling stories from her book at Craig Hospital on Friday, April 19 from 6:00-7:30 pm.

And here is a flyer for the Sailing Town Hall on Sunday April 21st at 11am, a meeting for folks that would like to help more people find sailing in their lives. I hope to see you there!

Saving Sailing Town Hall Meeting

Working to play

March 16, 2013 § 2 Comments

Working to play

Working to play

We don’t aspire to work,

we aspire to play.

When play is easy and everywhere,

it’s just time passed,

and work is something to avoid.

When play is challenging and rare,

it creates something new,

and work is vital.

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