Carol Anne in a comment on my post yesterday, Winning, writes that I am getting "jaded".
Wow! I hope that's not the impression I'm creating. Perhaps it was only her reaction to that one post? I hope so. Because even my ramblings in Winning were meant to communicate that I derive immense pleasure from sailing -- and especially from racing -- but that the psychic rewards from winning races or regattas are actually very mild. It surprised me at first but it's true. At least it's true for me.
Winning was actually inspired by a chapter in a book I'm reading: Winning - The Psychology of Competition by Stuart Walker. In a chapter entitled The Joy of Victory, Walker discusses the different reactions that sailors have to winning and the psychological reasons for them. Apparently it's not at all uncommon for winning to deliver less satisfaction than the competitor might have expected. The idea struck a chord with me and stimulated to write yesterday's post.
Lest any other reader gets the idea that I am jaded about sailing, let me correct that belief right away. Even when the lakes are partly covered in ice and there's snow blowing in the wind I'll go sailing. I'll travel to the other side of the country to learn more about sailing. I'll even drive a couple of hundred miles to go racing in the fringes of a hurricane.
I get pumped up about sailing a Laser in heavy air and I can laugh at my attempts to master light air sailing in a Sunfish. I organized a totally new regatta on the program this year and derived immense pleasure from that and from sailing in it. (Winning that regatta was an unexpected bonus -- by no means the best thing that happened that day.)
I enjoy the banter and camaraderie with other sailors and even (occasionally) having fun at their expense with April Fool jokes in the newsletter I publish. Maybe I don't write as often as I should about the high I get from sailing. But I hope you know that I can have fun preparing for a regatta, tussling on the race course with an old rival or discovering a way to improve my racing performance.
Carol Anne advises me to get out and teach someone else to sail. Great advice. I've been doing that for many years including working four days a week as a sailing instructor for the last six summers. I especially enjoy teaching the younger kids, partly because they do exhibit such uninhibited joy in sailing. It's also very rewarding to introduce adults to the pleasures of racing. But it took a little kid to remind me that our sport truly is "spectacular".
More recently I've enjoyed sailing our Laser frostbite series and can even laugh at my disasters such as a major equipment failure and some awful tactics and boat-handling. The only days in the series I have missed are because of family events. However strong my passion for sailing, family does come first.
Perhaps Carol Anne's post was written tongue-in-cheek? I hope so. If she had seen me in my role as a new grandfather this week, "jaded" would be the last word she would choose to define me.
Stuart Walker should have the last word. He is wise enough to know that racing sailboats is about so much more than winning. Most of us rarely win; and even when we do it's only a tiny, tiny part of the rewards we receive from racing. He writes that "although winning is the object of the game, it is not the object of playing the game." Very true.