How do you feel when you win a sailing race or regatta?
Satisfaction, joy, exultation, pride? You would think that any or all of these would be appropriate.
Me? I usually feel numb. Yes, numb.
Don't get me wrong. My brain isn't wired up in some bizarre way that I can't take pride in my own achievements. When I accomplished some academic or professional ambition, usually after years of hard work and often against tough competition, I was able to take pride in my achievement. I hope I was outwardly modest; but inwardly I would not be lacking in lashings of positive self-esteem.
And I can experience immense elation from an athletic achievement. When I ran my first marathon at the age of 56 I strutted around for days wearing a T-shirt saying: Disney World Marathon - I Did It.
Any regular reader of this blog knows that sailing is the passion of my life and gives me all sorts of satisfactions and pleasures. So what is wrong with me? Why does winning leave me cold? It's not as if I'm not trying to win.
I think it's because when I reflect realistically on why I have won there are two alternative explanations, neither of which is a reason for celebration.
If I have raced against people that I usually beat, then I expect to win. Where's the fun in that?
In the much, much more infrequent occasions (perhaps three times in the last ten years) when I win a regatta by triumphing over sailors that usually beat me, I am not fooled. I did not suddenly become a better sailor. I either won because my opponents made crucial mistakes. (He failed to cover me on the final beat of the last race.) Or through luck. (I was finding streaks of wind in the middle of the course all day while the top guys were chasing each other up the side that was usually favored.)
The other reason why winning a sailing regatta doesn't deliver the same psychic reward as, say, the successful completion of a major, major project at work is obvious. Sailing isn't work. I don't work hard at sailing. Sailing is fun. If something good happens it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. But not something in which I can take much pride because I haven't invested more than a few hours of effort in it.
So how do you feel when you win? Comments please.