Wednesday was another perfect evening for Sunfish racing. I was waiting for the tailenders to finish the third race, thinking about my performance in the race, wondering what starting tactics to employ in the next race, when I woke up to my surroundings...
It's hard to believe that this lake is in the middle of the most densely populated state in America; I can hardly see any sign of human habitation or activity (apart from fellow boaters). Over there, behind some distant trees, I can just see the spire of some building, perhaps a church. On that hill there is a water tower. And over there is an old stone house with a view of the water. That's it. The rest of the view, for 360 degrees around the lake, is of rounded hills in every shade of green rolling away serenely to the horizon. The hills are worn down, old curving mounds, and the landscape has a calming, relaxing effect
In the west the sun is slowly sinking to what will be a spectacular sunset. The sun paints a long streak of gold and yellow and orange splashes on the ripples of the lake. There is something hypnotic about the way the light reflects off the constantly moving water, the way the tiny wavelets form and move and interact and fade away, the incessantly changing pattern of glossy shadows and brilliant highlights, never still.
Looking the other way I see the sun is illuminating every individual leaf of the trees on the south-eastern shore. They are a mile away but the effect is so eerie that I feel that I could reach out and pluck one of those leaves shivering in the breeze, shimmering in the light of the setting sun.
That's when it struck me. I don't play this sailboat racing game just for the competition. I don't do it purely for the physical excitement of speed; surely not as this is one of the slowest of all racing sports. Certainly not for the technical challenge of tweaking the last fraction of a knot of speed out of a boat.
The most profound rewards of sailing are moments like this, being able to appreciate the natural world in all its variety, the combination and interaction of light and sky and wind and water and land that are never the same on two days, not even the same for two minutes, the elements always changing and moving and making new patterns. The opportunity to escape from a world of machines - cars, phones, TV, computers, yes even blogs - and to open all six senses to the spine-tingling spectacular beauty of the planet.