Paul Foerster, 470 Olympic gold medalist in Athens, won the Sunfish North Americans in Texas last month.
The other week, after Wednesday night Sunfish sailing, it was my pleasure to sit next to a former North American Sunfish champion. Very former. Let's call my friend Dave. Just as well because that's his real name too. Dave won the NAs over 40 years ago and is still sailing Sunfish and winning regattas.
That I was sitting next to a national sailing champion for beer and pizza is not too surprising. This Wednesday night fleet that races a weird little boat design that's over 50 years old on an obscure lake in New Jersey includes at least four former national champions in various classes, a couple of former Olympic campaigners, plus two guys who can regularly beat the lot of them in Sunfish. If I break the top eight in this fleet I know I'm having a good night.
But I digress. As I mentioned, Dave has been sailing and winning in the same class for over 40 years. He was telling me a tale about winning a regatta recently at a club that had a perpetual trophy - one of those where they engrave the names of the winners on plaques on the trophy. Well, it was noticed that someone with the same name as Dave had won the trophy back in the 1960s. Dave, whose sense of humor is even more droll than mine, had convinced the regatta organizers that the winner back then was his father. Of course it was really him.
Anyway, after a few stories like this I thought that Dave was the perfect person to answer "The Question". This is the question that has been bugging me after reading all these boating blogs for the past year or two. You see I'm a bit like Dave. Not in being a champion, but in sticking with the same boat, in my case the Laser, for decade after decade. I only sail the Sunfish because that's what they sail in North Jersey lakes and when in Rome...
But you guys who write blogs have started me thinking. Dangerous stuff thought. You see you sound like you're having so much fun doing different kinds of boating from the stuff that I do. Dan is taking out friends for rides on his trimaran on Buzzards Bay, Bob has been sailing a Beneteau from Bermuda to New York, Orkun has been match racing a J24 with a multi-national crew and Michael has been "tripping the Gaspe" in his kayak. So I keep having these thoughts that I should try different sorts of watery activity, cruising or day-sailing or racing keelboats or sea kayaking. So many choices.
So I asked Dave the question. "In all the years you've been racing Sunfish, have you never been tempted to try some other kinds of sailing?"
He thought for a few seconds and then asked me in a puzzled tone as if the question had never occurred to him, "Why?"
"Well, I've been thinking it might be fun to sail bigger boats or go cruising or maybe even kayaking. None of us are getting any younger. It seems a good idea to try as many options as we can while we're still fit enough to do them."
Dave looked troubled and pondered this for a few more seconds. "I suppose you could. But just remember, you'll lose your edge."
Dave has an edge racing his Sunfish for sure. I'm not sure I have an edge. What is an "edge" anyway? What do you think? Do we become better racing sailors by sticking to one class for decades; or do we develop more as sailors by sailing different boats? Comments please.