It seems to me that at every major Laser regatta these days the race course is infested with Mommy Boats. Little and big motor boats buzzing in and out of the fleet of Lasers between every race, swarming around the course area during the race.
To be fair it's more often Daddy than Mommy driving the Mommy Boat. Daddy likes to drive the Mommy Boat, especially if it has twin 60hp engines. And even more commonly it's not Daddy or Mommy driving the Mommy boat, it's a guy (or gal) who goes by the name of Coach who is paid by Mommy and Daddy to drive the Mommy Boat. He gets paid even more if he has a New Zealand accent.
Oh yes, Coach is an excellent sailor. He was competitive in the class himself back in the day. But now he earns his living working as a sailing coach. And part of the duties is driving the Mommy Boat at regattas. Back home Coach teaches the kids how to sail better. He runs lots of drills and blows a whistle incessantly. But at regattas Coach is really just a surrogate Mommy and he gets to drive the Mommy Boat.
So if you're sailing in the regatta and you have a Mommy Boat what does it do for you?
Well, first of all it might tow you out to the course, just like Mommy used to drive you to school even though you only lived half a mile from school. God forbid that you might have to walk or bike to school yourself, or actually sail your Laser out to the racecourse like all the other competitors. You might get tired. Then of course the Mommy Boat will tow you home again at the end of the day.
Also, the Mommy Boat might carry some spare sailing clothes for you. Remember how Mommy always made sure that you had a warm coat in the winter or a waterproof if it might rain? The Mommy Boat will do just the same for you.
And the Mommy Boat will carry your lunch and your drinks. Good old Mommy was always there when you needed a cookie or a drink of warm milk wasn't she? So is the Mommy Boat.
And if you have a bad experience on the race course -- maybe you got black flagged or were OCS -- then Coach will provide you with moral support. Just like Mommy used to wipe away your tears if you got beat up by one of the big boys at school or fell over and grazed your knee in the playground.
So doesn't Coach actually do any coaching at a regatta? I guess so. Sail to the Mommy Boat between races and maybe Coach will remind you of what time the tide turns or what he thinks the wind is going to do. Just like Mommy was always there to wipe your nose or help you with your homework. Good old Mommy.
The Mommy Boat of course is just part of the trend in which modern parents structure the recreational activities of their kids. The kids don't go and play stick ball in the street; they are signed up for Little League. They don't kick a ball around on a local field; they have a soccer coach. Sailing is just going the same way. "Whatever happened to fun?" one veteran Laser sailor asked me at the weekend after hearing that Coach had told one of the kids to run ten laps after racing.
It wasn't always this way. When I used to take my kids to Optimist regattas I'd push them off the shore and then watch the races from the beach if practical or, if not, go and read a magazine in the clubhouse. Let 'em cope by themselves on the racecourse. Sailing taught self-reliance. Toughens 'em up. Nowadays sailing teaches that the Mommy Boat is always there for you.
And of course Mommy is always there these days. My son tells me that parents sometimes even show up at the initial screening interview when Junior is applying for her first job after college. Yikes.
But wait, I hear you say. The Coach Boat (as you call it) provides a valuable service. It helps a competitor to have the physical, moral and logistical support that Coach provides. If nothing else it's much better to dump all the spare clothing, food and drinks on the Coach Boat than carry all that extra weight on your Laser while racing.
And of course, you are right. The Mommy Boats do give an advantage to the competitors that have them. But what about the rest of us? After paying several hundred dollars for regatta entry fees, travel, hotel, food (not to mention that new sail that I should have bought too) do I also need to pay someone to drive a Mommy Boat for me? Where is this heading? Will we see the day when all 200+ sailors at the Laser North Americans have Mommy Boats?
I say ban the Mommy Boats. Let's get back to the good old days when the only motor boats on the course were race committee and safety boats. I'm going to start a movement. Dads Against Mommy Boats. DAMB. Sign up here.