I have a shelf full of awards in my office. Plaques, plates, cups, mugs, glasses. Some more esoteric items too. The tangible recognition of 25 years of Laser racing. Mainly trash really. Why do I keep them?
The object of a race is to win. But if that were the only reason we raced most of us shouldn't bother. Most of the time we don't win. I very rarely win.
Regatta organizers know people like to receive awards. So they find ways to give as many as they can afford. Top five in the regatta maybe. Then how about some prizes for special categories? First female. First junior. First old guy. We were having some fun a few days ago speculating on whether Laser regattas should have an award for First Fat Boy too.
But wait. Now there's a problem. What if someone in one of these special, "handicapped" categories happens to place in the top five? Should they win two awards? Or should we give the award for First Fat Old Guy With No Hair to the first gentleman in that category who did not succeed in winning any other award?
Some organizers go one way. Some the other. You can argue for both methods. Does it really matter?
Truth is that most of the Laser awards on my shelf are those special category awards. Lots of First Master trophies. Usually they mean, "first old geezer who wasn't good enough to win one of the real awards". Oh well. They still look good there on the shelf gathering dust.
In one regatta this summer -- in retrospect probably the event in which I sailed best -- when the dust settled on the last day I realized that I was actually the first oldster not in the top five. The Notice of Race said awards would be given for First Five and First Master. Woohoo. I'd better stick around for the awards ceremony instead of hitting the road and trying to beat all the traffic going home from the local beaches.
It was a long wait. As always the awards ceremony started later than expected. So I had to hang out at the bar and have a few beers. And it was a multi-class regatta so then we had to wait for the awards for the Optis and 420s and whatever. Regatta organizers give lots of awards in the kiddie classes. Quite right too.
Ah now we have the Laser awards. First of all the real winners. Real sailors. This year's College Sailor of the Year. Some guy who was in top 5 at CORK. A District Champion. Guy who came second in the Masters Worlds a few years ago. Real sailors. Totally out of my league.
Then on to the special awards. I edge to the front of the crowd so that I can leap forward and modestly accept my award for "first old geezer not good enough to win a real award". But they give the First Master award to the old guy who was also in the top five.
Momentary twinge of disappointment. Put a brave face on it. Smile and applaud the worthy winner. No big deal really. He sure deserves it more than me.
So is there any point in having these special category awards or should we all just race as equals for the top three or top five place awards?
I know some of the top female Laser sailors don't like winning the Top Female award. They want to be considered as equal to the men and find it patronizing when they are congratulated for being the first woman in the regatta. Especially if they are the only woman in the regatta!
Some of the kids sure are fast too. And some of the old guys can hold their own against almost any competition. So why not scrap all the special categories and just have awards for the folk who really are the best sailors on the day?
What do you think?