Thursday, November 05, 2009

10 Reasons Why I (Almost) Gave Up Sailing This Year


I (almost) gave up sailing this year.

I probably haven't sailed a dozen times since the beginning of the year. I didn't sail in a "real" race once between 2 Nov 2008 and 1 Nov 2009. This is terrible.

There was a time when I raced on at least 30 weekends every year. Plus some major regattas like a North Americans or CORK in the summer. Plus a major regatta somewhere warm in the off-season like a Sunfish Worlds or a Laser Master Worlds or a Midwinters. In 2008 I sailed on 94 days.

I wasn't just a casual sailor. I was a fanatical racing sailor. So what happened?

I have no idea. But here are some reasons that might go some way to explaining why I (almost) gave up sailing this year.

1. Family. My two grandchildren are fascinating little people. I am the only grandfather they have. I barely remember my own grandfathers; one died before I was born and the single memory I have of the other is of being taken to see him in his bed, probably during his final illness. I want my own grandkids to have better memories of me than that. More than that, I treasure every moment I can spend enjoying their company and watching them change and grow. They came to see us almost every weekend this summer and it always seemed the right choice to play with them rather than to go sailing.

And yet, there were lots of other days when I could have gone sailing but didn't...

2. No BHAG. The last couple of years I have set myself Big Hairy Audacious Goals for my sailing. In 2007 it was to finish in the top half of the Laser Masters World Championship. (I did it.) In 2008 it was to sail on at least 100 days. (I failed.) In 2009 I didn't have a BHAG to drive me.

But if that's the only reason I sail it's pretty pathetic, isn't it?

3. Burnout. As I mentioned in 2008 I sailed on 94 days in my failed attempt to sail on 100 days in the year. It was fun. It motivated me to sail more and I had some fabulous days on the water. Was it too much? Am I burnt out from too much sailing last year? Maybe.

But surely that can't explain why I (almost) gave up sailing altogether?

4. Community. If I think back to many of the years when I sailed a lot it was partly because I was part of a club, a community, and part of the motivation to sail was to go and have fun with all my friends at the club and to hang out with them afterwards over beer and pizza or whatever. I haven't really established the same strong links to the local sailing community since moving to Rhode Island.

This is entirely my own fault. I need to fix it.

5. One bad experience. Can one bad experience of sailing turn you sour on the sport? You wouldn't think so. But I think my racing on the first day of frostbiting last winter did dull my appetite for racing for a while. Pretty much everything went wrong that day. The wind was nasty and shifty and gusty and chopped-up with vicious slam-dunk headers. There was a huge turnout of sailors on a short course so the start line was too crowded, the mark roundings were too crowded and there was way too much bad-tempered shouting as we played bumper-boats. I tried to make the best of it and write it off as a learning experience but I think it planted a seed deep in my mind that keeps reminding me that racing isn't always fun; sometimes it's just plain frustrating and annoying.

But surely all the hundreds of memories of good days on the race-course would outweigh that one bad day? You would think so.

6. Paralysis by analysis. I have way too much information about the weather. I can see the wind on the bay from my window. I can check multiple websites for real-time wind information and weather forecasts. Uh oh - it's gusting 35 knots at Conimicut Light. Uh oh - the wind is dying in Bristol. Uh oh - the wind in Newport is forecast to die away this afternoon. Too many days I convinced myself that it wasn't a good day for sailing today. So I didn't sail.

7. Too much time. This will sound nuts, I know. But back in the day when I worked for a living I only had certain days I could sail. If I had planned to go frostbiting in Connecticut on Sunday, I went. Never mind if the weather forecast called for rain or snow or no wind or too much wind, I went anyway. It would probably be the only chance I had to sail that week so I went.

Now I'm retired I can sail almost any day I want. So I look at the weather and think maybe tomorrow will be a better day for sailing. But we all know the problem with tomorrow: it never comes.

Yes, I told you it would sound nuts. But I'm just trying to be honest about what went wrong this year.

8. I'm getting old. It's true. Now I'm in my 60's I don't have the same appetite for sailing on days when it's blowing over 30 knots or the temperature is under 30 degrees F. I don't have the same stamina I used to. It takes me longer to recover from a day of vigorous exercise than it used to.

But even so, if that explains why I skipped some days of frostbiting, it doesn't explain why I skipped every day after the first week. It doesn't explain why I hardly sailed all summer.

9. I'm a wimp. Probably

10. All of the above. I think the truth of the matter is that one of these reasons by itself wouldn't have been enough to (almost) turn me off sailing this year. Sailing is part of my identity. None of these things, by themselves, could destroy my love of sailing.

But cumulatively, taken together, I think these factors did (almost) cause me to give up sailing this year.

That's a scary thought.

But recognizing the problem is the first step in fixing it.

I need to fix it.

Any advice?

29 comments:

Tony said...

My advice is to commit to another BHAG. Entry applications just opened for the 2010 Masters Worlds....

Antolin said...

another tack (one that I use often) is to sail just because sailing is such an extraordinary experience...I race big boats, the laser, sail my Lippincott 30, etc. but...every now and then I sail just because on the laser...close my eys and let the tiller give me the feedback from the water, lean my head against the boom and feel the boat up and down on the water, the gentle sway fo it all...the wind all around..I just lose myself in that singular moment. Last thursday night we had the last thursday night race of the season (now we only have the thursday night full moon race once a month)..so I rigged a glow stick on the sail's head atop the mast and went racing...but the sunset was so, the moon was so, the tangerine tinge on the water due to the lovely sunset, the sound of dolphins about...oh I sucked on the race and overstood the last mark by a big lot...but the whole evening was magical...yeah I am a wimp too and do not like more than 15 knots of wind on the laser but..I'll always sail..as much as I can...I am not sixty but I am over 50...be well Antolin

Sam Chapin said...

I would say, get with the community. Help them get a longer line, a longer weather leg, an offset mark, another race day for the group of newbees and the oldees that are not up to all the shouting. Come to Eustis for the Second annual World Fundamental rule 2 Championship Regatta.. Children start first, then the grandchildren sailing double with their grandmother, then the grandmothers, then the women and then the rest. No shouting, no roll tacking, no roll gybing, first to mark goes around first, first to finish line wait until all can finish at the same time. We help each other out of the water and put the boats away -- then it is ice cream and cake in honor of whoever has the next birthday. The First Annual last month had three contestants-- we have disqualified one because she wanted to win!

my2fish said...

wow, you weren't kidding about writing lists were you?!

I tend to agree with Tony - set another BHAG. schedule days to go sailing, and don't always worry about the weather (and let it keep you from sailing).

my brother-in-law has a good tactic he uses to get motivated to exercise - he signs up for 5k and 10k races a few weeks out... and knowing that the race is coming up motivates him to make sure he's exercising enough to race well.

I envy your ability (being retired) to sail any day you'd like - I'm still 30 yrs young, so work keeps me busy during the weekdays, and then my 3 young boys keep me busy on the weekends.

I was only able to sail 4 times this summer, but that's 4 times more than the previous (my youngest boy was born in May '08 - that kept me too busy to even try to sail). my hope is that each year my boys grow older, I will be able to sail more, and get them involved as they are able.

hopefully a year of lighter sailing might have helped with the burnout issue, and maybe lessened the memory of that one bad experience. as Sam said - maybe try to get more involved in the sailing community. that's one route I haven't taken yet.

good luck, my2fish

Tillerman said...

Wow. Thanks for the heads-up Tony. I thought they would send an email to warn us when they would open entries. I'm one of the first 8!

harrymvt said...

2 more reasons: (1) nearly cutting off your thumb, and (2) sailing cuts into valuable blogging time! :)

Anonymous said...

Are those prunes? No wonder why you hardly sailed!

Andrew said...

Not prunes but raisins - 10 raisins.

Start with number four. Sailing is about having fun and the more people you have fun with, the more fun you have.

Tillerman said...

Harry - when I wrote the piece about a bad experience, I did wonder whether to mention the "nearly chopped my finger off" day. But strangely I don't think that that experience negatively affected my motivation to go sailing at all. Far from it as, after one day off nursing my finger and enviously watching the other clinic attendees sailing, I wrapped up the finger and went sailing again on the final day of the clinic.

Strange really that a frustrating wind on a crowded racecourse was more demotivating than a bloody injury.

As for sailing cutting into blogging time... I think the two activities support each other rather than compete with each other. The more I sail the more I have to blog about. And the more I blog about sailing the more it reinforces my identity as a sailor.

Well done Andrew. They are indeed raisins. I did a Google image search on "reasons" and couldn't find an appropriate photo to put at the head of the post. So I went for "raisins" instead. Almost the same.

ChrisP said...

Why not branch out a little? Do a bit of cruising - after all, you have the time now. Learn how to camp on board.
People who know me will be predicting my next piece of advice, but hell, here it is anyway: go rowing alternately with sailing. It's great exercise, you can do it when in nil wind when sailing is just sunbathing, and you can explore rivers that are rotten for sailing.
Variety is the spice of life - so it may spice up your racing too.

Zen said...

I'm shocked wordless. I need to meditate to recover. no wait, better still I'm going to go sailing, maybe it will help balance the universal sailing karma you have upset in the time continuim (sp)

Hmmm My word verification is pornhor(w)

EscapeVelocity said...

So, does blogging about sailing reinforce your identity as a sailor to the extent that you don't actually have to go sailing?

O Docker said...

Why is it 'terrible' that you've sailed only a dozen times this year?

I'd guess that you spent 35 years of your life jumping through other people's hoops.

Why do we feel compelled to make hoops of our own to jump through when no one is making them for us?

I sail to get as far away from the world of hoops as I can. And as far as possible from goals and lists and reports and meeting expectations.

By my calculations, you sailed once every 3.882979 days last year. That would be enough to make me bored with just about anything that I can mention on a family-oriented blog. I think you said back then that some of those days you sailed not because you really wanted to, but to stay on track towards meeting the arbitrary goal that you'd set for yourself.

I'd be willing to bet that if you were on a warm, tropical beach now, with a 15-knot trade wind blowing, and there were a Laser pulled up on that beach, that you'd be sailing that Laser before very long.

Without any list at all.

Janna Cawrse Esarey said...

Goals are good b/c they keep us motivated. But goals that *actually get us where we want to go* are even better. Maybe not all goals need to be large, bold, and hirsute. Maybe sailing 50 days would make you happier than either 12 or 100.

Also curious why you're not taking the grandkids on the Laser with you. Fond memories of sailing with my Dad on our Laser growing up. It was called "Pepwithoutpurposeispiffle," which seems almost like cosmic commentary.

I have more thoughts (thanks for those; it's nice to have them percolating in my brain), but more importantly, some questions:

Did you MISS sailing this year?
Do you feel bad/guilty/disappointed about not sailing this year? (And if so, why?)
What makes a person a sailor anyway?

-Janna
P.S. Zen, I don't know what pornhor(w) says about YOUR word verification karma, but mine is mution. Seems fitting.

Tillerman said...

ChrisP - you raise a very good point. Maybe reason #11. One of the underlying themes of this blog, almost since the first post, has been "focus". Whether it's better to focus on one kind of boating (in my case Laser racing) in order to be as good as I can be in that narrow field; or whether to have fun doing a bit of this and a bit of that even if I'm not very good at any of them. Perhaps this year has taught me what happens if you focus too much.

EscapeVelocity - also a very profound comment. There's a lot of truth in your suggestion. I need to think about this one some more. Or blog about it perhaps?

O Docker, O wise one, you have also raised a deep issue. To goal or not to goal? I have some sympathy with your implication that something as joyful as sailing should be something you just do when you feel the urge, and not when you don't. And yet... when I have a goal it does motivate me to sail more, gives me the satisfaction that comes from sailing more, and the potential for huge satisfaction if I achieve that goal. Am I creating hoops for myself? Yes. Is that a problem? I don't think so. Something about the way I'm wired means that I need some hoops. If a thing's worth doing it's worth doing badly and at least as frequently as every 3.882979 days.

Janna Cawrse Esarey, (I still think you should have chosen a single last name) you raise some good points too. I'd love to take my grandkids on my Laser one day, but they need to learn to swim first. Emily has started swim lessons so maybe next summer I can take her Lasering. Did I miss sailing? Yes, but obviously not enough (until now) to actually do more sailing. Do I feel bad/guilty/disappointed about not sailing more? Yes, all of the above. But I'm not sure why. Need to think about that one more... and maybe blog about it.

Thanks to everyone for your advice and comments. Lots of food for thought. I appreciate it all.

Greg and Kris said...

If you don't sail, then there's more room out there for me. And you know the way I sail, the more room, the better it is for us all.

Dan said...

Oh great Tillerman
You post has hit me hard. I have been wondering this year about my future of sailing. Unlike you, I have been sailing mainly racer/cruisers and handicap racing for nearly 40 years. I still race 25 times a year and go cruising ocasionally.

There have been some whiners and complainers in my sphere of racing lately. I have let them sour me on some of my racing. Also, since my retirement, I have had less desire to take the boat out even though I have more time to do it. I will never understand how I worked full time and still sailed and raced.

I have given some thought to going to the dark side and buying a Laser. The simplicity of rigging and sailing those may respark my interests.

Maybe my days of racing and sailing are starting to come to an end. 40 years IS a long time to maintain a sport.

Tillerman said...

Dan, I hope you recover your zest for sailing. I don't think I will give up the sport just yet, but my experience this year did give me a feel for how easy it would be to let it slip out of my life... and how much I would regret it if I let that happen.

Carol Anne said...

I have had some very trying experiences (not on the water but related to sailing) over the past few weeks that have had me on the verge of quitting sailing. Fortunately, I have also had some support from some good friends who have been extremely supportive and who have even provided sailing experiences to prove to me that I don't want to give it up.

Definitely the socialization/club aspect is a positive one.

(I knew that I had to post when I saw the verification word: fugshlet. A variation on "fugeddaboutit"?)

Pat said...

Maybe, as touched close to earlier, one answer is "mood boats". Since (shock horror don't say this in front of the Laser Gods) there isn't any one perfect boat, maybe you need different kinds of sailing experiences to get a little variety -- and maybe also as part of the worthy work to get grandchildren on the water.

Maybe you should borrow a nice keelboat with a turn of decent performance and take the kids to Block Island or some such expedition. Or maybe you could use a boat like that to explore a bit further afield and get to know more of the wet side of the region you now call home. What might it be like to sail into Mystic Seaport and show the kids some people working on classic wooden boats?

When the grandkids are a bit older, could you imagine sailing with them through New York harbor and give them their own personal tour of landmarks they read about in school, such as Lady Liberty? And then you could return and tell their parents that you took their kids through Hell's Gate and back safe.

German dude said...

Abundance begets indifference, says my Cassell's German-English under the German word Ueberdruss. An unpleasant but not serious condition.

A remedy might be to set the following BHAG: not to sail for the next 3 months no matter how pleasant the conditions, no matter how strong the itch or how pleasant the competiton. How long will it be until the yearning becomes too strong?

Or think of the mountain climber's motto: if your life gets boring: risk it!

Joe said...

You could try sailing a Force 5, there is plenty of room for the grand kids....I had to try! Since you are interested in paddling now, have you thought about a Triak?

Baydog said...

Tillerman: You're a good Grandfather. Spend time with your Grandchildren. The Laser will still be there. I would like to have known my Dad's Father. He died when my Dad was 15. My Mom's Dad died when I was 8, so I didn't really get to know him well. As your Grandchildren get older, they will become more involved in their
own activities, and give you more time to get back to your passion. Absence often makes the heart grow fonder of sailing.

michael bogoger said...

Have you forgotten that Romilly? Those kids might love to learn to sail. I've known kids who could sail a dinghy at three and often wished I had been one of them.
I do miss racing, but destination sailing has many of the same challenges and uses all the same skills. I don't call it cruising, but performance sailing. Racing against myself, if you will. It's a win-win.
doryman

Mondale said...

I'll not read any other comments so this may have already been said. Sailing is a joy and can be done in a million different ways. I've found a few different styles to suit lifestyle at a particular time in life.
Don't give up.

BeachComber said...

I think sailing nearly 100 days of the year would take some of the fun out of it. Maybe changing sailing clubs is like changing rugby clubs, though in different ways. You have to put in hard work and do your time just to get back to where you were, albeit in terms of your social stature as opposed to your standing in the team.

Perhaps it's a cop out to suggest getting more stuff (though maybe it's just the excuse you need), but if you don't already have a radial rig, you could get one. Better yet, taking the less is more concept further than the Laser goes, you could get a windsurfer!

some_day_soling said...

You're being way to hard on yourself. Sometimes we wear ourselves out and need time to reengage with our lives. Not sailing as much doesn't mean you have to give the sport up.

For now, sail when the mood strikes you. Before long you'll be ready for a new BHAG.

Tim said...

Carry on like this and you'll end up dying in a nursing home!

In the immortal words of my friend who died two weeks ago at the age of 75 having just got home from his swimming club: "I want wear out not rust away"

Don't just blog your life away - do something!!!

Captain John said...

Your 100 day BHAG inspired me to count the number of days I'll go sailing this year. When I passed 100 and went on to the Rolex Big Boat Series, I didn't feel the need quite so much. And I was just counting (I won't admit it was a BHAG).

Community helps a LOT. The Got Wind and Water community went from an experiment to an extended family very, very quickly (I can't wait forever for grandkids).

Even though I should do something else this weekend, when one of them sent out an email suggesting a sail this weekend, asking who wants to go.

Maryam replied with a "Me! Me! Me! - pick Me! I want to GO!"

I just had to echo that sentiment.

"Pick me Peter! pick Me!"

Sailing with friends is just so cool.

If you want to fly out to NorCal, we'll make room for you.

(abiperim) is my word verification

What the? I'm not even going to look that up.

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