You move to a new part of the country. You join the local Laser frostbite fleet. You know a few guys in the fleet but most of the fleet members are strangers to you. Who are these people?
You recognize the names of one or two of these strangers who always seem to be at the front of the fleet. You vaguely remember reading about them in some sailing magazine. You are sailing in the bottom half of the fleet most of the time and after a few weeks you are getting to know some of your fellow "bottom-halfers". But those guys in the top half are still strangers to you. Who are these people?
So what do you? You do what anyone would do. You google them. You do searches on ten of the names who always seem to do well in the races and you end up with a list something like this...
- Professional coach and writer, twice Rolex Sailor of the Year, over 20 World or North American Championships including Star Worlds
- Sailmaker, multiple national and eight World championship titles, crewmember in several America’s Cup campaigns
- Leader of the structural and mechanical design team for the masts and wing for BMW Oracle, and current Laser Masters World Champion
- Boat builder, former Snipe US National Champion and North American Laser Masters Champion
- Project manager spar and rigging company, former US Sailing Match Racing Champion
- Ivy league college sailing coach and former intercollegiate All-American
- Former US Sailing Singlehanded National Champion
- Current Laser Great Grandmaster World Champion
- Cape Cod Frosty Intergalactic Champion
- J24 World Champion
Wait. Professionals? People who work in the sailing industry? People who are paid to know how to make sailboats go fast?
How do you feel about professionals in sailing? It's been a bit of a sore point in the sailing blogosphere this week after Nick Hayes (the author of Saving Sailing) said that "pros have no place in the vast majority of sailing as it is done today" and that most amateurs don't think it is great that they can compete against professionals.
But you do think it's great that there are so many excellent sailors in your Laser fleet. You don't care how they earn their living. Nobody is paying them to come out and race every Sunday through the winter in a Laser. You appreciate that all the boats are identical in Laser racing, nobody can buy boatspeed, and the races are decided on the skills of the sailors (and a bit of luck.) You like the fact that you can compete directly against the best sailors and learn from them by watching them, talking to them, and reading their "words of wisdom".
You wonder why Tillerman wrote this whole post in the second person. Who is this "you" he is talking about? Is it me? Is it you? Why is he so strange this week? And why is he now writing in the third person?
What do you think, dear reader, about the role of professionals in sailing? What do you think when you find out that you are racing against professionals?