Every Laser fleet needs a cheerleader.
No, no, no. Not a buxom young lady in a skimpy costume who can do jumps and tumbles and chants. I mean someone who will motivate the members (and potential members of the fleet) to get off their butts and come out sailing. Usually we call the cheerleader a "Laser fleet captain." He or she organizes the activities of the fleet, and reminds, cajoles, pushes and persuades the rest of the fleet to participate in those activities.
Our Tuesday night informal Laser racing fleet used to have a superb cheerleader. But he is in the Naval Reserve and someone at the Pentagon decided that his considerable talents would be of more benefit to the USA in Afghanistan than in persuading a bunch of Laser sailors to go racing every Tuesday night in Bristol Harbor.
Nobody seemed to be picking up his role so I kind of stepped into the job of cheerleader by default. I don't look very good in a cheerleader's uniform and I certainly can't do all those tumbles and jumps and stuff. But I did hassle all the Tuesday night regulars at the Atlantic Coast Masters about when they were going to start coming out on Tuesdays. They all had very good excuses. I think the best was the guy who had scheduled oral surgery for a Tuesday just so he could avoid racing with me.
And I did send out emails to all the people I knew who came last year, and I did send out emails to everyone on last year's cheerleader's email list (most of whom I didn't know and I had never seen on Tuesday nights.) I think I got a couple of replies. That's if you can count "Auto-Reply: I am out of the office" as a reply.
After all that effort I persuaded one other sailor to come out and sail with me on Tuesday evening last week in Bristol. Only one! We raced windward-leeward courses in a typical late afternoon sea breeze until we were both thirsty enough to go for a beer (or two.)
Over a beer (or two) I bemoaned the fact that nobody else had come out to play with us (probably because I am no good as a cheerleader.) But my friend said he was just as happy to sail for an hour or two by himself or with one other sailor.
And I thought for a while and realized he was right. Sure it's fun to sail in a larger fleet and deal with tactics and whether or not you can cross that guy on port and how to find a clear lane and whether you can get an inside overlap at the mark. But when you are on your own, or with one other boat, you can concentrate more on boat speed and enjoy the experience of the waves and the wind and the sounds the boat makes moving through the water and the feel of the setting sun on your face... It's a zen thing, I guess.
Who needs cheerleaders?