Friday, May 30, 2014


That clever fellow Nick Hayes, author of Saving Sailing, has an article in the June 2014 issue of SpinSheet magazine titled Don't Sell Your Boat, Mister. In it he challenges a man who is trying to sell his Laser because he thinks has no time to get out on the water even though "the desire is there." Nick goes a bit deeper than the usual "live in the moment" memes with some insights from a Harvard social psychologist and some excellent advice on how to organize your life to be happy now, not at some vaguely imagined future idyllic time. He outlines a way to live such that "hours magically appear for things that bring happiness - like Laser sailing on a Tuesday night."

One of his arguments for creating time to follow your desire now, not postponing it for a couple of decades, is that perceptions of the source of happiness change as one ages. And he uses Laser sailing as an example of this saying that when you are in your fifth or sixth decades Laser sailing doesn't make the list as sufficiently restorative or rewarding or even fun. The implication being, presumably, is that you should go Laser sailing NOW while you still have the desire.

Of course Nick knows that not everyone feels like that about Laser sailing in later years because he adds as a sly afterthought, "Don't tell that to the Laser sailing grandfather of six, Tillerman."


Does desire for Laser sailing decline as one ages?

I guess I look at it from a position that could give me a distorted view. I have been racing my Laser in the UK and the US and several other countries for over 30 years so I see plenty of people in their 40s and 50s and 60s (not to mention a few in their 70s and 80s) sailing Lasers. I see the ones who kept their desire.

Sure everyone gives up Laser sailing eventually. But I see the ones who stop Laser sailing because their knees or backs or hips give out - or they die. And, sure, I also see ones like the man in Nick's article who give up Laser sailing because they say they are too busy with family and career to sail.  I guess I just don't see the ones who once had the desire but lost it before they really got round to taking up Laser sailing. I'm not saying they don't exist; just that I don't mix in those circles.

To be honest, I do find my own desire for some aspects of Laser sailing waxing and waning as I get older.

Some winters I am enthusiastic about frostbiting. Other winters I'm not.

Some years I get all excited about doing major regattas like a Laser Masters Worlds or North Americans. Other years I can't be bothered with all the faffing around that is involved in sailing major events.

Some years I like to travel a lot to sail. Other years I just want to enjoy sailing in my own (metaphorical) back yard.

But I have never yet totally lost the desire to sail my Laser.

Yesterday evening three of us went Laser sailing on the Sakonnet River launching from Third Beach. Two of us are in our seventh decades, the other is in his eighth decade. One of us drove ninety minutes to be there. It was a glorious sunny evening (if a little chilly for late May.) The wind was in the south and was stirring up some waves on which you could occasionally catch some rides downwind. We did some rabbit starts and chased each other round and round a short windward leeward course for about ninety minutes. Afterwards we all agreed we had had a marvelous time and that this spot was one of the best imaginable places in the world for some Thursday evening Laser sailing fun. And that we would damn well do it again next week.

We still have the desire.

Sshhh! Don't tell Nick Hayes. (But do go and read his SpinSheet article and buy his book.)


phil said...

I'm glad to hear you're still going into your 70s and 80s - I only started laser sailing 3 years ago - when I was 63 and occasionally beat myself up for not getting into it earlier - but it looks like there may be a good 20 years of laser sailing ahead of me - perhaps?

Tillerman said...

I am 65. So I count that as being in my 7th decade.

I hope you do have 20 years of Laser sailing ahead of you. To be honest I only know a handful of Laser sailors over 80 but maybe our generation will keep at it longer and still be sailing well into our 80s.

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

I'm thinking this year will be my last with my 'Laser-38'. I'm Robert Redford's age and I want off the boat before 'All Is Lost'. So, personally I do hope "that perceptions of the source of happiness change as one ages." I hope there is life after sailing, just as there was for me a life after tennis.

George A said...

My Dear Tillerman: Being lazy, I have no "desire" to click on the link above but I will be shopping for parts at APS this evening so I'll pick up a hardcopy of Spin Sheet. I find that a page or two at bedtime is wonderfully sedative, and sets me up for a perfect night's rest--almost as good as my other guru of improvement, Frank Bethwaite.

Tillerman said...

Oh George - you are living the dream. SpinSheet and Bethwaite at bedtime. What could be more stimulating?

And Phil - I have a question. Did you only get the desire to go Laser sailing when you were 63, or did you have the desire from a much younger age and only find the time to do it when you were 63?

Anonymous said...

A laser is easy to store,therefore easy to NOT sell. I sold one once and regretted it for years because I could not afford another one...

kiwiyates said...

Our friend Sam Chapin just turned 87! and tries to sail his Laser every day - even for just 30min. He is a great mentor and Laser advocate... and very hard to beat! You have to have a reason to get up in the morning and ideally, a reason to get off the couch. What better reason than sailing (anything)....

Tillerman said...

Great point Anonymous. Don't sell your Laser, Mister. Store it. Sail it when you do have the time. Sail it when you retire. Pass it on to your kids or your grandkids.

Thanks for reminding us kiwiyates. Sam Chapin is an inspiration to us all. Use it or lose it.

Sam Chapin said...

Careful you guys. I read this stuff and I haven't been sailing for 3 days. Sleeping too dam late and not being ready to do anything until about noon. Maybe I would sail something else but I have six Lasers now. A couple need a lot of repair and I am just too lazy to get them all fixed and sold.

Tillerman said...

Thank goodness for that. Kiwiyates had me worried with all that guff about you being 87 and sailing every day. Made me feel so inadequate.

Just want to say I have been sailing in the last three days - so there.

Sam, please feel free to sleep late as often as you like and to be as lazy as you want to be about boat maintenance. And I will do the same.

phil said...

To answer the question - I went on a sailing course at a local club about 8 years ago, pottered about for a two or three years - it then became a weekly thing, got a laser about three years ago - completely hooked! Sail as often as I can get down - usually twice a week in summer. Fitness was a problem in the beginning, but it's stopped hurting now!

Tillerman said...

Thanks phil. I know other people who take up Laser sailing in their 50s and 60s for the first time and really enjoy it too. I think our generation may be more open to taking on new physical challenges at that age than our parents and grandparents were. Or perhaps we just have more opportunities and more free time.

Anonymous said...

Tillerman, Great blog! Very inspirational. The desire for me today is huge. It has been for at least 10 years. It has only been the last 5 years where I feel that I have improved. That is only because I began getting involved in club racing rather than just going out by myself. There's nothing better than chasing and being chased around bouys on a Sunday afternoon. And then having a beer afterwards and talking about it. I can't see any reason to stop. Sail on.

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