Thursday, June 22, 2006

United States Naval Academy Sailing Philosophy

Another perspective on sailboat racing, from the United States Naval Academy Sailing Philosophy (emphasis of middle paragraph mine) ...

We teach sailing and seamanship at the naval academy for one purpose: to make competent seamen of our midshipmen, who will then be the naval leaders of the future. We aren't interested in making yachtsmen of them.

We enter races to find an atmosphere which, like combat, stretches ability and endurance to the limit and allows character to emerge which can reach beyond those previous limits for that extra margin required for victory, where decisions must be made instantly and be coupled with competent execution of complex evolutions. Where numerous variables must be integrated to derive tactics and strategy in interaction.

And we send them to sea to learn the fundamental characteristic of the professional seaman: a deepseated sense of humility in the face of nature and her master. But we never lose sight of our objective -- to produce the best possible officer for the fleet, whether he or she is assigned to a surface ship, a submarine or an aircraft.

Captain J.B. Bonds, USN

Quotation from Bluewater Sailing.


Carol Anne said...

I would say Capt. Bonds hits a lot of good points about the value of racing sailboats.

I had a high-school friend who attended the Naval Academy shortly after the sailing program was revived. He told me that he considered it one of the most valuable programs he could have participated in -- he learned about making decisions under pressure, and he learned about the sea -- as a native of a desert state, he'd never so much as been on a boat of any sort before arriving at Annapolis.

I don't think either West Point or the Air Force Academy has anything even remotely similar. If we want our military leaders to be able to deal well with pressure, sailboat racing seems to be a good way to develop that skill.

Tillerman said...

Yeah - as I understand it evry midshipman learns to sail dinghies in their first summer at the academy. I remember talking to Gary Bodie who at that time was sailing instructor at USNA. I was astonished to learn that some kids going to the academy to become naval officers had absolutely no prior boating experience. But as he pointed out, there are kids from every state including some from places like New Mexico who just want to learn to fly jets.

I suspect the other academies would claim that playing other sports develops the decision making skills that Bonds describes.

Pat said...

Oh, Carol Anne, since you think the Captain has a lot of good points - - Gerald and I stand ready this weekend to help you "find an atmosphere which, like combat, stretches ability and endurance to the limit and allows character to emerge" - - it's the least we should do for you.

Tim said...

Yes I've been on start lines like that.

Carol Anne said...

Ironically, as of our last high-school class reunion, my classmate wasn't commanding a boat on the high seas. He was in charge of a recruiting office -- in a small town in Oklahoma!

But he was still an avid amateur sailor, and he looked for opportunites to sail during his time off. He would never have taken up sailing if it weren't for the Academy.

Yeah, other sports do develop a lot of the same skills of making decisions under pressure ... but all of the academies have football and basketball teams. And sailing small sailboats really is a different experience from a team sport.

bearaway said...

I just finished sailing my 9th Newport-Bermuda race and the 6th I've done with Capt. J.B. Bonds onboard as navigator. He's a tremendously interesting guy and a great offshore crew mate. Worth talking to if you ever want to explore the history of the USN sailing program.

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