Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gary Jobson - Please Don't Make Sailing Easy

Gary Jobson is a good guy (he used to be a Laser sailor) but I can't agree with what he just said. He was recently elected president of US Sailing and it was reported that in his acceptance speech he said, "We want to make sailing safe, easy, and fair."

Easy? I don't want sailing to be easy. It wouldn't be any fun if it were easy.

Watching TV is easy.
Mowing the lawn is easy.
Chatting with friends on Facebook is easy.

Sailing is difficult. That's what makes it so engaging. I have spent half a lifetime just trying to learn the skills to race one relatively simple boat as well as I can, and I still feel that I have so much to learn. It's the challenge of trying to learn something that is difficult and then attempting to use my hard-won skills that keeps me involved. I don't want sailing to be easy.

Having written the above I decided that, to be fair, I ought to watch the full video of Gary's speech. It is true that the context of his first remark about "making sailing easy" does leave open the possibility that what he actually meant to say was that he wants to make access to the water easy. And then later in the speech he gives three other examples of things about sailing he would like to make easier: handicaps, racing rules and measurement. So maybe I shouldn't blame Gary for that sound bite of,
"we want to make sailing safe, easy, and fair." Maybe we should blame the PR person who wrote the press release.

Whatever. US Sailing should not be trying to give the impression that they are going to make sailing easy. It ain't easy. And I, for one, don't want it to be easy.

What do you think?


Pat said...

Sailing should be easy to get into.

Waterfront development, arcane rules, snooty yacht clubs or the perception of snootiness, and cost of boat ownership and equipment can be barriers to entry.

The perception that the sport is hard and challenging may appeal to a few intrepid folks, but not to those with shorter attention spans or greater timidity. For those folks, we need to be sneaky and emphasize the "sailing is a sport whose basics you can learn in a day" part.

We need more places where novice sailors are welcomed and given opportunities. We need more community sailing programs and affordable access to sailing. We need youth programs where kids can discover sailing in a fun, low-pressure atmosphere. We need to make it extremely easy for people to find sailing opportunities and to match their interests to the most suitable opportunities.

EscapeVelocity said...

I'm definitely with Pat on making sailing easier to get into. There are a lot of people out there who think it would be cool, but don't happen to know anybody with a boat, and it's tough for them to get into the sport, whereas it's really easy to go out and rent a jetski.

Baydog said...

Bear off Tillerman, you're pinching. Sailing is not hard, winning is. As Pat said, sailing should be easy to get into. Gary Jobson is a great ambassador for the sport, and has nothing but good intentions.

Tillerman said...

Maybe I didn't make myself very clear.

I am not saying we should make it hard for people to try sailing. I am saying that we mislead people if we pretend that sailing is as easy as mowing the lawn or driving a jetski. And we mislead people as to sailing's true attraction if we pretend it is.

Sailing is more like playing a musical instrument. Sure it's easy to find a piano teacher and learn to bang out a few notes, or learn 3 chords on a guitar and strum along. But you can then spend a lifetime perfecting your technique and learning to play more and more complex pieces. And that is why playing an instrument is so rewarding.

And I do agree that Gary Jobson is a great ambassador for the sport and I wish him all the best.

Baydog said...

All clear!

Zen said...

Sailing is EASY!

Sailing WELL is difficult

You can sail in a day

It's a life's challenge to be a great sailor

You can play a guitar in an day

It takes years to be a guitarist

You can read on the Tao in a day

It takes years of living to understand it.

The blogfather knows this... but if he did not pick on the words, he would have no blog to post on this topic


Tillerman said...

Well said Zen. I wish I had said it in the post as clearly as you have.

Joe Rouse said...

Learning to sail is depends on the person or what you mean by sailing.

Joe "I am a mere student" Rouse said...

Zen is the Master!

The O'Sheas said...

Is this another veiled attack on the former Comment-Ninja? O'Docker? Because, apparently, facebook is not as easy as it looks.

Tillerman said...

No it's not a veiled attack on O Docker. It's a veiled reference to tomorrow's post on Proper Course. My new mantra is "Link it Forward".

Unfortunately HTML has not yet advanced to the point where it can keep up with creative minds who want to link to things that are still in the future of the Interwebs.

doryman said...

I'm with you on this Tillerman. Sailing can be easy, but it can also be a metaphor for life (which is not easy). For centuries, maybe millennia, sailors have taken great pride in mastery of the skills of a sailor - definitely not something to be learned in an afternoon or without pain.
That said, it is with shame that I confess to putting off too many (friends, loved ones) from sailing by my intense insistence that it be taken to the next level.

Carol Anne said...

Perhaps, then, the invite should be more nuanced: Sailing is easy to get into, but, even better, the ensuing complexities will engage you for a lifetime, in a deep and satisfying way.

Nicholas Hayes said...

In all fairness to Gary, (who I plan to wholeheartedly support) he should've chosen the word accessible, instead of the word easy.

And it's not just semantics.

Accessible means you can do it, and it may bet better with time. Easy means you'll master it quickly and we expect you'll move on.

Tillerman said...

Exactly Nicholas. The quotation used in the press release (which itself is a slight condensation of what Gary actually said) does indeed come at a point in the speech just after Gary was speaking about access to the water. So in context most people would probably assume he was still talking about making access to the water (and by extension access to sailing) easy. But out of context it means something totally different.

Captain John said...

Easy to get into.


Sailing as easy as life.

It should be all that.

Sailing is a seductress. So easy to fall into the world of those deep blue eyes.

Not so easy when Mother Nature decides to get mad.

It should be easy to meet the seductress. I'm hoping that's what Gary is getting at.

I'm constantly amazed after a life time (pastime) of sailing that it should be something that is so easy at times, yet so hard at other times.

The sailing should not be so hard to get to. Once you get there, Mother Nature will teach you what's up with that.

If you have 100 boats, then you probably have 100 boat owners. If they go sailing and have an average of 4 crew members, then suddenly you have 500 people sailing.

That's an interesting multiplication effect.

Except for Tilly.

He can't seem to find anyone to crew for him.

But at least he has racing and can exercise his social skills on the racecourse and in this blog.

Live on Tilly.

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