Thursday, June 13, 2013

Zen and the art of coming full circle

I feel like I'm coming full circle.

When I first started sailing in England, I raced my Laser at my local club on Taplow Lake, near Slough.

Then some of my fellow Laser fleet members persuaded me to go to some local "open meetings" (which is real English for what are called "regattas" in American.) But we only sailed one day events and never more than an hour's drive from our home base.

Then I moved to Rutland which is as near to heaven as you will find on this earth. I sailed in the Laser fleet at Rutland Sailing Club. My two sons learned to sail in Optimists there. I never felt the need to travel anywhere else to sail, except in my last year in England when I did travel to the UK Laser Masters, a two day event on the south coast, at Swanage.

In 1989 we moved to New Jersey. I shipped a Laser and two Optimists to NJ with our furniture. The problem we discovered was that there was hardly any Optimist or Laser sailing near where we lived in North Jersey. At first we sailed our Laser and Optimists every week in the summer in the local club in Mountain Lakes in the "open" fleet. But handicap racing wasn't as much fun as one design racing so I also started racing Sunfish, which is what everyone else in our club and in that area of the state raced.

But I was itching for some real competition in Lasers so I started to travel to Laser regattas on the Jersey Shore and in Pennsylvania. And then further afield to Maryland and Virginia and New York and even to Canada. I did some longer regattas lasting several days. Usually my wife and kids came with me on the longer trips and we did a bit of exploring in combination with the regattas.

I was racing Sunfish a lot too on the local circuit in North Jersey. Then one day I read an article by Brian Weeks in the Sunfish class newsletter that basically said, "Even you, yes even a duffer like you Tillerman, can qualify for the Sunfish Worlds." That was intriguing so I thought I would give it a shot. Apparently the way to qualify for the Sunfish Worlds was to sail Sunfish Regionals and/or the Sunfish North Americans and if you did well enough you would get selected for the Sunfish Worlds.

By this time the family owned three Lasers and three Sunfish. In the summer of 1995 my sons and I traveled to Ithaca, NY with three Lasers for a one week clinic with Gary Bodie. And the next week we traveled to Lewes, DE with three Sunfish to sail in the Sunfish North Americans.

I think I finished just inside the top 40 at the Sunfish NAs, so imagine my surprise when, a few months later, I received a letter from the Sunfish Class Office inviting me to sail in the 1996 Sunfish Worlds in the Dominican Republic. So my wife and I went off to the DR for a week so I could sail in the Sunfish Worlds and we had a wonderful time. And the next year I was invited to go to the Sunfish Worlds again (based on that top 40 finish at the NAs in 1995 again as far as I could tell) and we went to Cartagena in Colombia for the 1997 Sunfish Worlds, which was an eye-opening experience.

You see where this story is going? As time goes on I was traveling more and more, and further and further, to go to longer and longer regattas. It was all a lot of fun.

I was also sailing various Laser Masters regattas around North America, so I thought why not go to the Laser Masters Worlds? The Sunfish Worlds had been fun; Lasers could only be more fun. Tillerwoman and I went to Mexico in 2000 for the Laser Masters Worlds where I was humbled by the high standard of competition but still enjoyed myself. I had got the bug. We traveled to Australia for the Laser Masters Worlds one year and to Spain for Masters Worlds a couple of times too. I started going to Laser clinics in places like Florida and the Dominican Republic. I was one of the globe-trotting old Laser geezers and was starting to make friends with Laser sailors all over the world. I was also driving 3 or 4 hours every Sunday in the winter to sail in the Laser frostbite fleet at Cedar Point YC in Connecticut.

Then I moved to Rhode Island, which is even more like heaven than Rutland.

I didn't realize at first how lucky I was.

From May to October there is usually some Laser regatta every weekend somewhere in New England, often less than an hour's drive from my house. From November to April there is Laser frostbiting every Sunday in Newport, only about 40 minutes drive from my house. And for many months of the year I can go somewhere during the week any day I feel like it and just sail my Laser on the sea by myself.

It's starting to feel like I am back where I started in England. There is more than enough opportunity to sail and race my Laser close to home. It's not like when I was in New Jersey and I had to travel some distance to find any real Laser competition.

As a result I am finding that I am losing my urge to travel very far to Laser regattas. Driving and flying are definitely not my favorite occupations. Why spend a whole day driving to Canada or Virginia (and another whole day driving back) when I could race somewhere much closer to home? Why stay in some crummy motel when I could do a three day regatta down the road and sleep in my own bed every night? And why bother with the expense and hassle to travel to some international regatta on the other side of the world? I am beginning to forget why I ever did.

It feels a little unadventurous.

It feels a little lazy.

But it feels right.

It feels like I've come full circle.

If you are a racing dinghy sailor, did you ever get the travel bug as bad as I did?

If you had the travel bug, did you ever lose it?

Do you like sleeping in your own bed?


Anonymous said...

Somebody started a thread on Sailing Anarchy a few days ago with this rant. Sounds like he feels the same about travel as you do.

I’m sick and tired of the Regatta Rat Race
I’m sick of driving all night on Friday to get to the regatta by midnight.
I’m sick of getting up at 6am on a Saturday to make a 10 am start.
I’m sick of Race Committees who think we all really want to start that sixth race at 4:30.
I’m sick of having to pay for the regatta dinner and then having to wait till 8:00 before we eat. Do they know we only had a power bar for lunch to get us through six races?
I’m sick of going out onto the water when there is zero wind so that we can be ready if the wind picks up. Is this all really so important that we need to be miserable doing it?
I’m sick of race committees that make you stay out even longer on no wind days if someone complains. God forbid people start banging tiller on the deck.
I’m sick of waiting for two hours for results after we are finally ready to hit the road on Sunday. Its only addition guys, we didn’t have any protests in our class.
Then of course it’s back on the road and hopefully hope before midnight.
I’m sick of sailboat racing being harder than going to work. What’s the point?

Mark R said...

Strangly enough I'm off to Rutland SC tomorrow for an open. Expectations of the sailing are now high, given your review!

Anonymous said...

I was put off travelling to regattas years ago for most of the reasons ranted about above and a few more. Like being on the water for 6 hours for less than 3 hours racing, waiting half an hour for the committee to set the perfect course between each race, 8-10 class starts at 3-5 min intervals.

I now travel once a year to a week long regatta and make a holiday of it. There's no nonsense and although the racing is serious it feels like fun with friends. I even did it in an old Mirror last year with my 6 year old boy. (I'm with Tillerman on the enjoyment of sailing with your young family)

I would however, like to get into my local Laser travellers' circuit - I'm tiring of handicap racing. But I do like my own bed.


Tillerman said...

Good luck Mark. Let us know how it goes.

Joe said...

I must be the laziest guy in the world. If I had to travel over an hour to get out onto the water (saltwater) I would shoot myself.

torrid said...

When I first got out of school, I worked several years at a dead-end job that was near the coast. I definitely put sailing ahead of career. About ten years ago, I had exhausted my career options in the area and simply had to move on. I now have a much better job, but in an inland area with poor wind. I often regret my decison to move, but I know I had to do it. I hope I'm still able to sail when I retire and can move back to a decent sailing area.

Tweezerman said...

Ahh! the transition from "Road Warrior" to "Let's enjoy the coffee and read the paper before I decide what's next". Happened to me about fifteen years ago.

Tillerman said...

Thanks Tweezerman. Pleased somebody else understands the "transition."

I still plan ahead for local regattas I want to attend. And I still aim to travel to sail at more low-key vacation-style places such as Minorca Sailing and Bitter End Yacht Club. It's just the long distance travel to Laser regattas that I don't seem to have much appetite for at the moment.

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