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post #2 of Old 12-27-2002
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Current State of Sailboat Racing is Pretty Bad


Yacht racing is one of the most complex of all sports. Newbies want to learn to race, but they are awed by all that you need to know. The start of a sailboat race is tremendously intimidating when you first see all those boats bearing down on each other, all trying to occupy the same space at the same time, and all yelling right-of-way rules at each other. When newbies start at the wrong end of the line, they are just trying to survive, and stay out of everyone else’s way while they learn. And what do they get for their efforts? Guys like you go down to the wrong end of the line and harass them. You said you could take some heat.

If we experienced racers discourage newbies from participating, we can end up racing against each other, with no “fresh meat” to keep the game interesting. Experienced racers should understand that newbies are not likely to win, and that it is unnecessary to use aggressive tactics against them. Until they develop enough skill to become a threat on the race course, we should leave the newbies alone. We should save our more aggressive tactics for the race-toughened skippers who are capable of beating us. When newbies ask questions and seek advice after the race, we shouldn’t be stingy with our knowledge. We should share it generously with them. If a newbie is liable to beat us just because we shared a little information with him, maybe we aren''t as good as we think we are.

Don’t wait for newbies to ask for help. Invite them to crew for you, and when they do, explain everything you do and why you are doing it. I once suggested that a newbie crew for an experienced racer as a learning experience, and he said that he didn’t learn anything, because the racer was so intent on racing that he didn’t take the time to explain anything. When I have a newbie crewing for me, teaching the newbie is the most important concern. Winning the race is secondary. If I win the race, I might collect another, frankly, cheesy trophy at the end of the season. If the newbie learns to enjoy racing, I will have another opponent to share the excitement and camaraderie of racing for years to come.

In short, the size and skill of the local racing fleet depends primarily on the attitudes and generosity of the experienced racers.
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