Join Date: Jun 2006
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There's one in every PHRF fleet, it's said...
Yes, I would agree that there are manifestly people out there for whom no amount of training or application will yield sailing skill improvements. Club racing is instructive in this regard: there is always one boat in which every tack (gybes being out of the question) is a Chinese fire drill of wrong moves, wrong instruction, bad timing and mild injury to crew or gear.
That said, we all learn at our own rate and there are guys to whom I used to give a wide berth (literally, for fear they would T-bone me through sheer incompetence) that today are merely sub-par sailors, as opposed to actually dangerous.
There is a harder class to discern, however, and that includes the pessimists and the doom-sayers who have the skills (or at least some of them), but who always worry and fret about breaking gear, bad weather, logs in the water, fees at the club, etc. Sailing, even as a farting-around recreation, isn't for the timid or the easily discouraged, and I wonder why these guys bother, as it's always such a trial for them to actually enjoy the process.
So I differentiate between the unteachable who shouldn't sail because they are essentially idiots or "perceptually handicapped", versus those who have the skills, but worry about them to the point that they seem to derive little or no pleasure from owning and sailing a reasonably well-found boat.
I recall last year seeing a good sized race boat (about 30 feet, I guess, maybe an older J-Boat) being handled under sail inside our basin. This is a fairly tight area, with a screen of trees, plenty of moorings, and "laneways" of only about 40 feet. With full sails up in light airs, this beautiful boat was making about 3 knots, with an 11-year-old girl at the helm, and a man that I assume was her father giving the occasional instruction. I watched with fascination as this boat weaved its way through the basin, doing multiple tacks and gybes, and realized that the man was instructing his daughter on how to maneuver in tight quarters under sail alone. At one point, they missed stays and went in irons. The man calmly picked up a boat pole to fend off the sea walls or off other boats, and the girl started jumping on the rail to initiate a roll tack...I couldn't help buy laugh as she couldn't have weighed 45 kilos... Eventually, they got way on and continued to practice for 20 minutes or so...then they sailed out the way they came, to what place I don't know.
My point? They were calm, laughing and clearly ENJOYING themselves while experiencing pure (and rather technical) sailing. They were doing exactly the sort of sailing that every young helmsperson would have mastered as little as 40 years ago, which is about the point when a 30 footer would be "expected" to have some sort of an engine. But it made me realize that the sailing part of "sailing" can be a lot of fun, and that if I chose, I could show this to my son as well.
Those mopey, killjoy sailors I mentioned? I saw one on his boat, watching the same thing as I was, and I heard him mutter "if they aren't careful, they'll hit something..."
Better under sail than power, I say, realizing that he'd completely missed the point.