Smack Ė As you probably figured out by now, broken boats sail real slow and they are expensive to repair. And money spent on repairs is not being spent on improvements and new gear. A couple hundred dollars of repairs after each race is the price of a new spinnaker for me at the end of the season. Besides, my wife says Iím just one big disaster away from retiring from racing so I gotta play it cool. And, when are you coming out to the Bay Area? I want to show you what sailing in real salt water and in real wind is all about.
Trust me, I'm not an advocate of or groupie on the whole breakin' stuff thing. I can definitely see how expensive it gets. I just love the fact that guys are willing to get out in the snot and sail.
But this brings up an interesting point. As much as I like watching the big, ocean races, I'm personally not all that interested in racing myself (at least at this point). After hanging around SA for a long time and hearing the die-hards lament the fact that their sport is dying a slow, painful death...and after thinking about why that is...I think it just comes down to the equation of money vs. excitement. Sailing itself is freakin' expensive. And seriously racing a sailboat is exponentially expensive from what I've seen. You start to factor in the expensive-light-gear/heavy-air-sea equations and you've got a recipe for draining your bank account very quickly. Is it worth it?
Let's take a look at the ROI on that investment in terms of excitement - both for the general public and the sailing world. Unless we're talking about the Vendee or the VOR - the other 99% of the racing done out there is really pretty boring to the outsider. This and the expense of it is why the sport won't grow I think. It's just not that cool to a public who'd much rather watch the X-Games that involve crazy excitement on junk they can afford (motorcycles, skateboards, bmx bikes, etc.). Relative to that world - a yacht race is like watching a chess game. Boring as hell. And most could never afford to play anyway. So public excitement (which can obviously offset costs through marketing) is pretty much a lost cause unless Chall and I can figure out a way to direct coverage of the Vendee in a way that's much more exciting than it currently is (have your people call my people).
But let's keep the argument within the sailing world and look at the return on the expense of even semi-serious racing. Sure, racing is great excitement for the skippers, the crews, and the club that loses money putting it on - but what's the real payoff even within the realm of sailing? Most of the sailing world doesn't even seem to care about racing all that much. So the wider prestige of it can't be the motivator, right?
My hunch is that most will say it's just the excitement of doing it. Fair enough. And I absolutely have to give the racers credit in that they don't seem to bat an eye at having a full main and spin flying in 30+ knots. Them's stones - I don't care who you are. But then it's back to ROI. Is racing worth the money you have to continually sink into it?
Because of this thread, I have this feeling that there is a significant middle ground between cruising and racing that appeals to a lot of people. Something far more exciting than your typical no-heel conservatives buffing their biminis, but far less insane than balls-out racers going through 6 $3000 spinnakers in a season. And I'm wondering what exactly that world looks like.
I'd be very interested in having sailors around here weigh in on this.
George - I'll get out there soon (hopefully in the next 2-3 months). I promise. I have got A LOT to learn about this sport, dude. Please keep the invite open.