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Old 11-21-2001
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Why We Give Thanks


Idyllic anchorages and pristine waters, as increasingly rare as they may be, deserve the appreciation of sailors around the world.
Today is Thanksgiving Day in the US—our annual day for the nation's people to acknowledge their many blessings. It is our collective misfortune that the essence of this holiday has gotten partially obscured by commercial emphasis, imaginative history, and the general malaise of travel woes that frequently accompany national holidays. To attempt to counter that trend, we present the following concrete reasons why in this little corner of the sailing world we are particularly thankful for 2001. Though this year has certainly been an anomaly and many might argue that there may be little to be thankful for, consider the following items. They work for us, hopefully they’ll work for you.

Infrequent Hurricanes    Though we run the risk of tempting fate by making this statement before hurricane season is officially over (November 30), to date the US coastline has been spared the brunt of hurricane damage for 2001. Other countries in the western hemisphere (Mexico and Cuba in particular) haven’t been so fortunate, so we’ll just say thanks, cross our fingers, and leave it at that.

Inspirational Sailors    We’re grateful to live in a time when sailors like Steve Fossett, Grant Dalton, and Ellen MacArthur dedicate so much energy and resources to their respective pursuits in the sport, letting the rest of us live vicariously their record-setting adventures at sea. We’re also thankful for the success each has had in garnering sponsorship for their endeavors. In this same group we’d also include Mike Horn who single-handedly traveled around the globe on the equator, via trimaran, kayak, and foot, and Vinnie Lauwers, the first paraplegic to sail single-handed around the world. And, though we often poke fun at his choice of routing ‘round-the-world races against the prevailing winds and currents, we’re grateful to Sir Chay Blyth for having introduced so many newcomers to the sport of offshore sailing through his global challenge events. We’re also grateful for those sailors that are no longer with us, but who lived their lives in a way that offered inspiration for generations of sailors. This group is represented by folks like multihuller Phil Weld, one-design maven Peter Barrett, and ocean adventurer Eric Tabarly.


When hull form, sail design, weight ratios, and equipment are properly blended, performance-minded sailors get a chance to attain bliss and certainly that's worthy of our gratitude.

High-Performance Boats  
 Light and lively boats that reward the right touch on the helm and the right tension on the sheets provide an unequalled satisfaction for performance-oriented sailors. If you’ve ever had the experience of sailing aboard a moderate displacement racer-cruiser and a boat like the Melges 24 on the same day, you’ll know what we mean. We’re grateful to the designers and builders of boats like the Melges 24, the UFO 22, the Ultimate 20, the Hobie 20, Thompson 590, and the Farr 40. And we wouldn’t want to overlook the whole sub-species of planing dinghies and smaller multihulls like the 49er, 505, Tornado, Inter 20, and Taipan. These are just a representative few of the many top performers that continue to effect a smile on the faces of those fortunate enough to sample their prowess.

US Coast Guard    If you’ve never needed the services of this organization, consider yourself lucky. On second thought, consider yourself lucky that we’ve even got such a service to rely upon. These folks stand by on duty, ready to rush to the assistance of the rest of us who often don’t remember that in the process, they’re risking their lives to do so. Though the record of the USCG isn’t spotless, we’re pretty sure there are very few sailors who aren't thankful that the Coasties are out there standing by.

Racecourse Volunteers    Few of us could enjoy the competition we do on the water if it weren’t for the legions of volunteers who sit on the race committees and juries, or otherwise dedicate their time working within race administration. These people are part of the backbone of the sport of sailboat racing and they too often go unmentioned. We especially appreciate race organizers who understand what’s most important to the competitors—equal emphasis on the quality and quantity of races. At the BVI Spring Regatta this year, the organizers put 13 classes of boats through a cumulative 98 races in three days. To them and their behind-the-scenes colleagues everywhere we offer a hearty thanks, with the acknowledgement that when the hour comes, we too will serve our time as volunteers so that others can enjoy the fun of racing.


On almost any day, the majestic sight of a traditional ship under full sail, like the one above, can nearly take your breath away.  We all owe a debt of gratitude to the folks that keep these vessels afloat.
Traditional Vessels    
We’re grateful for the many people who find the energy to pursue the building, resurrection, or management of these stately vessels. Replicas like the Amistad, the Pride of Baltimore, Shennandoah, and the Spirit of Massachusetts, and original vessels like the California and the Harvey Gamage, all enhance our enjoyment of the sport by simply carrying on the traditions that formerly dwelled at the heart of sailing in its golden era.

Sailing Innovators    Who will resolve the problems that sailors face if not sailors themselves? That’s why we’re especially appreciative of sailors like the Harken brothers Olaf and Peter who bring their special talents to bear on the equipment needs of sailors or Olin Stephens whose designs over the years have uped the ante for performance. We also tip our hats to sailors no longer with us who have made a difference in this department—Lars Bergstrom for the B&R rig and the wind fly, Colonel Blondie Hasler for the servo-pendulum system on windvane self-steering.

Onboard Essentials    We’re also thankful for some particularly useful items. Seamanship expert John Rousmaniere prompted us to mention the following equipment, gear that any serious boat owner should consider essential: a Lifesling, SOLAS flares, pile and polypropylene clothing for the crew, and a Leatherman multi-tool. Rousmaniere doesn’t limit himself to that list, but he felt that these items are among the many we have to be particularly thankful for. He also urged us to include Bruce Kirby’s pivotal design, the Laser.

Graceful Lines    We’re grateful for the enduring beauty of boats like the J/Class sloops Endeavour, Shamrock, and Velsheda, as well as other classic craft like William Fife’s Sumurun and L. Francis Herreshoff’s Ticonderoga to name just a few. The almost sensual turn of their lines, the polish of their brass and brightwork collectively achieves an allure that’s unequalled on land or water. Our gratitude also extends to those who have created more contemporary executions that seem almost equally mesmerizing like the 90-foot Stealth and the 77-foot Barong.


Whether you're alone or with shipmates, witnessing a sunset at sea remains one of the most poignant moments a mariner can experience. Thanks Mother Nature.
Sunsets at Sea    Whether or not you catch the green flash or witness a breath-taking tangerine spectacle, these dusky moments are truly gifts from another realm, and they are nowhere more poignant than when seen from the deck of a boat at sea. We’re thankful for the opportunity to enjoy them, whether it’s savoring them on watch by ourselves or witnessing them in the company of shipmates.

SailNet Contributors    On a more personal note, we’re grateful for the many writers we have who so ably share with us and our website viewers their expertise drawn from ample experience on the water. Writers like Sue & Larry, Don Casey, John Rousmaniere, Liza Copeland, Paul and Sheryl Shard, and John Kretschmer who offer us the benefit of their counsel. And others like Dobbs Davis, Dan Neri, Brian Hancock, and Betsy Alison who distill their experience on the racecourse into some of the most informative editorial available in any medium for performance-minded sailors. Here’s hoping you enjoy their work as well.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Suggested Reading:

The Triumph of Good by Tania Aebi

The Making of a True Master Mariner by Dan Dickison

Gale's Excellent Adventure by SailNet


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