Swimming . . .
When I learned to swim it was for the joy of being in the water on my own – without water wings and without a hovering parent: self-sufficient.
First I had to be tall enough to use the pool and we had the goal painted as a line on the kitchen wall. An inch to go! How long does it take to grow an inch? FOREVER.
My best friend grew faster and could already swim when I entered the Y pool for the first time. Finally there, I caught up fast.
. . . and then . . .
Being a good swimmer leads to many adventures and a great sense of both independence and being in control of your environment. It also allows for expanding you world from the pool to the great expanses of lakes and oceans! Boats. Canoes, Sail boats – racing.
In the 1950s sail boat racing meant a wonderful camaraderie with a fairly small sailing community. Friendly competition while learning all the nuances of the “rules of the road”. There was a splendid sense of superiority over those annoying stink boats who had to make way for the vessel under sail.
Sailing on a starboard tack to overtake another boat or cheating to windward to steal their air, judging wind speed, being in control of all the elements: wind and water – a great feeling and a great sport!
. . . competition begins . . .
Small sail boats – dinghies – began making radical changes along with most everything else in the 1960s. Popularity and technology combined with synthetic fibers for sails, complex composite systems and molded hulls, lower prices and the ease of maintaining these new hulls began to change and challenge small boat racing. Without a heavy centerboard, new hulls were designed to generate planning and a small sailboat, outfitted with a beautiful spinnaker, could literally fly over the water!
But when competition gets really serious everything changes: seconds are critical, judgement of the wind and water is critical, sailing close-hauled into the wind can end a race quickly with a sudden gust! The newest boat design with a skilled captain and crew has a distinct advantage. New technology enters the equation, it’s no longer a question of growing an inch or judging the wind with the help of a tell-tale string tied to the halyard.
As computers design boats and equip them with the latest gauges – even satellite images of weather patterns – everything changes. It’s all expensive, but is it still fun to sail? Or has it become a matter of the latest equipment or the latest boat design?
. . . and ends . . . the joy can continue
For years I didn’t sail very much as I found the intense competition in racing and technology just wasn’t fun. But I recently returned to the water in a small, wooden, 16-footer with nothing more than two sails and a helm to steer by – I judged the wind and waves by eye and a string on the shroud – and had a joyful time.