The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

Retire early, be passionate, don't worry, die poor

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Purpose of Sailing

Without purpose there's no motivation, and without motivation there's not much worth doing.

A friendly club regatta is a good way for lazy sailors to hone their sailing skills. I'm a "lazy sailor" (somebody who doesn't bother to tweak sails), but I also detest motoring. I'm happy to be going somewhere in no hurry, preferably under sail. Going half a knot faster does not make me any happier.

Corbin 39
The club asked us to motor by this spot for a photograph session. We were a crew of seven, but only two of us knew that lines are placed on winches in a clockwise direction.
But in a regatta, this lazy sailor is like a hound focused on squeezing an extra tenth of a knot out of his cruising boat's sails. Although it may seem a bit silly to get excited about racing in a group of starkly contrasting vessels, the excitement is nonetheless very real. The exhilaration is not so much about winning but, rather, about learning to sail as fast as you can - even if pathetically slow - by tweaking the sails.

So, it seems that sailing with a purpose is more fun and rewarding than, let's say, taking the boat out for a spin. At the moment I can think of only four purposes of sailing, listed by order of decreasing fulfillment/excitement:

  1. Cruising 
  2. Sailing to a nearby destination and back
  3. Racing 
  4. Taking the boat out for a relaxing sail

I rated "relaxing sail" last because it's obvious - or it should be to anyone who has owned a sailboat for a while - that sailing is not so much about relaxation as it is about action...and work. Not only that, sailing 5 miles to nowhere and back becomes somewhat tedious after a few outings. Visit just about any marina and see how many sailboats have gone out for a sail on a sunny summer weekend.

You need a purpose. Has anybody ever sailed non-stop half-way across an ocean to the middle of nowhere and then returned home just for the fun of it? Without purpose there's no motivation, and without motivation there's not much worth doing.

Have I digressed? As I was saying, regattas are a good way to improve my sailing skills. And what's really good about it is that next time I sail to a destination, I'll naturally set the sails better and then forget about them out of laziness.

Upwind sailing
Doing about 4 knots on a close reach in light winds. Not bad for a boat that hasn't had its bottom cleaned in over three years.
We started in last place - as usual and at least by 10 boat lengths - maybe because I have 3 sails to handle. On the other hand, that extra sail may also have helped me finish in third place. Although there were only six boats competing this year, we fulfilled the purpose of not coming last. That honor went to a motorsailer shaped like a pumpkin whose skipper was smiling like mad because he finally had an excuse to hoist his sails and shut off the engine.

Me and my first mate at the dinner party receiving the trophy (which, being made of glass, is not visible and which, in a way is a metaphor for its importance in the whole scheme of things).


  1. Congrats!
    Nice run down on why we sail..... or why I don't!
    We've had a few regattas lately. I was always informed arriving after a 6 day work week, manipulated soul and body (eg... spent) and my reaction was always "you've got to be shitting me!"
    I rest my case..... while resting, thank you very much!

    1. Thanks Captain Pete,
      You have a really nice sailboat, but it's not exactly a racing machine (thank God). But then neither is mine, and a regatta now and again can be fun even if you finish last. Some skippers take the "winning part" more seriously than others, but in the end nobody cares anymore and there's always a good party to celebrate.