The vast majority of racing sailors are male, and every regatta I’ve sailed in over the past 30 years has been populated by dudes. In most cases, while we’re out playing on the racecourse, especially at out-of-town championships, it’s our spouses, partners, girlfriends, and what have you that keep the home fires burning, shuffle kids to afterschool sports, and singlehandedly manage the inevitable crisis. I hate to think what would happen if they ever unionized and went on strike.
What can we do to prevent this from happening? I propose we do whatever we can to have our significant others with us more often at our regattas. I realize many of you are already smart to this and have taken it a step further by sailing with your spouses or families. I also realize this call to action is easier said than done because everyone has jobs, childcare, and most importantly, household finances to consider, so it may not be realistic for some. It’s not always possible either because of crew housing, team logistics, or the regatta venue itself.
My wife had never joined me at an extensive away regatta. “I’ll be on the water all day, so you’ll never see me anyway, so why bother?” I used to reason with her whenever she’d suggest she come along. When I began hatching plans to sail in the RS Eurocup on Lake Garda, Italy (p. 36), however, I knew there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell I’d be going this one alone.
In my planning stages, I recalled two happy couples I’d met while sailing Melges 20s at Charleston Race Week a few years ago: the Hollerbachs and the Kisses. I don’t know them well, but I suspect Michael Kiss and Marc Hollerbach are two very smart guys because whenever they go racing in nice places, their wives are there, too, having a great time onshore while the boys are out drifting around under postponement. They were more than happy to manage the all-important social side of the sailing programs. They know how to have a good time, and they make sure everyone else does, too. Sure, their kids are older now, and they may have the financial wherewithal to travel and play in exotic locales, but it was obvious from their extensive circle of intimate friends that they’re as much about good living as they are about good sailing, and their marriages are stronger because they do it together.
The Hollerbachs had been to Lake Garda, and it was Marc who told me I must get there someday, and, if I ever did, I’d have to bring my wife. He was absolutely right. The exhaustive family planning on the front-end—saving our pennies, and cashing in every card we had with grandparents—resulted in the regatta of a lifetime. I’m sure I would have had fun hanging with the other RS100 guys after sailing, but having my wife in the mix made it more fun for all.
The beauty of Riva del Garda as a regatta destination is that it’s also a pefect venue to share with a spouse. The late-morning starts gave us time in the morning for a peaceful, kid-free breakfast, and while I went racing, she happily hiked, shopped, swam, read a book, explored the lake by ferry, lunched with other spouses, and most importantly, relaxed. What was best of all, though, was having her waiting at the sailing club at the end of a long day, smile on her face and a rum and pineapple for me in hand, posing that simple question: “How’d you do?” It’s a question far better answered in person than over the phone, several thousand miles away.