'I shake my head at the endless debate...'

A competitor looks for the true measure of the effort required to race.

As someone who competes regularly against John Burnham in the Newport, R.I., one-design Shields class, I read his editorial with some amusement. From personal experience I know John's boat is always meticulously prepared, extremely well sailed, and except for some painfully ugly crew shirts a great pleasure to sail against. Does John have to do all the things it takes to finish consistently well in a one design fleet? Of course not. John is skilled and competitive by nature and is willing to do the steps necessary to compete successfully. I'm sure he, along with many of us in the fleet, will derive a great sense of satisfaction from knowing his boat is prepared as well as it can be, and there's great value in that. It's axiomatic that when the drudgery of preparation overcomes the satisfaction of doing well, he'll stop doing it; one man's drudgery is another man's attention to detail. However, others might be content to thrash around the course and enjoy the racing even if they never finish better than 30th. They'll enjoy racing against the boats around them, the camaraderie of their crew, the sunshine and maybe even a beer or two. Is their experience any less valid? Over the last 10 years we've grown our local Shields fleet from around 12 boats to over 55 boats. Our main emphasis has always been on enjoying the experience and the people we sail with and against, not the competition or the boat. For this kind of growth we must be doing something right.Consequently, I shake my head over the endless debate over which aspect of sailing is better, one-design or handicap. Clearly sailing encompasses far more than just one design racing, it's far more than just handicap racing regardless or whether it's PHRF or IRC. It's more than maxi boat racing, solo long distance racing or cruising rallies. I've raced big boats and one design, cruised on sailboats all over the world and made long trans-oceanic passages. I've taken something valuable from each experience. One-design racing fits in perfectly with my life right now, balancing demands from work, my family and other pursuits, but it hasn't always. I'm very fortunate that my Shields allows me to successfully compete in a large, highly competitive fleet and yet next day revel in a magnificent sunset sail with my wife and kids. John's editorial couldn't be more cogent--surely the glory of our sport is there's enough intrinsic variety in sailing to satisfy each corner of our soul and to seek out those of a kindred spirit, without denigrating the value of others. Whether it's cruising to Bermuda, banging around a PHRF course with a beer in hand or sanding the bottom to a 1200 finish, the true measure of the effort is if you are enriched by the experience and that value is measured in many different ways for each of us. That difference is a wonderful thing. After all, if the "fun quotient" isn't there we might as well go play golf.Thanks,Bryce MuirNewport, R.I.Shields Fleet 9