Most of us race for fun, but the activity is competitive. This is a fundamental paradox of sport, and it’s especially strong in sailing. With so many aspects of the race beyond our control, we set ourselves up for disappointment when we define our success by our finish. So, for my own program on Dark Star, I try to emphasize the process rather than the result. It allows us much more control over a positive outcome, and I’ve come to realize that the largest determinant of how we enjoy our day on the water is choice of shipmates.
How do you go about building a happy crew? I don’t pretend to be uniquely qualified in this area, but I have learned a few guidelines over the years:
Choose personality over skills. You can always teach a person to be a better sailor, but it is very hard to change personality.
Sail with family. I grew up sailing with my parents; I’ve raced with my brother for 40 years, and with my wife for 25. The bonds you create by sailing with family member are strong and overwhelmingly positive (at least for me). As my kids are getting older, they’re starting to race with us, too, which is very cool for a parent.
Rekindle old friendships. Inviting someone to sail with you for a day is a great way to reconnect or broaden a relationship, since racing allows an ideal level of meaningful interaction.
Make new friends. If someone expresses interest in your boat, invite them aboard. If one of your regular crew has a friend, have them along. If you have a co-worker that you enjoy, get them on your boat. What a great gift you are offering, and some of these people will end up as regular crew or lifelong friends.
Keep perspective. Measure success by how many laughs and great conversations you had!