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The Suggestion Box

Editor Dave Reed looks for suggestion to make the regatta experience better for everyone on and off the water. Editor's Letter from our July/August 2010 issue

June 21, 2010
Sailing World

Dave Reed sailing

Walter Cooper

There’s no denying that sailboat racing has two distinct attractions for you and I: the mental and physical elements of the game on the water, and the camaraderie onshore. In other words, there’s the race, and there’s the party. I’m starting to wonder if we have our priorities confused nowadays.

Most often, the complaints I hear after certain regattas are not about the quality of the races, but rather, about the shoreside extracurriculars: “The party was too expensive,” “The food was terrible,” or “The line to the bar was absurdly long.”

When I hear such things, I can’t help but think that we’ve become spoiled and expect too much of our post-race parties. Why is it that we feel we need big tents, bountiful buffets, one bar for every 10 sailors, live music, and a multimedia bombardment of photos, video highlight feeds, and virtual replays showing how every race played out?

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Videos can be exciting to watch, but I remember one recent regatta where organizers erected a massive screen smack in the middle of the tent and set up neat rows of metal folding chairs, 20 wide and 10 rows deep. One evening, most of the chairs were filled, their occupants staring at the replay of the previous day’s highlights while the voice-over blared over the crowd, making conversation a chore. I remember thinking how sad it was that the “television” had crashed the party, and most everyone was tuned out like a bunch of zombies. I guess some part of me longs for the days where a line of kegs and good old-fashioned conversation were all we needed. Might all the money being spent on these onshore diversions be better spent giving the race committee better tools?

I also think we can make better use of our downtime onshore. Postponements and abandonments are the two biggest time wasters in our sport, and most of us can’t afford to waste it—as we sit around and wait, our to-do lists haunt us: the grass needs cutting, the car needs an oil change, etc. This happened to me recently as I, along with a hundred other sailors, sat under a limp AP flag from 9 o’clock in the morning until 1 o’clock in the afternoon when the regatta was called. It’s a great time to catch up with friends and competitors, maybe talk a little rig tune or technique, but for the most part, it’s idle time. We can all take a page from the junior sailing crowd and make better use of this down time for impromptu rigging and sail-trim clinics, round-tables, or rules discussions. When these have been exhausted, we can then turn to Frisbee golf, bean bag tosses, or as a last resort, a pub crawl.

Another area we need to improve upon is scoring and results delivery. Having taken my share of finishes, I know how challenging it can be to log finish times, decipher the chicken scratch of the recorder, and then get calculated hard copies to a notice board or load them to a website. Such a seemingly simple task is never easy, and given how far we’ve advanced with consumer electronics, I find it hard to believe, here in 2010, we can’t do better than we did in 1999. Today, if feasible, preliminary scores should be computed on the race committee boat and transmitted to the fleet immediately upon completion of the day’s final race. With the proliferation of smart phones and easy web access, we should have results in hand before we hit the dock.

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