Doug won’t write this post but we’ve talked about it often over the years and it’s a topic that I find interesting. Then we saw an example play out this past week where some zigged and others zagged. I believe it is what separates those at the front from the rest of the fleet.
Have you ever observed the mark roundings on a keelboat course on a windy day with traffic converging as the crews set and douse spinnakers? Ever noticed how the front of the fleet rounds in almost complete silence with flawless crew work, the skippers communicate with each other with simple glances or nods. The loudest thing you hear is the spinnaker pop as it fills and the sound of waves as they disappear downwind. It’s a thing of beauty to watch. Then the middle of the fleet starts rounding and you start to hear the skippers shouting ‘starboard’ and ‘room’ as they get close to the mark, which is followed by calling out instructions to their crew. Then, it gets even louder as the back of the fleet arrive, skippers shouting at each other and at their crews and the crews shouting amongst themselves, feet pounding on the deck and poles being slammed around and dropped as things go horribly wrong. It’s hilarious to watch and such an incredible contrast from the front to the back.
We are all subject to the same Rules of Racing but we don’t all play the game the same way. The back of the fleet tends to be very rigid, tacking on each other, enforcing their starboard rights, often without any good reason other than to just keep someone behind them. Their strategy is often just to beat so and so. They protest each other and argue about the rules. I don’t find it fun. It gets a little better in the middle but oh how I would love it if we could all sail like I hear they do in the front.
There are unwritten rules at the front … get clear of the fleet, separate, and then we’ll play. They work together, they don’t tack on each other out of the starting gate, they let each other sail their own race, and sometimes even let each other “play through” so to speak so that they can separate from the pack and go play and learn from each other and they all just keep getting better and better. There is a fluidity, a give and take and they save their battles for the end when they know how many points separate them and then everything they do is for a strategic purpose that yields x number of points. They don’t protest each other over technicalities and things that clearly do not yield an advantage (it's not honorable). When they do see clear infractions without circles, they note it for sure and it factors into their respect for the sailor but they usually let it slide and balance it against everything else ... he’s sailing better than me and is going to beat me anyway … or he’s sailing worse than me and I’m going to beat him anyway … or sure he may have just grabbed a point but I lost 5 with stupid mistakes so I’m not going to make a big deal of it, etc. They embrace the essence of the rules … safe, fair and fun competition … more than they do the specific rules. Sure, there are times when a protest is necessary but it is usually based on things that do matter or happen to be a zero tolerance issue of a particular sailor (like Rule 42).
So, when Doug was faced with someone accusing him of breaking a rule, he was thinking like those at the front of the fleet. When he consulted with a class representative who is also a front of the fleet sailor, and offered to toss the races, the representative was also thinking like those at the front. In the grand scheme of things, it was irrelevant because there was no harm, no foul. When that resulted in others being all up in arms and insisting that it darn well does matter, it still didn’t matter to Doug and he was still willing to withdraw and not waste his time on the matter. However, not being a front of the fleet sailor, I wanted to get down in the mud and "wrestle with the pigs" and don’t want him to concede the point unless it’s proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.
In the meantime, Doug has moved on but asked me to go ahead and remove his World’s journals from the blog. In being transparent, there was an implied agreement of trust between he and the readers and that trust has been violated. It’s unfortunate. Prior to having a blog, during the Worlds he simply sent out a daily email to friends who were interested, supportive and offered suggestions. He’ll probably go back to that format.
Yes, we are all supposed to follow the same rules and play the same game. But there are two different ways of playing the game and following the rules. Do I want to encourage new sailors to be rigid, inflexible and judgmental of their fellow sailors or do I want to encourage them rise above it all, embrace the essence of the rules with a slightly different concept of honorable sailing? I play one game and Doug plays another. His game and the people he plays with seem to have a hell of a lot more fun.
The World's journals have been removed. That's the game Doug plays … he moves forward while others sail themselves to the back of the fleet. The posts and comments with all the drama have not been removed. I think it's educational and shows the game that most of us play. Which one is more appealing to you?