November 07, 2016


by Pam
Doug and I split tacks this weekend with me being dropped off in Austin and Doug heading a little further south to compete in Wurstfest, the last regatta of the season. The common highlight of both of our weekends were two 17 year olds.

On my end, my brother's wife lost her battle with cancer a couple of weeks ago, leaving my him a single father of a 17 year old, whose world had suddenly changed. A reality check for me on how fleeting life can be and how important it is to enjoy every moment.
Doug, on the other hand, found himself sideways with a 17 year old, two parents and a coach, which ended a little like how our US presidential debates and campaigning have gone.

Now really, which story do you want to hear about? The correct answer is neither. Surely, we’ve all had enough reality TV type drama with the US presidential election.

However, in hearing about Doug's weekend, compared with my own, my perspective was one of trying to find the good in the situation and I was surprised at how much good there was to be found.

So, yeah, there was a junior in the full rig fleet with a Rule 42 protest against him by the District 15 Secretary and Doug was called in as a witness. The protest committee ruled something along the lines of even though he jibed repeatedly and he did indeed come out of the jibes faster than he went in, he still didn't actually gain through the activity therefore it wasn't a violation. The District Secretary doesn't agree and will be appealing the ruling. Before the protest when Doug went to speak informally to the coach … well … things turned south. The coach, the parents and the junior did not agree with Doug’s interpretation of Rule 42 and vice versa. It will be interesting to see how the appeal turns out. There’s more to the story but you get the picture. Drama!

Here's the deal. That little disagreement was a cluster and there is fault to be found on the part of all parties. Here you have a junior whose parents and coach have done a good job of developing a talented sailor who is now competing at a level where he is a contender on the full rig course. That is to be commended. On the flip side, you have a Laser district with a leader who is looking to develop a competitive district that adheres to certain standards where everyone feels they are competing fairly and respectfully. That too, is to be commended. As the two merge, the junior into the full rig fleet, there are bound to be some bumps. If either handles the bumps too abrasively, they run the risk of discouraging and losing a talented sailor and/or ticking off an entire fleet. Neither has a good outcome that is for the betterment of sailing and competition.

But, you see, this regatta, for that kid, was his graduation. He had arrived. He was accepted as being on the same level as the adults. Getting called out was a compliment that says he's no longer a junior on the course and he no longer gets a free pass on his behavior because he’s a junior. His coach and parents have taken him to this point and now it's time to let go and let that oddly nuanced fleet polishing experience take place. That transition where he learns to play nice with a different peer group and somehow emerges a more humbled, respectful, experienced and confident human being.

Several years ago, Doug and I were sailing in the Sunfish fleet against a very young and talented Stewart Draheim. A name that I'm sure will be around in sailing and well respected for many years to come. Stewart was aggressive, highly talented and kind of an ass to sail against. I intensely disliked sailing anywhere near him. At one regatta, Doug finally had enough and decided to engage him. Doug spoke to Stewart’s mom and she gave him the green light. She knew that Stewart had to earn the respect of his peers and she seemed to recognize that even though he was pretty dang young at the time, he was essentially being invited to graduate from junior status and into a different peer group. The Stu that emerged in the next year was a sailor I respect, admire, trust and enjoy sailing against. He was always a good sailor and a good kid but the contrast from the boy he was then to the man he is now, is night and day. A coach and parents can provide the tools and opportunities but they really can't teach a kid that transition. It seems to happen on the race course and I couldn't even tell you how. It hasn't happened to me. I must not be good enough or tolerant enough to be "polished." I would, however, advise that if a young sailor has reached that level and is being invited to graduate, jump in with both feet and let the fleet do their thing and find the diamond within.

Once upon a time, I blogged about
A Father’s Gift of Sailing. The transition I’ve seen several times still puzzles me as to how it happens but maybe what happened this weekend with Doug is how it begins.
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