I have been sailing my whole life. Growing up in Nova Scotia, my parents had a small yacht that we would muck about on in the warmer summer months (which don’t last for long in Canada).
When I reached my early teens, I started taking sailing lessons, progressing from beginner up to racing levels when I would travel around Atlantic Canada to compete in Laser regattas.
I did some long cruises in my mid-twenties, but it wasn’t until I moved to Sydney, Australia, that I really started racing yachts.
My first yacht race on Sydney harbour was in a Mumm 30. I felt pretty confident heading out – after all, I had a fair few sea miles under my belt and had raced lasers for a number of years, but I quickly figured out I had a lot to learn when it came to racing a yacht with a team of sailors!
Throughout all of my sailing, there are several aspects that remain consistent, and that I truly love about this sport.
1. The Great Outdoors
If you’re sailing, you’re outside enjoying the elements… or at least experiencing them.
No matter what weather comes your way – from feeling the sun on your back, wind in your hair or rain seeping down your neck – you’re sure to feel alive and stay on your toes with the changing conditions.
Some of the most amazing places and sights I have seen have also been from the rail of a yacht. I will always remember the first time I saw the majestic organ pipes of Tasmania while delivering a yacht back from Hobart, or a moonlit night spent in the middle of the Tasman Sea with the ocean full of playful dolphins and sparkling phosphorescence.
2. Always learning Something New
There are many different types of sailing and different types boats, and each comes with its own nuances that need to be learnt along the way.
Even if you sail on the same type of boat and do the same type of race week after week, there are always things to learn. Tweaks to sail trim and boat settings, or processes in crew work, that will give you that little bit of extra speed you need to beat your arch rival around the course.
When new crew join the team, or you try sailing on different boats, you can learn different techniques from your new teammates or by how these boats are run.
3. Great camaraderie
Like most sports, sailing is (often) a team activity that requires crew to work together to reach the desired outcome.
Good camaraderie amongst crew members doesn’t just make an enjoyable experience, it leads to better race results from a crew that works well together. Achieving something as a team and celebrating together is a fantastic experience, and can really bring teammates together.
This camaraderie extends beyond the bounds of your boat. The sailing community as a whole is generally friendly and welcoming, and there’s always an eager ear ready to hear your tales of terror and triumph over a beer at the end of a long race.
4. It’s physical, but doesn’t have to be
I love regatta sailing; the fast and physical nature of the racing, and the fact that you can go home to a warm bed at the end of the day!
Offshore racing is often slower paced but can require immense stamina and a strong state of mind to keep going over several days.
Dinghy racing, such as from my laser days, requires a high level of fitness to control your boat and compete in multiple races per day.
But as physical as sailing can be, it can also not be. If sitting back for a quiet twilight sail on a sunny evening is more your style, that is on offer, too.
5. Forget meditation, just go for a sail
Had a hard week at the office? Go for a sail!
Getting out on the water is one of the best ways to let life’s other worries melt away as you focus on the tasks at hand and soak up the ambience of the fresh salty air.
Living in Sydney, I’m blessed with the opportunity to find a twilight sail on every night of the week in the summer. No matter how hard my day has been in the office, as soon as we’ve tossed the lines and put up the sails my focus goes straight to sailing the yacht, and the rest of life’s worries slip away.
Every sailor has their own reasons for participating in – and loving – this sport. Do these resonate with you? If not, what are yours?