To Save Sailing…..Or Not

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The ocean today is not quite so boisterous as yesterday and a 10 knot breeze curves around the sails. The screecher luffs and fills, booms against the sheet, halyard and tack; lifts my F27 trimaran to Marina Del Rey in glorious sunshine. We weave our way thru the Sunday afternoon traffic and down the crowded fairway. Hundreds of watercraft are out on a perfect day. We tie up at the transient dock just ahead of the terrific F32SR “Jailbreak”. Maravilla Summer Splash is over.

18 multihulls gathered this year for Mike Leneman’s (MultiMarine) annual Summer Splash sail-a-bration. More a rendezvous than a flat out, balls to the wall race, the Splash is a laid back SoCal get together. The fleet departs the sea bouy off Marina Del Rey to convene some hours later in Cat Harbor on Catalina Island. The return trip follows a lazy day spent socializing and playing on the island. This year, Maravilla sailed with 4 adults and two tots (aged 4 and 3). We were dead last, but saw dolphins and seals and cruised close under the magnificent back side cliffs to give the kiddos the ride of their young lives.


Each year, Mike leads a group discussion on a topic germane to the SoCal multihull community. This year, he posed the following….”What can we do to get sailors to use their boats more often?”

After an interesting and sometimes passionate discussion, a rather tired and predictable conclusion. “Sailing competes with other easier entertainment. People are lazy and don’t want to make the effort to get out and race. Therefore, we need to make racing easier, faster, more engaging. We need more bouy races, shorter courses, more excitement, faster pace.”

With all due respect…..Bullshit!

Hundreds of boats were on the water on our return to the marina. This discussion was not so much how to get more sailors sailing, it was how to get more racers racing. But sailing is far more than races….it is exploration and adventure, it is the best means to experience and immerse ourselves in Planet Ocean, it comes close to being religion.

Agreed, racing makes you a better sailor.  Racing sharpens your skills and focus. Racing teaches you about course, trim, tactics, angles and shifts. But when racing becomes a shouting, pouting, arms race most kind and gentle souls are put off and drift away. To encourage and inspire sailors to use their boats, we need a new paradigm that includes racing, but goes beyond it.

It is the hyper competition of racing that is driving sailors from sailing. We don’t need faster, shorter, more exciting bouy races with their yelling, fist shaking, chest thumping. We need more discovery, adventure, wonder. Moitessier had it right when he abandoned the first round the world race “to save my soul”.

A few days after the Splash, we ran across a bicycle event along US hi way south of Big Sur. Thousands of cyclists spun their way over 100 miles of hot California roadway. It was not a race, it was not a competition, it was an event and a celebration….a social gathering of the cycling tribe. Sailing needs more events like that….more events like the Splash.


But in the final analysis,  sailing needs nothing from us. Sailing is and always will be. I sail to experience the untamed ocean. Sailing gives me the opportunity to apprehend the power, mystery and immensity of the ocean. To feel what is….to experience true reality.

Sailing doesn’t need saving…..we do.

Elsie Piddock




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