First Kiss Vs. First Physics Class
August 30, 2016 by John A
It's always interesting to hear of the mystique sailing presents to the uninitiated. Many sailors describe their attraction to sailing as an emotional feeling but those who try to explain sailing share it as a science with arrows, vectors, apparent wind and all sorts of seeming mystical, unknowable wizardry often reminding people of high school physics rather than the feeling they had on their first high school kiss.
Perhaps that's what's wrong with sailing's endless hope that improved TV coverage of the America's Cup and the Olympics will create a sudden surge in participation. While the graphical drama can be pretty fascinating to sailors it may all just remind non-sailors of watching the physics professor trying to explain relativity at the chalk board with a test looming ahead.
Like a first date, the vast majority of sailors fall in love with sailing long before the intrigue in the more subtle nuances of the relationship are well understood. The following story was posted on Medium by Steven Blum describing both the beauty and befuddlement of a non-sailor captivated by the odd dance of all those white triangles getting blown around on the water. Perhaps TV isn't the 'medium' to inspire sailing - or how does the sailing world share the feeling of sailing before the physics of sailing?
From Steven Blum:
If the intensity of the Olympics stresses you out, sailing is an oasis of zen
The Olympics are consistently stressful if, like me, you have a deep-seated fear of airhorns. But this year, between the poop, the mosquitos and the airhorns, the Games have increased my craving for Ativan by 300 percent (is there a medal for resisting?).
Trying to find a respite is challenging. Table tennis? Surprisingly nerve-racking. Badminton? Ditto. Curling? Wrong season, unfortunately. If you can’t tune out entirely and you need a change of pace, I cannot recommend sailing highly enough. It’s such a strange and confusing sport that you’d probably be able to discern more meaning from the movements of goldfish. But its inscrutability has a pleasing side effect: It allows you to turn off your brain almost instantaneously.
To the layman, competitive sailing seems to involve reclining while playing a game of tug-of-war with the wind. Sometimes, the wind plays hard to get, which is why so many sailing competitions have been canceled in Rio since the games began (a New York Times article describes Guanabara Bay as a “natural amphitheater,” surrounded by Sugarloaf Mountain and other granite formations, which certainly doesn’t help). Other times, the wind is too strong. All of that means that successful sailing is elusive, like achieving zen.