I had a long break from sailboat racing, from the early days of my pregnancy until my daughter was almost a year and a half. Partially it was because becoming a parent turned out to be an all-consuming task not leaving time for much else, especially in that first year (babies generally like having their mothers close by at all times and I was happy enough to oblige), but there was also a bit of fatigue involved.
My boat ownership was a mixed bag of exhilaration at its best and frustration and hopelessness at its worst. The older boat required a lot of patient investment of time and money culminating in a replacement of the keel and while I got some help from friends I was never competent enough to do any repairs myself and wasn’t cashed up enough to delegate them to someone else entirely. What was even more painful, even with experienced crew I never got to the point when I felt confident enough as a skipper of a sports boat – every time a race came around I would be obsessively checking the forecast worrying that I would lose control of the boat and smash into someone else or that something would break and hurt people in the process (de-masting is not all that rare even inshore). I had an experienced crew, by far more experienced than me, and sometimes it felt like I was an impostor on my own boat. I suspect that if I had enough time and persistence to stick with it and maybe forget about being competitive for a bit and concentrate on the basics instead of overthinking everything, I’d eventually get to the point when sailing my own boat would entail more fun than fear. As it happened, the boat sat on a trailer for a bit until I finally got the keel replaced, got back on the water… and then I got pregnant and sold it. My consolation is that the new owner is taking better care of the boat than I could and yet regret lingers.
My experience racing on other people’s boats somewhat changed, too. I lost my desire to prove myself to everyone and started concentrating on the actual sailing with people who already knew me. I can’t say I’m the best trimmer out there but I can do a decent enough job and did so on a few boats. I didn’t entirely lose my competitive streak and sometimes I did wonder if I could sail on a bigger boat – yet the effort required to strategically socialise with people to claw my way in and then try to prove my worth was too big in my head to even try.
My break from racing changed it even further. I got back on a boat that I sailed on for a while previously and I love the owner and his partner as well as the crew, old and new. It might not be the most competitive boat but it’s also entirely free from politics. There’s no “easing” off the boat, no power struggles, no blaming or shaming, no desperate drive to win at all cost and do everything within your power or else feel like a failure – it’s just fun. Easy-going banter, trying out ALL the sails, laughter and booze. We will get more competitive soon I’m sure but for now I am just enjoying the feeling of sea breeze on my face, the camaraderie and being back on the water – that’s what it’s all about, after all.