After Seven and half summers spending every Wednesday evening on a 26 foot racing sailboat, it is time to dissect what keeps those loyal salts coming back year after year. Hint: it can not be victory.
Wrapping the 2019 Wednesday keelboat beer can series, it was noticeable that the regulars are not there just at a chance of winning; Team Anonymous would have given up a long time ago. While the success beam has been shinning on us these past few years, it was not always the case. I digress! There are several encouraging things that have happened over the past few seasons that deserve honorable mention.
First, hot dogs were introduced as a post race delight by the local Thistle Fleet a few years back. After the first season of which it became expected and some folks are tasked with making sure there is a steady stock of dogs, buns, and condiments. Food is always a game changer for any social event, introduce a bunch of overheated, dehydrated, and slightly inebriated sailors to a hot dog following a mid summer night drifter and you have created a monster. For some reason a simple hot dog ups the competition.
The social gatherings at a yacht club can be interesting. One definitely cant argue with the food! How do you really get to know someone at a social every so often though? To get to know someone, you have to see them at their best……….and at their worst. Socials generally don’t provide those moments unless someone gets carried away with the cheap drinks. Beer can racing is more than making a boat go around some marks and arguing about handicaps! Beer can racing is seeing your competition every week, swapping licks on the race course, and then laughing and cutting up afterward. It is about a group of people that want to turn off the rest of the world to be competitive with their friends for a few hours. Winning and loosing is just part of it as they always say. In short, beer can racing is about fun. Don’t waste your time otherwise.
Don’t take this as a write off or an excuse to not do your best. A race is a race and that means you race to win. There is a lot that goes into a successful beer can racing campaign. Consistent crew that all have their head in the game is paramount. The teams racing at the front of the pack all have consistent crew week after week. There is nothing that can make up for this. The crew is like family after a while and family know each other so well that they don’t have to communicate every detail because they already know what the other is thinking. Crew, like family, can take the ups and downs of beer can racing because they know there is always next week to give it hell again. Keep it light and fun but don’t forget to dial it in and race to win.
Oh yeah, this one took years to figure out, mix things up on the boat. Boat life is like real life, it’s way to easy to get comfortable in your position. Start rotating through positions and keep everyone on their toes. Don’t force anyone to do anything they don’t want to do but make sure the opportunity is there. As an added bonus you might get to see a few not so graceful moves on the fore deck when the traditional skipper works on the opposite end of the boat. The best part of this arrangement is the trust, understanding, and respect of each position.
Sportsmanship is a big deal because of the atmosphere. Beer can racing is not the national championship every week. There is nothing worse than the team that gets high or low if they win or lose. If this is your style, it’s safe to assume you’re struggling to find that last piece of the puzzle as to why others are consistently edging you out of success. Here’s a suggestion, how you act when you win is a tel of how you’re going to act when you lose. Don’t be the team that b-lines home when you made a bad call or were just plain unlucky. Suck it up and let the other teams know that they sailed well. When you win, do the same thing. It’s hard not to respect that.
Beer can racing is special as it is usually the bedrock of the racing scene of a club. Sure we all want to race one design and campaign every weekend with insane budgets like the Pros. The problem is, we are just the local hacks with real lives and responsibilities. Beer can racing keeps all that other serious racing in perspective, it’s what we love to do, we want to do it well, and we want to have fun.