I’m just going to say it-with few niceties set aside for the sake of feelings or diplomacy. The day of MaM racing is over if we want to save our sport. The MaM, or Middle aged Man, is a ubiquitous creature. He is an experienced sailor, with perhaps twenty or thirty years of experience. His great pride is the racer/cruiser that he bought some time pre-Y2K when he decided to get ‘serious’ about his racing. He is passionate, there is no doubt about that, but can’t seem to find that silver bullet, or a steady crew, that will give him the extra edge that he yearns for in his local PHRF fleet.
A few weeks ago I encountered a group of MaM’s. They had recently finished Sunday racing and were grumbling in the bar as they looked out onto the water at a group of about thirty junior dinghy sailors training out on the bay. These MaM’s seemed to be put out. Again and again, the juniors had chosen their dinghies and training over invitations to come out and race on ‘real boats.’ As I innocently entered the bar, I was thrust into the following conversation:
Anon. MaM 1: “Why is it that these kids just won’t come out and race with us? Don’t they want to race on the big boats and be part of the local fleet”
Jen: “Have you invited them?”
Anon. MaM 2: “One of them came out on my Cal 20 once, but just sat around and then never came back. It’s like he didn’t even appreciate being invited onto the boat!”
Jen: “May I ask what position you put him on?”
Anon. MaM 2: “Well, rail meat, naturally.”
Anon. MaM 1: “Where else do you expect? They have to pay their dues you know…
Anon. Mam 1: “besides…these kids aren’t ready to drive; what if something happened? Those are tough conditions out there you know.”
Jen: “…uh…I have to go…file my taxes…or something…”
The “kid” in question turned out to be a laser sailor who logs roughly 20 hours of training per week, races in upwards of a dozen events each season, and in fleets of over fifty boats. What I’m getting at here, is that it’s a pretty tough sell to convince a young sailor who gets to helm, call tactics, and trim, to come on out to a race with four or five boats and sit on the rail while he watches his buddies. Or what about that meek little girl who happens to be a member of the junior national team and sails a 29er? Sure she’d like to do bow on an antiquated boat while her friends are out shredding off of Trial Island.
If you really want to get new sailors into keel boat racing, put them in the position in which they train. It’s more fun for them, more fun for you, and you’ll probably learn something and improve your performance. Got a 14 year old at the helm of your boat? That’s probably the right place, especially if he or she hasn’t developed the muscle strength to jump halyards (how many times have tiny little girls been put on mast…seriously…).
MaM 2: “You can’t possibly expect me to hand over my boat to an Opti sailor!”
Jen: “Then you can’t possibly expect a champion Opti sailor to give up a weekend to sit on the rail of your boat without gauging his own eyes out.”
By the way…Opti and 420 sailors don’t make particularly good rail meat.
A No MaM policy would simply put each sailor in the most appropriate position. Small, well practised sailors go where they belong, and big strong grown ups go where they belong. Sure, put your buddy on jib…chances are a Radial sailor has no idea what to do with it anyway. Sure, put that keen young 20 something newbie on the bow…he’s athletic and doesn’t know how to helm or trim so where else would you put him. As for you my dear MaM, park yourself right next to your talented young ringer, work out tactics with him or her, and watch your keen young helm “drive it like he stole it” as they say. You can buy him a hot chocolate later while you chuckle over your results.
5 thoughts on “Want to perform and promote local sailing? Consider a “No MaM” Policy.”
Jen… You. Are. Awsome.
The MaM suffers from a bad case of “Do what I Do!” with a side case of “Do what I Did!”. Its not there fault, Its a social disease spread by other MaM’s while drinking libations after sailing.
The other reason that “kid” is not out racing beer can sailing with you is that the only day they have to go sailing is the same day you have. Choosing to do something they want to do, such as, compete in a dinghy program and racing locally, regionally, nationally or internationally is a choice they have made. So is sailing for thier School, College or University. We shoud applaud them for it.
The same goes for the non competitive MaM. The Cruising MaM. If you want your kid to cruise take them cruising. Its a great way to spend time together as a family. While your cruising teach them what your parents taught you. How to navigate, plot, plan, be safe and cruise. You only get so many oppurtunties. Don’t squander them by sending them below or sending them away from a task. Once they get it let them go sail on thier own or take more of an active role in the cruise. I have seen many successful adaptations of this process. If your kid joins a dinghy sailing school or a race program and you have not taught them what you condider to be important, don’t blame the programs they are not geared to do that.
If the “kids” don’t want to sail like you let them sail on thier own terms. They will find cruising and beer can racing when they are ready. If they do want to sail with you let them; by letting them sail.
The big boats get the glory but the dinghy makes the sailor.
Hahaha, very nice. Glad it is a universal problem and not just a middle-America thing.
Jen – thanks very much for your article, and I concur with your observations.
It is exactly what the Royal Van YC Race Team son of an active Vancouver Martin242 racer said to him recently, and I think we all have to take his and your observations seriously as the only way to get more Junior members involved in keelboat racing and thus maintain or even possibly increase keelboat numbers over time.
RVYC held an Open House recently, the 2nd in 2 years, and once again the topic of Junior participation in keelboat racing (or lack thereof) was discussed at length, and a number of remedies offered again, none of which were quite as incisive as yours. It was the son’s comments, coupled with a few others, that caused me to back off doing any changes to the status quo this year re keelboat rating or scoring adjustments in exchange for getting Juniors on board, because they all said that we had not gotten at the core of the issue, whatever that was, and now we have an answer.
I recall when I was 17-18, the only way I would ever get on a big boat is if I could steer or call tactics, because otherwise I’d rather just practice in my Laser for 80-100 boat regattas, so nothing’s changed in 33 years. Human nature is what it is.
Our Junior Advisor, coaches, Sailing Director, VARC rep, some racers, and other members of the RVYC Sailing Committee have now seen your blog post, so it will help us formulate a Strategy to deal with our own Junior keelboat participation issue and conversion into long-term racers, regardless of whether it’s in dinghies or keelboats.
Fleet Captain & MaM
Royal Vancouver Yacht Club
Michael, thanks so much for your eloquent comment. As is so often the case in our sport, the answer often represents itself as simply “just go sailing.” In this case, that sailing happens to be the type that will let kids and MaM’s shine. May English Bay be filled with sport boats driven by sailors who buy their Sperry’s in the kid’s section and teens who sport N’s on their rides to the club.