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.