Just had dinner with one of my absolute favourite sailing groups tonight, and the namesake of this blog: The Salty Sisters. These intrepid ladies are a group of dinghy sailors aged 50+ who are all about a laugh and a good time. They’re educated, successful, foxy in that super smart independent silver fox sort of way, and they all have one thing in common. They’re all bloody terrified of sailing!
Okay that’s not completely accurate. How about…they’re mostly bloody terrified of sailing. But they are awesome. In fact, last winter eighteen of these ladies emerged from the ice and snow (when Victoria gets it…cough cough…sometimes…) and scooted around the bay every Saturday morning for two months. The catch? Hot soup, tasty sandwiches, and a damn fine cup of coffee at the end of each session.
The sandwiches, oh yum. Even while chowing down on steaks and paella tonight, the ladies reminisced about those sandwiches and that piping hot soup. Shortly after salivating over their debriefing lunch, the ladies started in on stories of their sailing misadventures. See, the thing is, they didn’t necessarily care about the skills so much as they loved being surrounded by other fabulous ladies. The important thing for these ladies was affiliation. In a society that’s obsessed with achievement, they didn’t care about attaining a specific level of achievement-between the lot of them, they’ve probably got enough university degrees to cover an entire wall. Instead, the Salty Sister experience was about community. It’s a community about fresh air, about having fun, about pushing one’s comfort levels, but mostly about sharing that experience with a bunch of friends.
Maybe we can learn from these ladies. Is this yet another case of why we should listen to our mothers? Just when we thought we were all grown up, they go and teach us another lesson. In this case, it’s a lesson about what’s important in sport. Sport is nothing if it’s not fun, and it’s hard to have fun when you’re all alone. True, skills are important, and that’s why you hire a professional coach. However, if sailors have a boring or otherwise underwhelming experience, there are plenty of other sports and activities out there which would be happy to welcome our sailors’ energy. So when we go sailing, when we coach, when we do anything at all, we might consider trying to make it fun and trying to develop a community. Affiliation. We as humans naturally want to affiliate ourselves with a community, so why not make that part of sport? The Salty Sisters are terrified of sailing, but they spend two months each season laughing with each other about capsizing and falling down in the boat. These ladies are having so much fun relating to each other to realize that they’ve actually learned something and that they’re actually pretty good sailors.
And the soup and sarnies? An added bonus of course.