During my recent event in San Diego, I was privileged to participate in a group debrief led by 505 and I-14 legend, Howie Hamlin. A friendly and humble gentleman, he flew down on his own dime to spend a day on the water with the 29er fleet and then facilitate an easy going but informative group debrief over burgers and Gatorade out on the lawn. He undoubtedly had some very valuable bits and pieces of skiff knowledge to impart to the group, but there were a few even greater takeaways from the session.
1) When we share as a group, we grow as a group
At the end of Howie’s debrief, he made the sailors promise to run their own fleet wide group debriefs at future events. Why would he do this? Isn’t he asking the top guys to give away all of their secrets? Maybe, but the group as a whole will never progress unless sailors share with each other. There were 22 boats on the line at the 29er Mids West. Sure it’s great to be at the top of your local 22 boat fleet. But what happens when you make that next push to the nationals, the North Americans, or over to Europe? The classic tale is that of a big fish in a small pond who packs up and heads across the Atlantic only to be turned in to fish bait. This is because our local fleets are small, and because of geographical reasons, tend to be spread out and insular. Sharing knowledge is the absolute best and most economical way to overcome these problems. If you’re new to the fleet, you’ll benefit from what more experienced sailors have to say. If you’re a seasoned veteran in the fleet, elevating and empowering your competition will force you to push harder and then make you a better sailor in the long run. Then you’re all the more equipped when you head to larger events because your local competition has done a good job of prepping you for prime time.
2) Howie is like…a grown up!
Yup, Howie Hamlin is a grown up. He’s a bad ass grown up who regularly kicks other grownups asses in ridiculously fast and physical dinghies and in dog off chain windy venues. In a world where many dinghy sailors feel the pressure to “grow up and sail a real boat,” Howie is keeping it real and staying true to his dinghy roots. Who says you have to move out of dinghies once you’ve finished youth sailing? Who says there’s nothing for dinghy sailors after university? More importantly, who says you HAVE to do an Olympic campaign if you want to stay in dinghies after age 22? Howie doesn’t say so, and I can assure you that the boats he chooses to sail are “real boats.” As I teeter on the verge of 30 years old and look around this west coast 29er fleet, I notice that after me, the next oldest sailor is probably my partner Kristine at 22. You know what? That’s fine, and just maybe I can entice a few more grownups back into the dinghy fleet.
Thanks Howie, for taking the time to talk to us, to inspire us, and for being a down to earth and really nice guy.