July 19, 2009

Stand up and be counted

(Read a new column by John Vigor every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.)

AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE syndicated a story recently about Zac Sutherland, the 17-year-old from Marina del Rey, California, who has just sailed singlehanded around the world. In the story, the American Sailing Association is quoted as saying that only about 250 people have ever sailed around the world alone in the 110 years since Joshua Slocum first showed it could be done. I wonder how they know?

Admittedly, there are lists on internet websites of many of the solo circumnavigators, but I can hardly believe they’ve got them all. Many long-distance solo sailors purposely avoid the limelight. They don’t seek publicity. Very often, they undertake their mammoth voyages for private, intensely personal reasons, not to raise publicity for running shoes or expensive Swiss watches.

It is not difficult to imagine them slipping back quietly into port after completing a circumnavigation, with no expectation of cheering bystanders or fireboats with arcs of spray. Alongside the braggarts and show-offs, there are many deeply modest sailors out on the oceans whose achievements are motivated by a desire to conquer inner fears or find self-significance and self-confidence in a highly competitive world.

I’m sure some of them slip through the cracks quite deliberately and are never entered on the internet lists. It would be really interesting to know exactly how many. Two hundred and fifty just seems too few.

Today’s Thought
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best, if he wins, knows the thrills of high achievement, and, if he fails, at least fails daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
—President John F. Kennedy

I hear they’re going to replace the dollar bill with a metal coin.
It’s called the quarter.


Bob K7ZB said...

Hi John,

Nice column - I really enjoy them.

I especially appreciate the quote, which is originally from Teddy Roosevelt's speech at the Sorbonne... CITIZENSHIP IN A REPUBLIC
"The Man In The Arena"
Speech at the Sorbonne
Paris, France
April 23, 1910

Best regards,

Oded Kishony said...

I bet there were some sailors who ended up 'accidentally' circumnavigating. Starting their voyage with the intent of only crossing one ocean then, having enjoyed the experience, continued to the end.