July 11, 2010

Time to throw races

(Drop by Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

I HEAR ON THE GRAPEVINE that a friend of mine has won all six of the last sailboat races he entered.

Oh Mike, how could you? Surely you know better. There is no quicker way to ruin yacht racing. You might think your prowess should encourage other competitors to get better, to become as good as you. But no. They’re only human. They are discouraged. Very discouraged.

Perhaps a sense of entitlement creeps in. I mean, they re-mortgage their houses and borrow all of their kids’ college money to buy a hot boat. They practice, they have their sails recut, and the bottom paint burnished. They get the latest weather forecasts, they drill their crews till they drop, and they learn the racing rules off by heart. Shouldn’t they be entitled to win a race now and then? But no. Week after week that blankety-blank Mike still finishes first. So why should they beat their heads against the wall? Racing entries drop off. Suddenly nobody wants to be on the racing committee. Suddenly nobody is volunteering to man the rescue boat. Suddenly golf is beginning to look very attractive.

There are surely times when an unreasonably consistent winner should deliberately throw races. Get ahead if you have to for your own satisfaction and then do something silly without making it look deliberate.

Mike, coming second, or even third, is not so bad, especially if it means you’ll have someone to race against in future.

Today’s Thought
To take the measure of oneself by reference to one’s colleagues leads to envy or complacency rather than constructive self-examination.
— Benno C. Schmidt Jr., President, Yale

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb #68
Checking oil level. The rule of thumb is that you can’t check the engine oil level too frequently. Do it at least once a day and preferably before every start. And be very suspicious of levels that are higher or lower than normal.

Somerset Maugham was once cornered at a cocktail party by a young writer who couldn’t think of a title for his new novel.
“Are there any drums in it?” asked Maugham.
“No, sir. It’s not that kind of book.”
Are there any bugles in it?”
“Then call it No Drums, No Bugles.”

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