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The (Happy) State of Sailing

Full confession, when I first sat down to write this month’s editorial the plan was to bash Emirates Team New Zealand and its decision to put the site of the next America’s Cup up for sale, likely leaving its hometown, Auckland, New Zealand, in the lurch. Remember back in Bermuda when the Kiwis were suggesting they were going to restore the Cup to its former glory after wresting it from the grip of that money-grubbing American, Larry Ellison?

The more I worked on the issue you now hold in your hand, though, the more I found myself thinking that, America’s Cup aside, there has honestly never been a better time to be a sailor. Take this year’s Best Boats contest (for our preview story). Granted, not every new design will be every sailor’s cup of tea. But the diversity of new boats going down the ways in combination with the many used boats already out there sailing means there’s now truly something for everyone. Not only that, but today’s sailboats are better than ever. Many will claim, “they don’t make ‘em like they used to,” and they’re right. Looking back on the boats I’ve sailed in recent years as part of our Best Boats program, I’m struck by some of the outstanding designs I’ve seen and truly incredible experiences I’ve had. Whether it’s quality control, performance under sail or simply comfort and convenience afloat, today’s boats are in a class by themselves. I’m not saying every new boat out there is perfect. But even a perfunctory glance at all too many of the boats launched in decades past will show how far we’ve come.

Then there are today’s sailors, with the stories in this latest issue once again leaving me nothing less than amazed at the passion and life experiences of our contributors. Most are not professional writers. They’re simply ordinary people whose lives have been made so much more than ordinary by the simple fact of their being sailors—and their having some great stories to show for it.

Take the case of Greg MacIver, who gave up a desk job to become a boatbuilder and in recent issues has been recounting the retrofit of his nearly 50-year-old Santana 27. (Refurbishing Shirley Rose, p.60) Or Cruising Club of America Young Voyager Award winner Ellen Massey-Leonard and her account of a passage she and her husband, Seth, made, sailing 2,400 miles hard on the wind in the South Pacific (Close-hauled to Hawaii, p.36). Who says today’s sailors ain’t tough! Then there’s Mike Jacker and his tale of how he and his “Louis & Clark” crew prepared for a trip to the South Pacific in the mid-‘70s. Not only does Jacker’s story serve as a great reminder of how far sailing has come, he continues sailing to this day on the often-tempestuous waters of Lake Michigan. (A List of Lists, p.44)

Figure-8 voyager Randal Reeves, Emily Greenberg’s recent engineless transit of the Dismal Swamp Canal, Pip Hurn’s outstanding Vendée Globe—the list of sailors living extraordinary lives as recounted in just the last few issues of SAIL goes on and on. Better still, these stories are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the sailing community as a whole. To paraphrase Carly Simon, these are the good-old days, at least as far as sailing is concerned. Here’s hoping you’re making the most of them as well. If not, what are you waiting for? Oh, and if you want see me bash on the Kiwis, turn to p.30

September 2021

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