Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Price to Pay

I was reading an article in my favorite sailing magazine about a team that capsized their 60 foot trimaran while training for a round-the-world race. The incident  broke their mast, required an elaborate towing operation (of their upside down hull) and put them "out of commission" for months. The cause was a common one for these kind of accidents: they didn't react quickly enough to a gust of wind, by easing their sails. By the time they realized what was going on it was too late. A fraction of a second delay on the crew's part resulted in disaster.

My initial reaction was to blame the crew for sailing too aggressively and putting themselves at risk. Why did they need to sail so close to the edge and risk such a devastating incident? But as I read the skipper's cool and matter-of-fact description of the incident it hit me that they were just doing what all top competitors must do if the want to have a chance of winning: giving it their all and sailing "on the edge". You can aspire to win if you train by "playing it safe". Look at most world class athletes and you'll see that most, if not all, sometimes push things a bit too far (or simply get unlucky while being on the edge). If you want to reach, or even establish, the limit of your activity's performance, you have to be willing to go over the edge every now and then. For around the world maxi multihulls, that can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage and months to recover. For other activities, the gear damage might be less, but a few bones might break.

This is very personal to me. I've been playing it way too safe with my kiteracing. I've not broken any bones or damaged much gear, but I am not going that fast either. Can I push myself to the edge? Take harder falls than I have? It is the price to pay...

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