Sailing is a succession of high and low moments. Learning from each one—and laughing about many—is the secret to a successful lifetime in the sport.

by Gary Jobson in Sailing World

Photo by John Payne

Photo by John Payne

During a celebration for an elderly sailor who was retiring from racing, I noticed a silver brick on his fireplace mantel. On it was an inscription that read, “Yacht Racing 1946-2009.” He’d taken every silver trophy he’d won during his racing career and melted them down to form the brick. It made me laugh, as I thought about all the emotions of a lifetime of racing, the many highs and lows, metaphorically encapsulated in this one curious rectangular keepsake.

There’s no refuting that sailboat racing is an emotional roller coaster. In one moment, everything is calculated and right, and the next moment the tables turn. We make mistakes, but sometimes fortune arrives out of nowhere. We think we can control events on the water, but shifting winds, changing currents, erratic wave patterns, faulty equipment, and the unpredictable actions of our competitors present unexpected challenges. When we experience such surprises, however, it’s important to temper our emotions.

I have experienced many incredibly emotional highs and lows during the heat of battle, but with the benefit of time, these events have helped me understand how to handle extremes while racing, and in life.

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