The COVID-19 virus has obviously upended our traditional sailing season. Regattas are cancelled and fleet racing is on hold or using a modified format. Although we are now well into the summer season, most of our fleets across North America and elsewhere have yet to begin their normal competitive schedule. Fleet championships will not be based on the usual schedule of events, if they are awarded at all.
Despite this, the season does not and should not be discounted as a total loss. Rather, while there is a disconnect with normal expectations, there is also opportunity.
It has become fashionable for many graduating high school students to take a “gap year” before taking on the challenges of higher education. A gap year is used to recharge an individual’s energy and expose them to new opportunities. It gives an individual the time to reflect on their strengths and develop new ones. It provides the time to develop new skills and interests in a neutral environment before continuing with their life.
The same concept can be applied to our Class and each of our fleets and districts. This is a year to put aside the rigors of striving for championships and apply the time to enhance the strengths of our Class. It is an opportunity to introduce new persons to experience Lightning sailing and reinvigorate the activities of existing members. Given the restrictions imposed by social distancing requirements, many fleets are sailing “two up.” Use this unique time to give new sailors the helm and allow them to learn about the rhythms and balance of sailing while you man the sheets and halyards. It is an especially great opportunity to invite kids out and introduce them to the joys of just sailing, let alone racing. Each of us can support the Class by coming up with new ways to help introduce new blood to the Lightning family which this year can be done without prejudicing your own interest in finishing at the head of the pack.
It’s time for each of us to take a “gap year” to strengthen our fleets and expand the opportunities for growing our membership. We all are strong advocates for Lightnings. This is the year to focus on reaching out to others, young and old, to show them why we each feel such strong loyalty to our boat. Not only will reaching out to new participants support the future of the Class, it just sounds like fun.
Should anyone need further inspiration to pursue this course, I strongly recommend that you tune in and watch the interview on US Sailing’s Starboard Portal titled “A Sailing Family Story: “The House of Starck” with David and Jody Starck.” Links to the video can be found here or on the US Sailing or Lightning Class websites. Dave and Jody are great ambassadors for the Class, and for sailing in general, as they discuss their motivation and experience in introducing others, and particularly young people, to the sport.
We are all looking forward to the opportunity to return to our usual schedule and be able to see and compete against our sailing friends. Perhaps, when that time arrives, there will be a whole new group of sailors joining us on the course. We can each do our part to make that happen.
In the interim, stay safe and healthy.