are you down?

It has been a week since the Volvo Ocean Race made their big announcement in Sweden about the future of the event and I have found it interesting to read all the comments both for and against their proposed changes. Was it Abraham Lincoln who said “You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time?” I think it was him or maybe he ripped off someone I don’t know, but there could be no truer statement said about this announcement.
For the record I am for the changes and wish that they had gone further. I would have preferred big multihulls for all the racing, both offshore and inshore. Big, bold, brassy and extremely exciting. I think that’s what this sport needs. But I do understand that there are too many stakeholders to unilaterally make such dramatic changes so I am happy to settle with the idea that the boat for future events beyond this upcoming one will be raced in turbo-charged foiling IMOCA 60’s. I hold onto the possibility that in ten years time we may have big multihulls charging around the planet at breakneck speeds, but perhaps I am just deluding myself.
What I found a little unsettling was how many people disliked the proposed changes looking longingly backward to the good old days of slow tubs dragging a couple of tons of lead around under the boat. I remember those days and not that fondly. I remember when 200 miles in a day was regarded as a very decent run. I remember when we would surf down the steep edge of a huge Southern Ocean swell and with much noise, vibration and an obscene amount of water coming over the deck we would reach a top speed of 16 knots. Nope I am not looking back at those times and wishing they were the future; I am looking forward to when boats are cracking off 1,000 miles in a day and are sailed by half as many crew as we had on board back then.
The Volvo Ocean Race is the face of our sport when it comes to offshore ocean racing just as the America’s Cup is the leading edge for inshore racing. It has to be innovative, exciting and yes sexy and I know that notion irks many, but that’s just how it has to be. Change has to happen for our sport to remain relevant. For too many years we (well not me) clung onto the idea that the status quo was just fine and we didn’t need anyone telling us how to do things.
These are the same people who would probably prefer to see the America’s Cup raced in 12-meter’s where a wacky innovation like a winged keel made all the difference to wrestle the Cup away from the US for the first time. I couldn’t wait to see those lead mines go and I for one am looking forward to the racing starting this weekend in Bermuda. The America’s Cup, one of the oldest sporting events in the world, learned that change was inevitable and so was cost cutting, and the result is six highly strung teams competing against each other in the crystal clear waters of Bermuda. Awesome.
Then there was the crowd that resented the idea of an event that would have monohulls racing the offshore part of the event and multihulls racing the inshore part. Loud cries from the monohull sailors saying that they could not bear to watch any kind of multihull racing, and vice-versa. Give me a break and get out of your stereotypes. Sailing is sailing and racing is racing. One of the things that is so magical about our sport is that it is so diverse.
There is real beauty in watching a classic wooden schooner gliding effortlessly across a calm ocean and there is also real beauty watching two foiling catamarans closing at a combined speed of 80 miles and hour on a tight racecourse. We have to embrace change. We have to enjoy all aspects of sailing and we have to stop whining when others make changes for us. If you don’t like the changes to the VOR and America’s Cup then don’t watch the racing. That part of it is up to you. – Brian Hancock.
Title inspiration thanks to Marian Hill. Check out the live version of this bitchin little tune. – ed