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Sportsmanship can mean different things to different people. Read further for some ideas to get you thinking about who exhibits some or many of these attributes that define a good sport.
What is Sportsmanship?
Just as Arizona is known for its Five C’s: Copper, Cattle, Cotton, Citrus and Climate, we in the sport of sailboat racing have our own Five C’s: Competition, Cooperation, Courtesy, Community, and Corinthian Spirit.
It is obvious that sailboat racing is a competitive sport. We adhere to the rather technical Racing Rules of Sailing on the water, but we also rely on the corinthian spirit – the one that self-governs. Sailing is a cooperative sport that relies on community more than many other sports. We all need each other to show up and race against us. If people aren’t enjoying the racing, they will not participate. We pride ourselves on being courteous. Yelling at someone on the water will drive them away from the sport faster than if there was no wind.
When we talk about sportsmanlike conduct, what does that look like – behaviorally speaking? Below are a few of the more obvious practices, attributes, and actions of good sportsmanship in sailboat racing.
- Personal Improvement. You strive to be a better sailor. You read, take classes, spend time on the water, attend regattas, teach and coach others, and ask questions. Winning is exciting but it is not everything. Getting skilled is more a source of enjoyment than dusting awards on a shelf.
- Recognize and Encourage Others. Engaging with other competitors before or after the race. You want them to be as good as you or better, so you have actual competition. Notice when someone is trying their best and share some of your knowledge of the sport, the boat, sail trim, tactics, etc.
- Mind Your Manners. Saying “please” and “thank you” goes a long way – being courteous to other boaters, racers and cruisers alike. No screaming at others to “get out of the way.” No one “owns” the water we sail on, and many other boaters don’t even know a race is happening. They have a right to be on the water like we do, so being polite matters.
- Show Appreciation. Thank the race committee, regatta organizers, volunteers, your competitors, friends, family, and your pet (for your continued absence). They all make sacrifices to provide you with memorable moments.
- Be a Good Winner and a Good Loser. Be someone people don’t mind losing to and congratulate those that beat you.
- Be Prepared. If you have what you need for an event, you’ll not need to bother others for parts, clothing and information. You won’t suffer for an “unfair” reason due to poor planning on your part.
- Know the Rules. The Racing Rules of Sailing are complicated, but you should do your best to learn and follow them. If you take some time to think about the rules and how they apply in critical situations like start and mark rounding, you’ll know how to react and be less likely to break them. If you’re confident in your knowledge of the Rules, look for situations where you can teach other competitors, especially new sailors, in a clear way and not by yelling at them!
- Move On. Some sailors ruin otherwise good races by being angry about mishaps for the rest of a race. If you’re fouled, you can enforce the rules through a protest, but then you should move on. Use your energy to find the next puff or catch the next shift.
- Have fun. While this means different things to different people, enjoying the sport and making it enjoyable for yourself and others is essential.
- Get to Know Your Competitors. Knowing people makes everyone a little bit more human on the course. Congratulate your competition (e.g., “Wow, you sure made a great start, had a nice roll tack, etc.”); those comments are great to hear, so give and get. Knowing the people you race with sure make post-race activities more enjoyable.