Have a 16ft wooden sailing boat called Prioni. It is a Scruffie: a lot like its owner.
Once a quarter, I partake in a little regatta run by a friend at Talburpin Point, Redland Bay. There is a varied fleet of small boats, many of them wooden but few, if any, of the same class.
Tony has devised a unique course and scoring system. The fleet starts together, and the first boat to a predefined marker (most often a channel buoy) gets line honours. But when the lead boat turns around, everyone also turns around and heads for the finishing line. The first home wins on handicap.
It is a fun format, as for slower boats like mine, we are so far behind in the upwind slog that we are always in a good position to have a chance at a handicap place.
I have just finished reading Nigel Marsh’s latest book, ‘Smart, Stupid and Sixty, the third in his memoir series. It is a cracking read, especially for those in what he calls ‘the third trimester of life.
I can relate to this idea of the final third. In the work that I do around storytelling, I favour the three-act model. Act One features the setup and an inciting incident; Act Two is the messy middle where all seems lost, but there are small hopes. The final act has the climax and then the resolution. As I look back on my life, I think that the climax was somewhere in the messy middle, but there is certainly much resolution required in the final act.
In thinking about Tony’s regatta, maybe a better model is two halves: the slog out and then the run home. In life, I am certainly past the midway point, and unlike the lead boat, there were certain goals where I didn’t make the mark.
In sailing terms, the square run tends to be a lot more leisurely than the upwind beat, although at times a little tippy. While boat speed matters, and there are still some tactics required, it tends to be time to relax a little and get a chance to look about and focus on the ever-nearer finishing line. In reality, by the final leg, there is not much that can be done to change the outcome, as the fleet has been spread out during the first leg.
This seems a more fitting metaphor for my life. Like my boat, I have a new set of sails, and at the age of 50 (an optimistic halfway mark), I set a new course for the finishing line. With some shifting winds and undercurrents, I have to tweak my sails and maintain balance, but my direction pretty well remains constant. On the windward leg, there is much stress on the boat, and you feel the wind. Everything is taut. But when running with the wind, it is all a lot calming as the boat is travelling with the breeze.
The majority of boats have white sails, and from a distance, it can be hard to distinguish one boat from another. However, when running with the wind, a colourful and larger sail, the spinnaker can be set.
With my spinnaker set, my life is more colourful and full-blown than ever. I have been expanding to my full size and potential, and I can easily be seen.
Whatever leg you are on, creative thinking is always needed. Whether reading the tides and wind shifts to strategically plot a course, being tactical with the other boats, or quick thinking to make repairs on the go to avert disaster. But in the end, the great thing about sailing, like life and business, it doesn’t really matter where you finish relative to others or whether you are a skipper or crew.
It is about going with the flow and enjoying the ride.
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