Started Sailing

Sailing Races

by Han
(Brittany, France)

In the early 1960s I again met a former schoolmate, Tom, and learned that he had received, as a birthday-present (!) a complete Flying Dutchman, registered and ready for racing. (His father could easily do this; he owned a big construction firm.) As he had dreadfully little experience on the water, he asked me to teach him to master it. But I myself had no experience at all with racing skiffs, let alone the FD. It seemed the same as asking a tractor driver to teach you about a formula 1 Ferrari. (more info about the FD on

After some asking around I found a friend of another friend who knew his way with FD's and in a few days of intense training I could trim and helm it. So I, in my turn, taught Tom the first principals so he could helm it himself, with me as crew.

Man, that was (at least in those days) an incredible machine. Light as a feather and with enormous sails, it planed quite easily, even upwind. Until then I only sailed traditional boats and ships, mostly alone, and had always had time to make coffee or sandwiches in the meanwhile. But sailing the FD was hard work!
The rest of that year we trained hard to be ready for the next year races.

The first few races went reasonably well for a new team, but then Tom lost the little patience he had, and from behind the curtains appeared the old fighting-spirited boy who could not bear being in another place than first. He tried to bend the rules his way, cursed loudly at other crews if they acted mean (in his eyes) and several times threatened to ram other boats. And that pushed me over the edge. I'd been raised with respect for valuable, beautiful things, other people and craftsmanship, and here I was in one team with a person despising all my values: so I quit. And as he was by now well-known amongst the other FD-people, he could never get another crew and sold his boat. He was rightly served, I think.

After that I occasionally crewed yachts for match races at sea, which suited me better; that was hard work too, but the camaraderie surrounding it was the best reward.

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