Saturday, March 29, 2008

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf's a flower.

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.
- Robert Frost

Stop lights had me in an existential frame of mind today. Here in LA everyone drives everywhere, and the people who stubbornly refuse to drive or use public transit get run over. It's pretty much that simple. So everyone takes two tons of steel with them wherever they go. And they seem to love to accelerate that 4,000lbs of steel to amazing velocities before encountering the next physical obstruction, which is generally a traffic light, requiring them to press their shiny disc brakes into service and send the remaining 30% of the energy they just used to accelerate themselves to Warp 9, back into the atmosphere as heat. So when the BMW next to me floors it as the light turns green, I look on with wonder as it flies down the road, only to stop at the next light and wait for me to catch up. At which point I wonder: are we all in some sort of cosmic race that no one told me about?

On the race course, it's all clearly defined, and we accept that getting to the finish even one second sooner than the other guy is significant. After all, on a Moth, the benefits of skill actually do translate into significant amounts of time and distance - never mind that the finish line is generally in the same place you started - and who knows? Someday you may be tapped to sail your Moth up the Alaskan coastline in the dead of winter delivering pertussis vaccine, and lives may hang in the balance. One missed gybe and little Jimmy doesn't make it. Kind of makes you feel good about all that practice now, doesn't it?

And evenings in the garage? Simple. Decades hence sailors will still refer to the pioneers of foiling as giants among men - like Paul Butler and the sliding seat. Never mind that sliding seats were in use by others well before him - somehow he gets the credit, which probably beats winning any race when it comes to infamy.

So my advice to all you budding foilers is to give up on beating Si Payne and Rohan and the rest of the really great sailors who spend incredible amounts of time figuring out how to sail Moths faster than everyone else. They are probably more focused than you, have made more time in their lives for this than you have, and likely had more talent to begin with - unless you happen to be an Olympic level sailor yourself (in which case what the hell are you doing reading my blog)? The rest of you, think up some useful little gizmo or technique that pushes foiling technology forward in a useful way, name it, and show up at a regatta somewhere. Whether it's a May Stick, Veal heel or an F-box, your place in the history of the class will be secure, and forty years from now no one will care whether you finished first in the racing. After all: there is only one World Champion, but there is almost certainly still a lot of low-hanging technological fruit out there to be picked in this Golden Age of hydrofoil sailing.

Worst case scenario? It doesn't work. But in the end it's better to regret the things you have done than the things you haven't. Or is it?


Doug Culnane said...

Here Here. I for one intend to turn up with stuff that may not work and not win in infamous fashion.

Your petrol is too bloody cheap, that is one reason why energy use is not respected.

Anonymous said...

I tow my Moth with a Prius, and the sit back and laugh at guys who take off at the lights like that.
btw, great blog.
Greg Wise