Our laser fleet races four days a week in the summertime, but on Thursday nights and Saturday afternoons, nobody keeps score. On both days the format is as many races as possible within a certain time window, and each race is shorter than 10 minutes, much like a frostbiting format without the frost. Saturday is conventional fleet racing and Thursday has become mostly team racing. These days offer a totally different experience than the formal series and regatta races which are scored, recorded, tallied, trophied, and immortalized on the permanent record.
Our special days have several advantages over other racing:
- By not keeping score and by not having a permanent record for others to see, we are encouraged to try new things. The only downside for failure is to do poorly in a ten minute race, but if something is learned in a ten minute lesson, something wonderful has been accomplished.
- Newer sailors are encouraged and get more help from others because we are more interested in a good race than a boost to our egos.
- We make racing more competitive by making up new rules that level the playing field. Sometimes newer people get a head start, and some team race teams get more members than others.
- As the rewards for winning the races shrink, the tone lightens and people just enjoy the moment. (This is the inverse of high stakes racing, like the Olympic trials, where old friends don’t even talk to each other as they focus on the holy grail of that one spot on the Olympic team.)
- The event is recorded only in our selective memories, where our good races and the things we might have learned are what we take from the experience. Our mistakes become lessons for next time rather than drops in our standings.
Am I finding a Zenny happiness? Is the elimination of scoring the equivalent to stripping away an illusion that interferes with our experience of reality? After all, scoring is an after-the-fact representation of a single aspect of the race, order of finish. When we look at that, we obscure most of the nuances of the experience itself. Is the elimination of scoring a letting go of our egos? By its nature, scoring separates the world into us and them and undermines our sense of oneness with the world. Does the lack of an ongoing record of the event encourage us to be mindful of the moment? There is nothing outside each race itself. We live more in the present during each race because that is all there is.
I don’t know if this is really Zen, but I’m sure it is happiness. These days are the most fun I have in sailing, even more fun than winning, although to be honest, I haven’t really won anything big in quite a while.