We now have evidence, and we see it regularly. We sign up for Friday night beer can races (“buoy tours” — more on that later) so that we commit to sailing at least once a week. We often have friends join us from the City warning us of the foggy, cold gale they passed through on the Golden Gate Bridge, and advising us to suit up and reef down. They’re talking about the kind of conditions that keep many people off the Bay. Then we leave the dock and the wind is gone, the sun is out and a pleasant evening unfolds.
Yes, we’ve had many cold, foggy evening sails, but also dozens of glorious sails. We know, as much as we love evening sails, we’d miss many more of these spectacular evenings if we weren’t signed up for the evening beer can series.
If you’re not signed up for the evening beer can series you’ve probably missed some of the best sailing on the Bay. Can’t find crew? It’s a challenge we’ve faced too. We ask friends out for a Friday Night “race” and instant panic sets in. “I don’t know how to sail. I got yelled at last time.” Or, “I’m afraid of racing,” they say. So we don’t invite our non-sailing friends racing anymore. We invite them out for the Friday night “buoy tour.” We say, “We’re going to start the tour near the club and then go around these four buoys. If you’re lucky you’ll see porpoises, seals resting on the buoys, and maybe even a whale.” (We’ve seen whales a couple of times this year during races.) It’s much more fun. Yes, the classic bait and switch, but we work hard to then make sure it’s fun.
Many don’t race because starts are intimidating. Rightfully so. But we have a strategy for that. Start last. If winning is your primary goal you don’t want to do this, but if a great evening on the Bay is why you signed up, it changes the whole evening.
And sometimes it works. A few weeks ago, for the 10,000th time, we didn’t have the amended race instructions and had our start time wrong. We were sailing around behind the line looking for our competitors when we noticed they’d already started two minutes earlier. Helpfully, they all sailed into a wind hole and sat there. With their help showing us where not to go, we sailed around many of them and got back into the game. This can make starting last extra fun.
We know most people aren’t racers, which is fine. We have great fun racing, but we love cruising and having great afternoon sails with friends. From the evidence we have, evening beer can racers make up the vast majority of boats out on any evening. Everyone else is missing it. Casual sailors should note: The Beer Can Ten Commandments #10 is “Thou shall not worry. Thou shalt be happy.”
Let go of the results and embrace an evening with friends. You’ll want to pay attention, so it’s wise to save the beer, wine, cheese and crackers until the end, but signing up is always worth the price of admission. You’ll have some great evenings and can show your friends some of your favorite buoys on the Bay.
Don’t get us wrong: We prefer winning, but we try not to let the risk of losing spoil a great night on the water with friends. Plus, if you start last and finish last, you’ll have the reward of more sailing than anyone else out that evening.