Learn, educate, repeat.

I’ve always identified with a quote from Benjamin Franklin: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Great mentors involve their students. In my academic studies, as well as instructing, coaching and now parenting, I often think of these words. Involve me and I learn. Hands-on training, immersion in a project, even inclusion in brainstorming all help a person to become a better learner, a better crewperson, captain and future mentor.

I recently spent a few days working with my cousin Sarah and her husband Matt, who’ve recently reintroduced themselves into boating. They’ve purchased a powerboat so that they and their children can enjoy time together on the water, as well as afford them the opportunity to spend special time with friends. Sarah is a sailor by training – my training. I was her junior instructor for four years, and saw her advance from an Optimist novice to an avid 420 crew. She had a natural talent for being on the water, but she had never maneuvered a powerboat. I was pleased to get a call from her looking for a little help.

I know how to run a powerboat, and working with my cousin and her husband was a breeze. All they needed was that little bit of confidence afforded by time on the water and behind the wheel. I was pleasantly surprised that Sarah retained much of what she’d learned as a junior sailor. I was also pleased to see that after a short while she was taking on the mentor role with Matt and passing along the Rules of the Road, how to read wind on the water and other tips about a boat’s momentum, drift and more. Really, it was just a nice boat ride for me with a few questions about maneuvering at the dock and a few of the boat’s bells and whistles. Sarah looks to me as a boating mentor, and I’m honored to be thought of as such.

I got to thinking that although there are numerous great resources for boaters, novice and pro, young and old, having a role model and mentor is perhaps the most important and effective way to become a confident, capable sailor. Equally, there are many people out there with so much to offer through mentorship. I am fortunate to have had a couple of strong mentors in my time, and now I am lucky to offer what I have learned in return.

In this issue we have an article by the Women’s Sailing Mentor at Rockland Yacht Club in Rockland, ME, who maintains that passing knowledge along is fundamental to sharing our love of sailing. You’ll also read about another sailor – a Volvo Ocean Race veteran and one of the sport’s supreme rock dudes – who inspired seven teenage mentees to an amazing achievement in the Newport Bermuda Race, in no small part by demanding more frequent sail changes than they might otherwise have been inclined to make. How did that work out? Well, consider that the only boat to reach Bermuda ahead of these young sailors was a custom-built, pro-crewed 100-footer.

Another quote that I also happen to agree with – one that applies to both teacher and student – is from is writer and physician Alfred Mercier: “What we learn with pleasure we never forget.” What a great feeling people such as Peter Becker (a mainstay of the Junior Big Boat program at American Yacht Club in Rye, NY) or Spike Lobdell (the founder of New England Science & Sailing in Stonington, CT) must derive from their ongoing devotion to engaging and empowering junior sailors. Equally special are the memories that juniors like Carina Becker will have of the Newport Bermuda Race, thinking back on how the crew excelled by being pushed outside their comfort zones, working harder than they may have thought they needed to, and exceeding their own expectation of themselves. These lessons will forever be seared into their psyches, and I’m sure they’re eager to pass them on to others.

See you on the water.

Chris Gill

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