Why Go Sailing?
Excerpted from Ocean Spirit Magazine

What is it about sailing that hooks millions of otherwise sane and rational people and causes
many of the symptoms of a love affair? Why do so many of us willingly submit to the possibility of getting cold and wet, tired and seasick, or even scared on occasion?

The answers are as varied as the sailors you ask, but it's only fair that I try to give you some idea of the background and addictive properties of this wonderful sport before you risk permanent infection by the sailing bug.

A timeless experience

One of the most powerful attractions of sailing is its timelessness. Another is its simplicity. By learning the art of handling a boat under sail, you are continuing a practice that dates back thousands of years.

The skills are essentially the same as those our ancestors used to explore the world.

HMS Endevour

Yes, today's boats are faster, safer, and more comfortable than those of our predecessors, and life afloat need not be a physical hardship, but the challenge of travelling under sail and the rewards of a safe arrival are little changed and still have few equals.

An ancient skill

Our seafaring ancestors would probably be astonished at the idea of sailing solely for pleasure. For them it was simply the only way to explore, conquer, and trade with the rest of the world. For thousands of years, up until the invention of the steam engine, the use of sails was the only alternative to rowing and paddling. Now, while rowing and paddling are still essential skills and can be great fun in small doses, it's easy to see why a very enlightened (or lazy) person had the idea of using a sail. In fact, lots of people seem to have had the same idea. All over the world, different types of sailing boats evolved to meet particular local needs. Whether the requirement was to carry cargo or people along rivers, across shallow seas or rough oceans, or to carry troops to invade the neighbours, individual solutions were devised.

The successful ones proved their worth at sea and the rest showed where there was room for improvement. The builders and sailors who created and manned these craft developed the skills of design, seamanship, and navigation that stretch in an unbroken line to us today.

A sport was born

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Holland was the most powerful seafaring nation in the world, with a huge fleet of
sailing ships that maintained the country's trade links with Africa, India, and Southeast Asia.

A particular type of small, light, and fast ship was known
as a jaght, from the Dutch word jaghen, which means to
pursue or chase. These ships were normally used for
transportation and communication in Holland's sheltered
waters but, sometimes, their wealthy owners used them for
pleasure sailing. In 1660, the English king, Charles II, was
given a Dutch jaght and the words Yacht and Yachting
entered the English language.

A year later, English shipbuilders had taken up the challenge of improving the Dutch design. The Peu brothers presented the Catherine to King Charles and the Anne to his brother, the Duke of York.

Then, as now, boys and their new toys meant a race. In this case, a race down the River Thames from Greenwich to Gravesend and back. The King won this first recorded competition between two yachts, which was perhaps fortunate or he may have banned the sport before it began. By the early 19th century, the practice of yachting for pleasure and competition was established among English gentlemen led by the Prince Regent, later to become George IV. From small, if royal, beginnings the idea of sailing for pleasure quickly spread overseas. Today, the International Sailing Federation has 121 member countries, each with their own national organization for the management and development of the sport.

Trivia: Because sailing for pleaseure started in yachts, the sport became known as Yachting. Today, the term Sailing is more commonly used since it covers all types and sizes of boats.