By Steve Morrell
When I first heard about the Wreckers Race in Key West a few years ago, I figured it fit right in with the Key West life; a town of great diversity of people, an outlaw dislike-of-rules mentality, free-thinking, a tolerance of different lifestyles, treasure-seekers, and a haven for those escaping the regular routine.
So what is the Wreckers Race? It’s a whole bunch of sailboats just racing without ratings, rules (basically), flags, signals and all the other paraphernalia that go along with a conventional sailboat race. Boats of all sizes and shapes race—from a 20-footer to a 150-footer. The boats have a start; they race out to a marker, round it and return. First one to finish wins. Race over. Period.
Then there’s Bubba. By coincidence (always be suspicious of those), in this issue we have a story where Bubba talks about the opposite of the Wreckers Race idea—a new type of PHRF ratings system where every boat has its own class, solving lots of problems, like ratings equality. When you race with PHRF rules, your boat gets rated in an attempt to level the playing field with all the other boats, so that in the final judgment, it is the skill of the sailors on board and not the boat that made the win. It is all set up with the best of intentions.
There couldn’t be two races more different. In PHRF, it seems like there are more and more classes and finer and finer distinctions for the ratings in an attempt to level that playing field. You earn a minute here and there for having a folding prop or a barbecue on board—or whatever. If there was a race to see who got their race off the ground first, the Wreckers Race would be out and back at the finish line, while the PHRF race was still back at the dock discussing the rules and ratings.
You could carry this over to life. You could be either a Wreckers Race sailor or a PHRF race sailor.
Of course, let’s not forget the one-design race. That’s like we are all born as clones of one individual—born at the same place and time with the same physical qualities. And what we do with our lives after that is a one-design race. Fair enough.
I think that, for some reason, everyone would like to race in a Wreckers Race every now and then. I think we all know why.
Of course, I believe that comparing life to these races is a simile, not a metaphor—and there’s an important difference there. It’s the rat race I’m wondering about.