RAS – Reluctant Acceptance Syndrome

The high-flying, Verdier-designed Class40 Maître CoQ IV, which was originally designed for the 2016 Vendée Globe. Photo courtesy Stéphanie Gaspari/Vendée Globe

March/April 2021

By Bob Muggleston

One aspect of getting older, I’ve noticed, is the tendency to downplay or dismiss things that have been touted as “new and improved.” Especially when the thing being “improved” has been just fine for years, possibly even decades. Take the self-checkout zones at supermarkets, for instance. When they tore out half of the manned checkout counters at our local Adams to make way for self-checkout stations, I just knew it would be a disaster. Who in their right mind would ring up their own groceries? Most of us are already bagging them, which means basic math dictates that the process will be 50% slower. Well, it turns out the answer to the question above is: everyone! They were immediately popular. And so: recently faced with long lines at the two manned checkout counters at Stop & Shop, I used one of the un-manned. Guess what? It was as bad as I thought! I needed four separate assists, three times because the machine was confused and needed to be over-ridden with a special key, and the fourth because I was buying beer and they needed to check my license. What did George’s father on “Seinfeld” say? Serenity now!

As older folks we’ve seen and done a lot, and – quite frankly – usually know when we’re being fed a line of bull. But, if people like me were in charge, there would be little advancement on any front. And that’s never a good thing. It’s only by trying new things that the law of averages kicks in, and a small percentage of true innovation is able to sneak through and resonate.

Take foiling hulls, for instance. What a dumb idea, right? Sure, the weird physics are there, but what about their performance in the real world? Only good on a sunny day in the open ocean, and prone to failure, was my attitude about 10 years ago. It’s taken every one of those 10 years to convince me otherwise.

So here we are in 2021, and one recent event in particular has sealed the deal for me on the topic of foiling. You know what I’m going to say: The Vendée Globe! Not only was it one of the closest races in recent memory (the top eight boats all finished within a 24-hour period), but finishers 1 through 3 – Yannick Bestaven, Charlie Dalin and Louis Burton; all of them French, of course – were aboard foiling boats. The same type of boat I recently would have bet against surviving a transatlantic passage, much less a nonstop race around the world. Well-done, solo French sailors. You are an inspiration to us all. And, I hate to admit it, your boats are pretty great.

This segues nicely into the Prada Cup, which also featured foiling boats. Did anyone watch? Granted, it wasn’t easy to see stuff live, but YouTube summaries were great. My impression so far has been that sailboat racing in 10 knots of breeze never looked so good. Or has been so exciting. It’s a pity that the American Magic team never quite found their stride. But they recovered from what looked like catastrophic injury, and were certainly game enough. Unfortunately, they weren’t good enough. I’m looking forward to the showdown between Italy and New Zealand in the America’s Cup. So is our resident Kiwi, Peter Winter. He’s written a funny and somewhat irreverent essay on the topic (page 19), and everyone needs a laugh these days.

In the last issue of the magazine I talked about walking through newly opened doors. In that vein I’d like to announce that we’ve added a monthly food column called “In the Galley,” written by Kittery Point, Maine’s, Jean Kerr. Jean contacted us out of the blue with the offer, and, once we looked at her credentials – she’s the former founder and editor of “Northeast Flavor” magazine, has written four cookbooks, and contributed to periodicals such as “Yankee” and “Cruising World” – we thought it prudent not to say no. Check out her first column, about scallops, on pg. 58. Bet you learn a thing or two.

New and improved? Always process those words with a high degree of skepticism. Evolution? Now that’s a word I can get behind.

Just don’t make me check out my own groceries.