Mason Kaplan

In my two years at RHP, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people. However, I don’t think many of them know that I sail competitively. I started sailing when I was just 6 years old. For my first lesson, my dad took me to Alamitos Bay in Long Beach. I was excited and nervous at the same time. Turns out, that nervousness was justified. The first time out on the water, I not-so-gracefully fell in. It was disheartening but I kept pushing on for some reason (my parents). That was twelve years ago. Now, I genuinely enjoy sailing, especially at a competitive level. Through my countless days on the water, I’ve learned perseverance, endurance, and adaptability.

            Of course, I did not start out competing at a national level. I started out just floating around, maybe ending up in the water depending on the wind. Follow-up lessons went more or less the same, but I knew I was improving. At times, it felt like I hit a wall. It felt frustrating hitting the same consistency issues over and over again. I knew what I had to do, but I just couldn’t execute it.  However, as frustrating as this was, I didn’t quit.  I used it to challenge myself. I wanted to get better. I needed to get better. To do that, I had to stick with it. With the help of my coaches and constant practice, I would eventually work out these issues. Of course, there were always more to replace them. After years of training, it was finally time for me to compete in my first actual race. It went as well as it could have: I actually finished. It was not my first win, but it was one of my first successes.

            Despite not winning my very first race, it taught me a lot about what I needed to win. It was a long and exhausting experience. Competitive sailing is not the same as a day out on the water. A sailing regatta is a series of races that are run around a preset course, often with a start line and marks or buoys sail around. The higher the finish, the lower your score is. Sailing is like golf, in that you want to finish with the lowest points possible, so finishing high or consistently is ideal. Typically, there are 6-7 races run per day, with each race taking anywhere from 30 minutes to beyond. There are also breaks in between races, and potentially long delays. We often have lunch on the water, and more often than not have to reapply sunscreen multiple times. It’s both physically and mentally exhausting to be out on the water for that long. You have to be aware of the course itself, other boats around you, your boat’s condition, and so much more. Life is another long endurance race in which you have to be aware of your own condition and the conditions of the course.

            Sailing has also taught me adaptability. You can sail in the same spot every day, but have completely different experiences based on ever-changing variables like wind speed and direction. Each time, you have to think of a new game plan before every race. In my daily life, no day is the same as the previous. Each day requires a brand new plan and sometimes a secondary plan when things go out of control. I do my best to calmly assess new variables as they come and adjust accordingly instead of floundering and sinking. I remember one race, the wind suddenly died right after the start. Without any wind for our sails, I was left with no other option except to physically scoot the boat across the water. Ten minutes later of me, and the other sailors, doing this and then the officials called off the race. 

Life is just like a boat race. Sometimes you face unfavorable conditions such as winds of over 25 knots or the power going out in the middle of a project. Even though I would rather have sailed back to the dock or jumped into the safety of my bed, I will continue on in the face of those obstacles.I know that things will not always be easy but thanks to sailing, I know that if I keep pushing, I will be able to make it to the end. I will always finish my race.