As many of you know, I spent last week helping to run the US Women’s Match Racing Olympic Trials, a stand-alone event run in Weymouth, England, the sailing site of the 2012 Games.
Running a regatta in a foreign country (even one with a common language) creates amazing logistical challenges. Though we tried to figure out everything in advance, we still had many last minute issues to sort out on-site. And as the Organizing Authority (or OA), most of them landed in my lap. Support boats that had been reserved hadn’t yet arrived from another regatta, so we had to find fill ins for the first few days. New sponsor graphics for US Sailng Team Sperry Topsider didn’t show up until after the boats were in the water, which complicated getting the stickers in place. Last but not least, all the usual logistics of running a very, very important event were complicated by operating five hours ahead of the US, in a country where most of us didn’t have working mobile phones.
And yet once we were out on the water, it was all worth it. Our eventual winners, Team Maclaren’s Anna Tunnicliffe, Molly Vandermoer, and Deb Capozzi had to be at the very top of their game to win over the other US teams. The tight, exciting racing firmly established the US dominance of Women’s Match Racing. Best of all, the volunteers (eighteen people from a mix of countries, many of whom had never met before this event) coalesced into a team with one goal: providing the fairest regatta possible.
Which brings me to my original question: Why do we volunteer? Why take vacation time to travel abroad, share a room with an assigned roommate, put on layer after layer of fleece, wool, and waterproof gear to go out in a small boat when it’s forty degrees Fahrenheit and usually raining?
After a week, I can safely say that the reward is being part of a team. It’s the same thing I love about sailing with teammates who are motivated to bring their best effort to the race course, even though it takes them away from their families and is not particularly career-enhancing. It’s the same thing that makes it so hard to answer that off-hand airport question: Business or Pleasure?
Working as part of a group like this (an international mix brought together by a common love of our sport) creates its own community: we each bring the best of our experience to the table, hoping to find a way to respond quickly and efficiently to any unexpected challenges.
Joining forces with a group to accomplish a specific goal, whether short term or long term, can be amazingly satisfying. It also teaches us about ourselves and expands our horizons in a way that would not be possible if we stayed home.
Thanks to all who made this event such a great success—especially the athletes, whose hard work made it work all the effort to put on such a challenging event.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled lives.