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Joined 2016-06-07

Boating is perhaps the most romantic of all sports , with its aura of long days on deck, of old sea salts’ talk, of rope-related knowhow and words like “keelhaul” and “stern,” its echoes of Melville and Popeye and of Robert Shaw’s character in the movie Jaws. (“I’ll get the shark fer yeh, Chiefie!”)

But competitive yachting is a pastime involving leisure and privilege (you have to have a boat, after all, and the time to race it) as well as hard work, danger, and, yes, a dash of that old-time historical romance. The Dutch are said to have invented the sailboat race during the sixteen-hundreds. As with competitive riflery, which took off in the period after the Civil War in America as a direct result of Americans’ need for better marksmanship skills, or hunting, which developed as a sport alongside the young country’s need to better feed and clothe itself as it expanded westward, sailboat racing probably owed something of its emergence to the sudden need for good seamen in a Europe that was expanding through colonialism and trade.

The Dutch, active participants in the colonial and mercantile economies of the seventeenth century (they were among the many societies then attempting to wrest the United States away from Indians) , would have needed well-trained sailors.