SOMEONE once told me that the greatest thing you could give your kids was to spend time teaching them a skill they would treasure for the rest of their lives.
Nothing complicated. Social sports and creative arts are the most obvious. Things such as cooking, tennis, golf, fishing, bridge, chess. Hundreds of possibilities. Any skill that they will possess for life, remember you for and value as a testament to your time together, your teaching and your profound bond.
You might remember I recently offered my kids the opportunity to choose such a hobby. Something they could do with their dad. The girls asked for a water-ski boat, a go-kart and a pony. My youngest, Archie, asked if Dad could throw a few basketballs with him. He is perfect obviously, my girls are spoilt. My fault. Offer them a profound experience and they see cash.
But undeterred we have now made our purchase. A sailing dinghy. What better sport to bequeath your kids than sailing? It is also a throwback to my youth and my dad. He didn’t exactly teach my brother and I to sail but he did get fed up with us in the school holidays enough to go out and buy us an Enterprise dinghy to sail on the Thames. Our sail number was 265. It was 1974. There are now more than 23,200 of them in Britain.
Thirty-six years later and it still conjures up images of Dad.
The boat we have just bought is a 13-year-old single-handed dinghy called a Sabre, big enough to take the kids out and teach them, very popular on Port Phillip Bay, and a class of boat that has a healthy and competitive class of sailors at the top level, all of whom are extremely welcoming to new participants and liberal with their valuable advice. Many of them conveniently sail at my flourishing local club at Black Rock.
The Sabre is a one-class boat and the beauty of that is that it pits sailor against sailor on pretty much equal terms. In other words, racing is not a function of the boat so much as a game of chess on water, a game in which everyone starts with the same pieces. It is polite combat, mano a mano, womano a womano.
It has been much like starting out in shares. Having acquired all the tools to participate, I set out on the water and, just like most stockmarket newbies, thought that would be enough to be competitive. In fact, as I prepared for my first race I remember concerning myself with line bias, getting clean air, lifts and headers, which side of the course to favour, taking advantage of oscillating and persistent wind shifts and the amendments to the ISAF Racing Rules of Sailing since I was last out on the water.
How mistaken I was. I should have known. My first race I capsized five times, lost the tiller extension mid-hurricane, watched in horror as the rudder decided to depart its casing mid-”death surf”, had the sail rip, half of it exit from the mast track and the mast step mysteriously choose to take itself 15 centimetres across the deck mid-savaging. I also found out that anything not clipped to the boat you can lose (self, rudder, pride and centreboard included).
Taking advantage of oscillating and persistent wind shifts! What a joke. Clearly anyone can buy a boat, but it’s something else to be able to sail it, let alone perform. It’s like approaching the stockmarket with some grand idea that you need to know about Warren Buffett, discounted cash flow valuations and return on equity while missing the fact that you don’t yet know how to trade.
It’s back to fundamentals for me. Step one: eliminate basic mistakes. The first goal is to prepare the boat to be safe and of competitive standard, hopefully without blowing the bank. The next is to perfect basic skills. After that I might start worrying about performance and then about getting off the back of the fleet.
As for the kids? When I have some wisdom to impart I’ll be sure to let you know. Until then, your profound legacy will have to wait.
Marcus Padley is a stockbroker with Patersons Securities and the author of stockmarket newsletter Marcus Today. For a free trial go to marcustoday.com.au. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of Patersons.