That Good Old Competitive Spirit

Competition is a funny behavior.  Almost every human activity has some competitive aspect to it, be it the pursuit of the last box of Cheerios on the shelf at Safeway, the rush for last call at your local pub or a vitriolic political debate in which you find yourself engaged while waiting at the dentist’s office (don’t worry, didn’t really happen).  Most people just love to compete and you can almost see it in their eyes when you meet them.  However, some people are more laid back and would rather divert from or otherwise avoid competition in many instances.

I’ve always considered myself a hybrid competitor in that I am overall a pretty laid back person but I do enjoy a little friendly competition when I consider it appropriate and I feel at least somewhat competent in the task at hand.  Put in another way, I especially dislike competition when it makes little sense to me given the particular scene, event or topic.  A classic example of disliking competition for me is “competitive surfing.”  I love surfing not because I enjoy tearing up a wave with “youthful vigor” (not sure I even can or ever could for that matter), but mostly for the fabulous mental and physical balancing it seems to consistently offer.  Surfing for the pure fun of it surely has its own unique competitive elements.  One of the most striking of which is that you often find yourself competing against mother nature (in some conditions more than others).  But overall to me, sitting in a highly competitive (and usually crowded) lineup of jackasses is really the antithesis of where I want to be while surfing, so I’ll usually paddle a bit off the main peak.  Sorry if you have never surfed, that last statement really does make sense.

So you ask, what’s with all the psychobable about competition, Jimmy?  Well, I recently spent some time around a group of people who exhibited a more highly tuned level of competitive spirit than any other group I’ve been around in a long time (even considering my former career).  I’m writing of the men, women and children who sail during the summer in friday night “fun” races hosted by the Sarasota Sailing Squadron (  The races are open to all classes of sailboat and all skill levels of crew.  My brother-in-law, Miro Kaffka, is a professional sail maker and an expert competitive sailor himself who regularly sails aboard the racing yacht “XS,” owned and captained by Doug Fisher of Sarasota, Florida.  This sailboat is pretty substantial in size (I think 40′) but she is also light and fast (see a photo of her at and her crew this night really applied themselves toward every aspect of competitive sailing, including beer consumption (obviously only after the race was over though).

Thanks to my brother-in-law, I joined them to photograph last Friday’s “fun” race.  All the jousts toward the other boats (and there were many) were completely good-natured, but you could definitely tell that everyone on board the XS was incredibly serious about winning.  Yes, the boat was obviously the fastest thing in the water (its largely made of epoxy and carbon fiber and is completely tricked out for racing), but the race organizers apply strict handicaps so that all yacht classes are theoretically even-keeled (no pun intended:).  It was a real treat to watch this crew run the boat like a well-oiled machine.  Of course, we took FIRST PLACE because we’re THE BEST (or, at least they were)!

Enjoy a few of the photos from the afternoon below:


You can also see the entire photo set here on my Flickr Photostream:

Hope this message finds you doing well.  Jimmy

6 Responses to “That Good Old Competitive Spirit”

  1. Kate says:

    Cool boats, good perspective and dof, love them

  2. chad says:

    well done sir… i think you did a great job of telling a story here visually. the light is amazing yes, and your choice of composition and depth of field is also obviously well thought out, but what i really enjoyed was the sense of motion… scratch that. i loved everything about these. another well documented story. keep up the good work…

  3. preston says:

    I like the pics, Jimmy, and the thoughts on competition. i know the “surfers” you’re talking about, or as Jamail Yogis calls them, “surf nazis.” most of ’em are too pissed off to be having any kind of real joy in the sport. so it’s sad.

  4. Mel says:

    I second Hailey – great use of natural light and contrast. The shots into the sun are very nice.

    They took that marker pretty close, I see.

    I used to race in San Diego – nothing serious just a small sailing club we joined. You’re right – the competitive spirit ramps up pretty quick on the water and the pressure to perform well is intense. I always enjoyed being a part of the crew on these and hope your experience gets you back on the water sailing again.

    Competition – yeah, it’s interesting. One night in college a buddy and I played ping pong for a couple of hours straight without keeping score but always trying to top each other with wild shots and crazy spin. One of the best “games” I ever played.

    Maybe there’s a new sport to be invented – competitive photography! Give everyone matching cameras and turn them loose on an island…

  5. Hailey says:

    Dear Jimmy

    the light in most of these pictures is absolutely beautiful. great job! I think Chad and I need to save money so we can come visit. Can’t wait to see your next venture!…