Monday, December 29, 2008

Windy Sailing Column Shows Poor Taste

Imagine you own a chain of small-town newspapers. Times are tough, advertising revenues fall, and you are forced to fire half the staff. Your internal memos on the matter “mourn” the loss of “family.”

But soon enough, a particularly lovely day in December dawns (remember, it’s Florida). You decide to “take a vacation day” (!) from your labors and head over to the yacht club where you untie your sloop for a sail around the harbor.

Question: Do you write a column about it?
Answer: Yes, if you are Derek Dunn-Rankin.

Comment: Enjoying his sail under “a milk-blue sky” is one thing. Writing about what is often regarded as an elitist activity is simply rubbing the staff’s nose in the disparity between Dunn-Rankin’s holiday and theirs.

Perhaps feeling a twinge of conscience about spending 20 inches of ink waxing poetic about his personal pursuit of happiness under sail, the company patriarch opines: “If I could get just a few thousand of the millions shoveling driveway snow to spend a few minutes aboard, we would once more have a shortage of houses for sale.”

Oh my! One tack out of the yacht club and consumers would be back on board! Having a full-time job that pays more than collecting aluminum cans and the means to qualify for a mortgage aren't part of the Dunn-Rankin sailing-to-economic-recovery plan.

If, after considering how many of his laid-off staff had to forgo yacht club memberships this year, Dunn-Rankin still decides to publish his lyric to leisure, then he should at least send the column to a decent copy editor. A “tiller arm” and “sheet line” are both silly redundancies. (A tiller is an arm and a sheet is a line, so there’s no need for the pompous inclusion of the extra noun disguised as an adjective.) He describes the boat’s “heel to the wind,” giving a backwards description of what happens when wind moves over sail. (By sailing left or right of the wind’s head-on direction, a sail produces different wind pressures on the front and back of its air-foil shape. The differential propels the boat forward. In the process, the boat heels away from, or “off,” the wind source, not into it.) But these are minor points.

The bigger point is Dunn-Rankin left his better judgment on the dock when he decided to tell his former employees and former advertisers how much fun he’s having, and suggest that all their problems would be solved if they'd only take a little sail, just like he does.


  1. Love the hed. Glad there's a kid on the copy desk to tell us sailing is more fun than shoveling snow. How patronizing and stupid!

  2. Sun Coast Media expects its serfs to pay homage to the feudal leader. Higher-ups often boast about their vacations and new toys. What a way to let the worker bees know you feel their pain!

  3. Hit 'em again, Wolf, they're still moving.