Written more than 2000 years ago, Sun Tzu’s classic “The Art of War” is a major force for military strategists not only in China, but around the world. The subtle lessons communicate a deep understanding of battlefield strategy and have relevance in various aspects of daily life as well. Here, we look at Sun Tzu’s military theory and apply it to the more obtuse action of beer can racing. Because everything comes back to sailing, when you really think about it.
[caption id="attachment_94833" align="aligncenter" width="600"] When faced with your enemy, never back down. Even if it's very clear who's on starboard, remember that you sail with the righteous arm of destiny. Photo by Mary Lees Gunther[/caption]
War is a matter of vital importance to the state; the province of life or death; the road to survival or ruin.
Translation for sailors: Nothing is as important as racing your boat. Certainly not work. Your spouse understands and made his or her own plans this evening. Not even the kids are that big of a deal until one of them learns how to tie a bowline.
A skilled commander seeks victory from the situation, and does not demand it of his subordinates.
Translation: Yes, your crew is a bunch of clowns. Your bowman has a tendency to crap his pants every time you’re in a tack or cross situation, and your tactician can’t go a night without asking which direction the wind is coming from. But yelling at them does about as much good as putting a rabid dingo in the cockpit. These are your friends, and while it’s awesome to win, you also want everybody to have fun. On the weeknights, having fun is everything.
[caption id="attachment_94834" align="aligncenter" width="600"] An initimidating game face is your best offense. Never let them see you smile. Never let them know you're enjoying this.[/caption]
An intimidating game face is your best offense. Never let them see you smile. Never let them know you're enjoying this.
When your weapons are dulled and ardor damped, your strength exhausted and treasure spent, neighboring rulers will take advantage of your distress to act. And even though you have wise counsellors, none will be able to lay good plans for the future.
Translation: Yes, it is called ‘beer can racing’ for a rather important and highly celebrated reason. But even the world’s best sailor becomes an incompetent walrus after the fifth beer, ok? Even if your official position is “rail meat,” keep your head in the game and out of the Coors Light until your position has been fully established.
If one ignorant of military matters is sent to participate in the administration of the army, then in every movement there will be disagreement and mutual frustration and the entire army will be hamstrung.
Translation: Look. It’s not that we don’t like this new girl you’re dating. She’s great! And we love all the stories she tells about her cat. Those are just precious. We can see why you dig her. But she’s not good enough to put on the bow, and if you have her sitting in the cockpit another night, we all might just commit hari kari. This is supposed to be fun for your crew, too, you know. We’re not supposed to have a death wish every single Wednesday.
[caption id="attachment_94838" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Never expose children to the vagaries of weeknight sailing. Shield them from the horror as long as possible. Photo by Mary Lees Gunther[/caption]
Where the army is, prices are high. Where troops are gathered, the price of every commodity goes up because everyone covets the extraordinary profits to be made.
Translation: Waterfront property is ridiculously expensive. We know. But if you sell your boat and move to the suburbs, you’re going to be miserable and take up gardening, every Monday texting the guy who bought your boat to see if he needs crew, despite the fact that he’s told you multiple times that he’s “all good.” Stay where the army is; let everyone covet your profits.
[caption id="attachment_94835" align="alignright" width="350"] The most cunning sailors often appear comfortable in the face of warfare. Be advised: this is just a ruse. This man is ready to pounce.[/caption]
The reason troops slay the enemy is because they are enraged.
Translation: I didn’t mean what I said when I was racing. But really, if you try to protest me, just know that we are no longer friends. I’m serious. I do circles for no man.
To say that a general must await commands of the sovereign in warfare is like informing a superior that you wish to put out a fire: before the order to do so arrives, the ashes are cold.
Translation: Ok. So you’re in a tacking duel with some schmuck who thinks he has to cover you all the way to Timbuktu. Are you seriously going to wait for him to call layline? Heck no. You’re the sovreign, now. Make your crew fake a roll tack and put that fire out yourself.
To put a rein on an able general while at the same time asking him to suppress a cunning enemy is like tying up the Black Hound of Han, and then ordering him to catch elusive hares.
Translation: Some spouses should not race together. Some. Not all. But if yours is a problem, just very politely explain that no one ties up the Black Hound of Han. No one.
Those skilled in war can make themselves invincible, but cannot cause an enemy to be certainly vulnerable. Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack.
Translation: Yep, those sails are old and crusty, and look like they’ve spent the last 10 off seasons sitting in a wet basement (because they have). But you and your buddies know how to make the boat go fast with that craptastic canvas. And when you beat a boat full of pros with their super fancy sails, you legitimately earn a place in the Local Sailing Hall of Fame. So don’t stop attacking, ever.