Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Current Affiars: Rescuing round-the-world sailors is well worth the cost.

The rescue of another yachtsmen, Yann Elies, competing in the Vendee Globe round-the-world race has once again reached the headlines, with some uncharitable commentators highlighting the so-called ‘cost’.

Those, particularly in Australia, that criticise the cost of such activities should bear in mind that many would not be living where they are today unless someone with an adventurous sprit had not boarded a boat and sailed into the wide blue yonder. While a comfortable and sedate experience is what many people long for, the human race would stagnate without those who try to push the boundaries in all sorts of fields and endeavours. There are indigenous races that may rue this adventurous sprit, and one cannot begrudge them this opinion, but exploration and competition appear to run in the blood of much of the human race.

Those that wish for the quiet life have every right to seek that experience, but they should not begrudge assistance to those who seek more active and physically challenging experiences. Just as some follow the suburban dream and conventional career paths, other dream of sailing the ocean or climbing mountains, or perhaps even going into space.

And as for the cost? Bean-counters use figures suggesting in excess of one million dollars, but is this real? Are the navy sailors not paid irrespective of whether they are at sea? Perhaps they get paid more at sea, but how much more? Is the fuel not going to be used at some point or another in the year? If not this voyage, then another. So what is the real cost of this rescue that wouldn’t otherwise be expended? I would hazard a guess that it is much less than the figures quoted.

I applaud those who still find ways in which to be adventurous and challenge the elements. They remind us that humans are a curious and dynamic animal that seeks out new experiences. We need to keep climbing mountains, sailing the oceans, exploring deep caves, the sea floor and the deserts. The alternative is that we become a risk-averse race that crawls along, afraid to take chances and nervous of challenges. Why should everyone be chained to their job? Why criticise those who choose to push the limits? In the long-run, their spirit of adventure benefits all of us, shows that the world can still be a wild and wonderful place, and reminds many of us of the origin of the cities where we live today.

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