Spirit of Caprera: an ethnographic analysis of sailing
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The research investigates the Centro Velico Caprera (CVC), a sailing school located in the Mediterrean Sea, whose purpose is to replicate the lifestyle of a ship on land. This ambition creates an isolated environment in which the frequenters are completely immersed and the life is heavily controlled through different spatial and temporal means. The people who attend the school and become part of its community refer to its characteristics and to the collective essence they experience as “the Spirit of Caprera”. Using an ethnographic approach and in particular participant observation as a primary source of data, and formal semi-structured interviews, the research investigated the internal dynamics of the school and the nature of the ‘spirit’ by looking at the setting from the insiders’ point of view. The investigation aspired to gain a better understanding of the setting as a sailing community and of the relationships that are created that appear to make this environment unique. The research used sociological concepts as “benchmarks”, such as total institution, status and roles, routine and rituals, subculture and power, to guide the data collection and the analysis. Moreover, it made use of key thinkers such as Goffman and Foucault. The analysis has revealed that in the Centro Velico Caprera the “spirit” can be considered as the consequence and result of more specific dynamics. In particular, the school’s organisational and institutional structure, the time management, the role and functioning of authority and finally the rules and norms that derive from the idea of being part of a unique crew. The research engaged also in the analysis of social class and gender discrimination that characterise the school. The study of this school contributes to the study of sport and in particular sailing, which has often been ignored, by adding a new perspective and analysis to its study. The main contributions surround the comparison with other similar sailing subcultures and realities, such as ocean cruising, the development of the concept of the sport panopticon related to authority and its functioning, the notion of spirit, its meaning and significance, and the particular structure of the institution with its consequence for the frequenters. Moreover, the study also aimed to contribute to the narrower debates surrounding the “benchmark” concepts, their use and their understanding in social theory and for sport studies.