Sailing is supposed to be about more than riding the wind. There is the character that one builds into the boat, and the character built into the owner by the boat. All in all that’s a lot of ‘plank nailing’ and ‘chart plotting’. And then there is the character shown of both by nature’s treatment of that team when on the water. And last nights ‘race’ at Alum Creek I’m afraid showed some flaws in both.
I’m not a ‘light wind’ sailor, I’ve discovered. I could not feel or find the wind last night when others were able to glide along on a whisper of air. I felt like the keel weight 20,000 lbs instead of 2000 lbs as I sat there at the helm and watched them pick up speed, Lifeline seemingly at anchor.
But then, there was some solace. Only one boat crossed the start line within five minutes of the horn. Lifeline took nine minutes, which would legally be four minutes late and result in a ‘Did Not Start’, or DNS. I eventually found some way to move her forward, but her heart wasn’t in this tonight and it seemed nothing I could do would coax her forward.
When a heavier wind (I jest, it made maybe 7 knots) found us we were half a mile behind. I was pretty excited as we stayed out away from the trees to ride the full of what breeze there was. We made up nearly the entire distance between us and the rest of the fleet! We rounded the first mark and I was prepared for Lifeline to catch those others trailing when it seemed the anchor dropped again. The two boats behind us closed in and shadowed us from the wind. There was nothing to do. I had made a tactical error and been effectively stopped.
Being between these other two boats meant if I turned either direction I would be unable to fill the sails with air, blocked by either one of their sets of canvas. And neither gave way. They would simply slid past Lifeline far enough to give us the wind, at which point Lifeline’s sails shadowed theirs. They would slow, we would pass, and the whole routine came full circle. It is a miserable way to ride. Meanwhile, the rest of the fleet was out at the second mark in full air. The gap from front to back widened.
Finally, rounding the second mark I gave a wide berth to the other two boats and in an unusual move I sailed more than fifty yards downwind of these two nemesis. We all three picked up the full wind the rest of the fleet had enjoyed and beat up toward the finish line. Lifeline and I managed to close about half the distance, but still crossed the line well after the leaders…and the followers…and their followers.
We did not finish last, in either the class or the fleet. But I know I finished last and let Lifeline down as well. In my heart, the race and my pride were more important than having time on the water and enjoying what air nature would give us. In my heart I finished last for the two of us.
It was a good lesson. Let me hit that nail one more time and put this plank in place. It was a good lesson.