The annual Newport Regatta on the weekend of 8/9 July welcomed 254 Boats from 18 States, the USVI, Canada and France. With racing covering 5 racing circles in Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound, there was racing absolutely everywhere. On the circle for the Laser class we had 49 Lasers and 26 Radials including some of the best Laser sailors in New England.
And I hear that fellow blogger Eliboat was there too, narrowly escaping death 110 style.
I could tell you about the light winds on Saturday and the better winds on Sunday and give you a blow-by-blow account of how I managed to maintain my mid-fleet mediocrity in every race. But instead here are my top ten random best memories of the 2006 Newport Regatta.
1. Being Recognized. I drove into the parking lot with my boat trailer and the guy in the next slot said to me, "Do I know you?" We exchanged (real) names and discovered that we had met at the Rick White Seminar last year. Then when he told me where he came from I realized that we had both sailed at Lake Whippersnapper on the same day three weeks ago.
"Oh yeah, you whipped ass that day, didn't you?" he recalled.
2. Sailing with the 12's. On the way out to the course on Saturday morning there were three classic 12-metre yachts sailing up the bay too, including Freedom the winner of the America's Cup in 1980. What a thrill to be sailing with these old ladies.
3. Losing and finding my groove. On Saturday the winds were light and shifty and I felt out of touch with the boat and that I didn't know how to sail. Then on Sunday the wind picked up and I could hike and plane and ride the waves and I felt like I was in the groove. Funny thing though -- my results were much the same both days. Go figure.
4. Sunday morning church. I'm not a religious person so on Sunday morning at 10 am I was sailing a broad reach out to the race course, screaming across the width of Narragansett Bay on a broad reach, the Newport Bridge towering over me, sailboats of every description all around me, big smile on my face, hell I might even have been shouting out a few whoops...
Is this heaven? No, it's Rhode Island.
5. Laser Girls Kick Ass. As expected there was a strong contingent of females in the Radial fleet but also several very good women sailors in the Standard Laser fleet. That's a good sign as for too long there have been very few women sailing Lasers. I find myself dueling in several races for mid-fleet places with a tall fit young woman and thinking, "Who is that gal?" I googled her afterwards and discovered she is an internationally ranked sailor in Europe and Laser Radial classes and a national champion (as crew) in Lightnings and Snipes.
Hmmm - I am moving in some good circles these days.
6. Meeting a former pupil. Hey - I know that name. There was this 14-year-old kid sailing in the Laser Radial fleet who turned out to be a kid I had taught to sail in a Sunfish when he was about 8 years old. The family had moved to Rhode Island and I hadn't seen him for years. I met his parents on Sunday and they proudly told me how he was racing 420s in high school and had been enthusiastically sailing his Radial every weekend of the bitterly cold New England winter with the Newport Laser Frostbite fleet.
It's gratifying when you can light a spark and see it turn into a raging fire.
7. Straightening out a cheater. I came round the weather mark in one race on Sunday, caught a wave and then saw this young guy in front of me wildly pumping his mainsheet like he had a tic in his elbow.
"Hey - the rule says one pump per wave, not one pump per second. Pack it in if you don't want to get protested."
He looked back at me sullenly but toned down his pumping. I worked my way past him on the next beat and after rounding the leeward mark on the next downwind leg I saw that he had capsized on the run.
Ha. There is a god. Cheaters never prosper.
8. Seeing Northern Light. On the way back to the launch area, after racing on Sunday, I was rolled to windward by the vintage wooden 12-metre US-14 Northern Light built in 1938 and restored by Robert Tiedemann. Hey - this beauty was in WoodenBoat magazine recently - that's why she looks so familiar. I did have luffing rights on her but out of respect for such a beautiful yacht I chose not to exercise them. I just hung out there in the sunshine and breeze and enjoyed the moment.
9. Dissing a big ass powerboat. A few minutes later the sun and wind were shut off as some ugly slab of a luxury "megayacht" chugged by with the roar from about 2000 hp of diesel engines and the windshadow you would expect from a four story apartment building approximately the length of a Manhattan city block. I shouted at the fat white guy standing on one of the after decks who I hoped was the owner, "Why would you want to own a piece of shit like that when you could be sailing a Laser?"
And I meant it.
10. Sharing the weekend with Tillerwoman. My wife doesn't sail. But she comes to most regattas with me. This weekend she was there for me, picking up my dolly after launching, going off to browse the shops in Newport while I sailed, and then there again with my dolly as soon as I hit the beach at the end of each day, tolerating a car full of wet smelly sailing gear and never complaining.
Thanks you dear -- you're the best.
Wait a minute -- she doesn't read blogs either.