Sun Apr 20
Be careful what you wish for!
After tempting providence by asking my fellow Rhode Island boaters, "So Where the Bloody Hell Are You?", and celebrating sailing alone in The Sound of One Foot Clapping, it was bound to happen. More freaking boats than I could handle. Boats to the left, boats to the right. Boats crashing into me and boats that I crashed into.
Of course I knew all along where they all were. Or at least where the Laser sailors were. The Newport Laser frostbite fleet is famous worldwide for their commitment to winter sailing, the depth of their skills, and their excellent turnouts in the coldest of weathers. So when I showed up for their end-of-season regatta last Sunday it wasn't entirely a surprise to find fifty or so fellow Laser sailors there, many of whom had been sailing with the fleet all winter.
What was a surprise (at least to me) was my total incompetence at dealing with this form of big fleet short course racing. It's been a couple of years since I've sailed in a large frostbite fleet and it showed. I'd forgotten exactly how confusing it can be when forty Laser sailors all show up at the first windward mark within a few seconds of each other. Or how to deal with the situation where ten Lasers are planing into a leeward gate side-by-side and another eight are surfing along with a couple of feet of their transoms.
Total chaos. Collisions. Capsizes. Crashes. Curses. At times it was more like bumper boats than real racing. This kind of sailing requires superb foresight into developing tactical situations, instant analysis of how the Racing Rules of Sailing apply, quick reactions, excellent boat-handling... I have to say that my own skills in all these areas were sadly lacking.
It should have been fun. It used to be fun when I did this every week at my old fleet. But the crowds of boats at every mark rounding -- and my own incompetence at dealing with them -- made the day less than fun for me.
My starts were reasonable, my boatspeed was OK, but the mark roundings were disastrous. After three awful races full of all kinds of catastrophes, I sailed a reasonable fourth race. Managed to insert myself in the starboard tack parade at the windward marks without fouling anybody, or overstanding by a mile, or hitting the mark, or capsizing, or all of the above. Rounded the leeward marks on the inside both times without hitting anybody. Remembered to approach the short finish line from the right with the starboard tack advantage. So, I decided to quit before it got worse again. And I was sure it would get worse as I became more tired and my boathandling abilities went downhill
Quit! Me? Me... the guy who won the Ironman Trophy at my old frostbite fleet a few years ago for sailing every race one season, (or sailing more races than anyone else, I forget which)? Me... who used to sail every winter Sunday afternoon until my arm muscles were cramping up and I couldn't grip the sheet any more?
I'm afraid so. I quit. Must be getting old. No longer the Ironman.
I'm angry at myself for skipping frostbite sailing the last two winters on the flimsiest of excuses such as moving house and some minor injury. I'm angry at myself for wimping out early on Sunday.
Anger is a great motivator. Especially anger at oneself. I'm going to be out there every Sunday next winter with the Newport Laser Fleet. I'm going to become familiar once again with large fleet short course racing and crowded mark roundings. I'm going to master it.
Watch this space.
Or even better... come join me.