This guy has been sending me emails for a couple of weeks now.
The messages are about how they are having informal Laser racing on Saturday afternoons at the lake club where I raced a few weeks ago. Short course fleet racing. As many races as they can fit in between 3 and 5. Keep it friendly. Not too serious. No keeping score. All about having fun and building the Laser fleet. Every Monday I receive an email telling me about how much fun they had the previous weekend. And every Friday in comes another email with a note about how the weather forecast for Saturday is perfect for sailing and encouraging me to join them.
Actually two hmmms.
Hmmm #1. If only someone had bothered to market our district regatta the other weekend in a similar way then maybe we would have had more than seven boats show up.
Hmmm #2. This format reminds me of something we used to do at Hunterdon Sailing Club in New Jersey. In the middle of the summer there was a "proper" Wednesday evening Sunfish series with a race committee, and scores, and trophies (and even the occasional protest meeting). But the season stopped at the end of August because once the evenings became shorter in September it was impractical for those poor souls who have to work for a living to arrive at the lake early enough to fit in much racing before sunset.
So some bright spark started the GUST series. GUST stood for Geriatric or Under-employed Starboard Tackers. A bunch of us retired layabouts would race through September and into October on Wednesday afternoons from about 4 until sunset. Rabbit starts. No race committee (or even a safety boat). No keeping score. Just a friendly group of old geezers having fun.
Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes. Saturday afternoon.
So anyway last Saturday I drove over to my son's house in the morning to play with my grandchildren. "My grandchildren." I like saying that. I've only been a multiple grandfather for two weeks but it's a good feeling.
At the grand old age of almost two weeks Aidan really only has do three things: drink milk, sleep, and poop. The kid is incredibly talented at all three, and even did one of them while sitting on my knee.
Emily was excited to see me and we spent the morning playing doctors (involving giving extensive "check-ups" to every doll and furry animal toy in her vast menagerie using her new toy medical chest) and having fun with a hose pipe and her paddling pool in the back yard. Did I mention that this kid loves the water?
After drying off and having lunch, I headed down to the lake which is not far from my son's house. Of course, having won the regatta there three weeks ago, I had to put up with some good-natured ribbing about whether I had to come to show them all up. As it turned out, this was far from the case.
The courses were short. One lap windward-leeward lasting not much more than five minutes. We must have done about ten races. Success depended on the start and the mark roundings. It was more like practice drills than real racing but it was a hell of a lot of fun. I won one race and was second a few times but was also nearer the back of the fleet a few times too.
It struck me that one of the beauties of sailboat racing is that it's really so many different games rolled into one. Even sailing the same boat all the time, the Laser, the skills demanded are so different from week to week.
At the lake regatta, in light patchy winds, the keys to success were the ability to see the big picture as to what the wind was doing on the lake and having the skills to keep the boat moving in the very light stuff.
Last week at Barrington, at least once the breeze was up, you needed to be able to spot the shifts, hike hard upwind, and play the waves downwind.
But on Saturday, on such short courses, it was all about the close boat-to-boat stuff, battling it out at the start line, being aggressive, and having quick reactions and good boat-handling at the mark roundings. Man these guys were good at that stuff.
It made me realize that this is a group of skills that I need to work on. I've become lazy at the boat-to-boat stuff, unconsciously (but incorrectly) thinking that if I can find a clear lane and sail fast in big-course races, all will be well. Maybe I need to spend a few more Saturday afternoons at the lake...
Just before I left the lake, the guy who had been sending the emails thanked me for coming and pointed out that I ought to spend Saturday morning with my grandchildren and then sail with the fleet at the lake in the afternoon more often.
Hmmm, I like the sound of that...
Then home to the beautiful Tillerwoman who had made fish and chips and mushy peas for dinner. I am a very lucky man.