Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Heavy Air Fear

I'll tell you a secret.

Though I love to brag about how much I enjoy heavy air sailing in a Laser, "Man it was crazy out there....must have been blowing 30......whitecaps and spray everywhere......there were capsizes and broken masts all around me.... you could ride a wave for was the best ever" ..... really it scares me shitless.

But it's a good scary. Like the feeling you get when you get to the top of a black ski run and you have to lean forward to actually see down the slope. And then you wish you hadn't. Or the moment when you go over the top of a roller coaster and see the next downhill stretch. There's something about the human brain that actually takes a delight in being scared, living through the frightening experience and then coming out the other side laughing. But there are limits.

I could see for days ahead that the third day of the Laser US Nationals was going to be real windy. A cold front was forecast to cross the Carolina coast bringing cooler temperatures, heavier winds and thunderstorms. On the morning of Saturday the forecast was for 35mph winds, 7 foot swells and lightning. Not exactly ideal conditions for racing in a 14 foot dinghy.

I arrived at the club and it was howling. Did anybody really think we would actually race on a day like this? Nobody was rigging their boats. But the race committee was loading their supplies on to their motor boats. Still nobody was rigging a Laser. At about the last possible moment when you could still rig, launch and get out to the course in time for the first race, some brave soul hoisted a sail. A few other idiots including myself followed suit. By the time the first race committee boat blew a horn and left the dock, about half the Lasers were rigged. But nobody launched.

Then an amazing thing happened. The top two sailors in my age group approached me and said they didn't want to sail and would I agree not to sail too. I should explain that in the Laser class you are seen as old and over the hill when you turn 35. Laser sailors over 35 are known as "masters"; this does not imply mastery; it just means you are an old geezer. So, to recognize our decrepit, incompetent, weakling status the Nationals was offering a trophy for the first old geezer in each 10 year age range over 35. At this stage I was lying third in the regatta in the "incredibly old and we are amazed they actually are still alive" age group.

I could see what was going on. If the leading two sailors didn't race and I did, then, depending on how many races were sailed today and tomorrow, there was an outside theoretical mathematical chance that I might actually win the decrepit, incompetent, aged weakling award. Hmmm. How to respond? I didn't really want to sail either. But it was too good an opportunity for mischief.

The leader in our age group - a sailor whom I regard as being in a totally different league to myself - was saying with a touch of nervousness in his voice, "After all, it is supposed to be a pleasure craft."

I looked thoughtful. "I don't know. I was really looking forward to getting some practice in the heavy stuff. Should be fun." The other two looked dismayed.

In the end I relented and shook hands on our agreement to strike. Are we an old geezers union now?

I headed off with the love of my life for some simple tourist pleasures - a beer and a burger for lunch in a pub by the river, and visits to an aquarium and a Civil War fort. In the end, all racing was canceled for the day as I suspected it would be.

It is good to know that other old geezers feel the same about heavy air as I do. Perhaps the youngsters do too - though they would never admit it.


EVK4 said...

I never ever understand racers. I sail on San Francisco Bay, in the summer there is always a lot of wind. When pleasure-sailing, I just put in a reef and enjoy the day. When I'm racing, these people still put up the humungo-jib, full main and insist on sailing at uncomfortable heeling angles.

To top it off, if there is moisture in the air (either rain or lots and lots of spray), nobody should choose to go out. Yet these people do and because I'm signed up as crew, I have to too.

You made the right decision.

EVK4 said...

By the way, thanks for linking to me...I never actually expected readers but who knows maybe I'll become famous.

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