Friday, May 06, 2005

Who is that guy?

On the first Sunday of our sailing season last week I was on race committee. Before the races, I spotted a new face rigging a Sunfish and went over to introduce myself and to welcome him to the club. He had a brand new Sunfish and told me he hadn't sailed a Sunfish before.

Hmmmm - I was skeptical - something didn't quite add up. He was dressed in all the cool gear for a racing sailor - skin tight rash guard, low profile buoyancy aid, wrap-around sunglasses. Usually new sailors wear some geeky gear that looks like they bought it at a garage sale. This guy at least looked like he could sail.

Then I looked at his boat. The Sunfish is a strict one-design so there's not much you can do to the boat. But the top racers in the class know all the tricks and this boat had them all. Thin sail ties instead of the clunky clips. A painted rudder suggesting that some work had been done to improve it. Gooseneck and halyard in exactly the right positions. Either some expert had set this boat up for him or he had done some serious research.

"But you've done some sailing before?" I asked.

"Oh ....some.....mainly in scows" he replied.

Sure. As we motored out to the course in a brisk northwesterly I could see him surfing the little waves on our lake like an expert. He got a bit confused by our idiosyncratic starting system but once he started he was off like a bullet. Rock steady upwind, round the windward mark, catch a wave and planing all the way downwind. The wind got stronger and he got faster. He was blowing away excellent sailors from our club who were sailing supposedly faster classes. Hmmmm - he may be new to Sunfish but this guy has done some serious racing before and knows how to sail fast in the heavy stuff.

Our mystery man showed up for our friendly Wednesday evening Sunfish racing this week. The wind was much lighter but he was just as impressive. He gave no quarter on the start line using every legal tactic in the book to ace every start. Then he was away in clear air in every race. Given the fluky conditions he didn't win every race but he sure dominated all evening.

Over beer and pizza (which he couldn't join us for) everyone in the fleet was asking "Who IS that guy?". So the next day I googled him. Ahah. Someone of that name won a national championship in E-Scows a few years back. Our friend was being too modest.

But then I thought again, No - he is not being too modest. What are you supposed to do if you move to a new part of the country and join a new sailing club and start racing in a new class? You can hardly brag of your previous sailing achievements to everyone you meet. "Oh yeah - I was on the winning America's Cup boat with Dennis Conner in '92 and I beat Buddy Melges in the Nationals in '86 and I'm currently ranked 3rd on the Swedish Match Tour". (I made that bit up - that's not our guy's resume - but you get the idea). No - you just have to let the folk at your new club find out for themselves and let your performance speak for itself.

Meanwhile the wires are buzzing. Who is he? What's his name? Is he coming to this regatta? I think the local hotshots are sweating a little.

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