Wednesday, September 14, 2005

What's Wrong With Being Number Two?

I haven't written much about racing in the new Laser fleet that S. and I started at our club this year. The truth is that I haven't found it as exciting as I thought it would be.

Yes, it has been rewarding to start a new fleet from nothing, attract new members, help them find boats to buy, get them started in Laser sailing and pass on some knowledge. I take great satisfaction from the fact that in one year we have built it to be one of the largest and most active fleets in the club. I'm not a natural cheerleader but occasionally it's good to succeed at something out of your comfort zone.

Yes, it has been enjoyable to be able to sail my Laser every Sunday. No other boat gives me quite the same thrill. As it said on a bumper sticker I saw somewhere, "Life is too short to sail ugly boats." And I've wasted too many years sailing ugly boats.

But what's been missing has been real competition. The other folk in the fleet don't yet have the same experience in the boat as myself. So most races follow the same pattern. Win the start. Stay in front. Extend my lead. This can get really boring after a while.

I have done my best to raise the standard in the rest of the fleet. I've shown people how to get their boats in top racing order. I've passed on tuning advice. I've offered to organize practice sessions. I've given advice on the water when I've seen people doing the wrong things. And they are improving. But not fast enough to push me much.

Sailors from other fleets give me a hard time about my horizon jobs. Say I should be sailing in their fleets to get closer competition. I see their point but I want to sail my Laser. The other Laser sailors get really excited if they are even in front of me for part of a race.

Don't get me wrong. I have been beaten. I've invited better sailors from other clubs to race with us and they've won races. We've lent boats to good sailors from other classes and occasionally they've won races. Unfortunately that doesn't happen very often.

But last Sunday we had a breakthrough. The winds were light, patchy and shifty. And the second best sailor in the fleet is really good in these conditions. In the second race he was close on my transom all the way round the race track. I rounded the last mark in textbook manner -- enter wide, leave close. Too close? The mark definitely twitched a little as I rounded it. Did I hit it? Not sure. Did a 360 anyway. My friend passed me and I couldn't overtake him in the last few yards of the race.

Man - it felt good to be second. First time I've been beaten by one of the regular members of the fleet. He's a good guy. Really got the Laser bug. Says he's trying to persuade his wife to let him buy a new Laser but she thinks that feeding the kids is more important. As Morrie teaches Mitch in Tuesdays with Morrie, "What's wrong with being number two?" It felt amazingly good.

But I beat his ass in the third race.

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