Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Never Failed to Fail

Sat 23 Feb

Normally reliable sources had said that there would not be any sailing on the final day of the Laser Masters Worlds. Certainly the forecast was for 30+ knots. To add to the excitement the race committee had brought the start of the first race forward by two hours to 10 am, presumably in the hope of fitting in two races for all fleets before the hard cut-off time on this the last day of the regatta. (Can't be late for the party!)

The wind sure was howling in the night. I set my alarm for 6:30 am and I'm at the club by 8 am ready, able and willing to sail. There is a south-west breeze of only about 20 knots and a big ocean swell. Seems like the pessimists were wrong. Let's go sailing!

Once out on the course we discover that the wind is continually shifting left (by about 70 degrees over the course of the day). The persistent shift causes a lot of delays with course moves and general recalls. Finally we start racing just after noon.

In race 1 I'm going better than Friday. I concentrate on bearing away on the top of every wave going upwind. Going left seems like the smart move and I end up with a respectable result (for me) in the low 30's.

Then in race 2 I choked. Literally.

I wasn't having a great race but halfway up the second beat I had one of those zen-like moments that I wrote about in Memories of a Moment. For a while I forgot I was in a race and just reflected on my blessings...

  • I'm in Australia in the middle of the northern hemisphere winter.

  • The sun is shining and the sky is blue without a cloud in sight. (First day since we arrived but, hey, the summer finally came.)

  • I'm sailing on the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific! (For a kid who grew up in a grimy working class town in middle England, the idea that one day I would sail on the Pacific Ocean was about as likely as that I would land on the moon.)

  • The wind is perfect, the waves are challenging but manageable. Champagne sailing conditions.

  • I have my health and fitness and can still play this game even at my age.

  • I'm surrounded by the best bunch of guys on the planet, the other globe-trotting Laser grandmaster zealots.

I just enjoyed being in the moment and to hell with my position in the race. Actually I think I sailed a bit better in this frame of mind.

And then I choked.

I'm approaching the mark at the bottom of the final run with no boats inside me, but I misjudge the angle and do an involuntary gybe. I gybe back on to port tack but the whole double gybe nonsense slows me down a bit. Out of the corner of my eye I see a blue boat surfing fast aiming to round the mark inside me. I'm a bit too confused and tired by now to think about whether he established an overlap before I entered the two boat-length zone so I try to give him room.

As he rounds inside me his sheet hooks around my neck. (I know yesterday's sheet round the bow incident sounded impossible. This sounds even more improbable, I know, but it happened.)

So now I have a line around my neck and the line is attached to a boat that is going faster than me and in a different direction from my boat. Instinctively my hands go up to my neck to save myself from being strangled and, at the same time, the noose pulls me off my boat and into the water.

So now I am being dragged along underwater with a line around my neck with my hands desperately trying to free myself. Thankfully my captor manages to slow down so that I can release myself and splutter to the surface. I think he's wondering if he's killed me.

Once he sees that I'm still kicking he asks if I'm OK. I say yes and start swimming after my boat. (Lasers sail really well without 200 lbs of dumbass slowing them down.) I retrieve my boat, clamber on board and try to catch my breath.

Hmmm. I guess I was outside boat. Probably my fault (again). So I do a 720.

The guys on the mark boat drive over and ask if I'm OK. I can laugh about it now and ask them if they got it on video. Apparently not. They don't have a camera.

I look around. Yikes, I'm last. I'm never last in a race. Can't remember ever being last. Well, at least I can finish. I sail the final reach and beat and cross the line DFL. Is there a protocol for this? Am I supposed to thank the race committee for waiting for me?

Now I'm really angry. It's one thing to fail to achieve my target of making the top half of the fleet in the regatta. But I should never be last in a race. There's always some bozo worse than me. I guess I'm the bozo today. I'm so angry I might actually have to do something about becoming a better sailor so I never end up as the tail-end bozo again.

I sail back to the beach and remember that I've been wearing the prestigious Polka Dot Racing T-shirt on the water today. I look at the motto in the small print on the front.

Polka Dot Racing Endorses Safe Yachting. Arrive Alive

Arrive alive indeed. Thanks Edward. I'm sure the shirt mojo saved my life today.


Mal Kiely [Lancelots Pram] said...

My entire sailing experience are those very-similar "Zen-Like Moments"... bugger the race, just enjoy the experience!

But yeah! A sheet around your NECK...?!?! Crikies!!!! That's... that's... words cannot express...!!!

Glad you're alright tho. That's the main thing.

Mal :)

Tillerman said...

Better legless than headless, I always say.

EVK4 said...

Holy Crap that is a story. Did your assailant retire for "outside assistance" or any other reason? You just earned a tillie for that one.

USA-4 Steve Bodner said...

words of genius

"Lasers sail really well without 200 lbs of dumbass slowing them down."

enjoying the blog and your sense of adventure.

Anonymous said...

Hey, please go easy with the 'tail-end bozo' comment. I sailed at Terrigal and was the TEB in my division, Radial Grand Masters. I am certainly not proud of my position and dissapointed that I didn't do better however I sailed hard and failed. What you probably don't realize is that without us 'bozos' at the back you would be in the middle or the front of the fleet. While not making excuses you might like to know that I sailed that regatta following 12 months of fairly vicious cancer treatment and I'm sorry that the us tailend bozos get in your way.

EVK4 said...

Daver, Tillerman is on vacation right now but I am almost positive that he's making fun of himself more than anyone else here. I'm a back of the fleet guy myself that wishes I cared enough to strive to be middle of the fleet. Tillerman was just saying that he's usually in the middle and his goal was to be the middle. Unless I'm putting words in his vacationing mouth and he's actually more of a jerk than I realized.

Christy ~ Central Air said...

Holy smokes, T-man. What a story! I'd think that this puts you in a fairly elite club: those who have had a competitor's sheet wrapped around his/her neck.

PeconicPuffin said...

Wow. That will keep you from sailing complacently. That will keep ME from sailing complacently!

Anonymous said...

Hey Tillerman,

As well as being extremely entertaining I see that your blog is also educational. I now have some more ammunition in my battle for superiority with my 17 year old son. Since I am 160 pounds of dumbass and he is 180 pounds of dumbass I can use the "Tillerman Dumbass Quotient" to logically reason with him and explain that he has the potential to be 20 pounds dumber than I.


Tillerman said...

Oh no. It seems I have a gift for unintentionally offending people. Sorry daver, this was meant to be a post making fun of myself, I didn't mean to put down anyone else. If you check back in my blog you will see that I owned up to being the last-placed sailor who scored in every race at the 2007 Laser North Americans so I am certainly well aware of what it's like to be tail-end charlie in a regatta. Though, strangely, I don't recall ever being last in an individual race (except when I gave up and retired of course).

Anonymous raises a great point about relative dumbass weights. I had some interesting experiences of this phenomenon in Florida this weekend... more details in a later post.

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