Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Escape to Newport

I went racing with the Newport Frostbite Fleet on Sunday... and reminded myself of one of the main reasons why I have enjoyed Laser sailing so much over the last 30 years.

I have been very lazy (again) this winter about doing much frostbite racing. I signed up at the beginning of the season in November and took my boat down to Fort Adams. It's been sitting there all winter, but I think I've only raced a couple of times before last weekend.

It seems like I've become a total wimp about frostbite racing. Usually around about Thursday each week I determine that "this Sunday I will definitely go racing." I check the weather forecast on Friday and though it might look a bit too windy, a bit too light, a bit too cold, maybe some showers... I still tell myself that I'm really going to go racing on Sunday. I check the weather forecast again on Saturday and by now it looks seriously too windy, too light, too cold, too rainy... with maybe a Small Craft Advisory or thunderstorms or snow promised too. I tell myself (perhaps with a little less conviction now) that if racing is on I will definitely go.

On Sunday morning, I check my email and Facebook, and find that occasionally the fleet captains have announced that racing is cancelled on account of the 35 knot winds or 15 degree temperatures. But usually there is no relief on the Facebook or email... so then something happens in my brain and I suddenly decide that this Sunday would be an excellent day to take Tillerwoman out to lunch, or go for a long run, or visit my grandkids. So I don't go racing.

I don't know what's the matter with me. It's not so many years since I won the Ironman trophy at my old frostbite fleet in Connecticut for sailing more races than anybody else in the fleet. I must be getting old.

Anyway, last Sunday, I couldn't think of any excuse not to go racing. So I did.

It wasn't too cold or too windy.

I had fun.

I think we sailed six races and I did reasonably well by my standards in a couple of them. My starts weren't absolutely awful and I didn't hit any marks or other boats or capsize or get shouted at for breaking any rules or run aground or tie too many knots in my sheet with my feet. So that was all good.

In the first few races I was thinking about that post I wrote last week about Where to Look While Sailing Upwind and my head was jerking around all over the place looking at boats to the left, boats to the right, the windward mark, whether I was headed or lifted, the water and wind ahead, etc. etc. etc. It certainly felt different from my usual mode of staring at the telltales 96.5% of the time. At least I could see why all the other boats were getting in front of me.

In the last few races I was thinking, "I can always go in early if I get tired," and, "Maybe I will get through the whole afternoon without being DFL." I didn't and I did.

As I was driving home afterwards feeling all warm and cozy from the car's heater and feeling all smug and self-satisfied about actually having gone racing this Sunday, I suddenly realized that during the racing I hadn't thought once about the usual annoying stuff that's always buzzing around in my head. Thoughts about chores that need doing around the house and the garden. How much longer I can delay before starting work on my taxes. What to do about replacing my wife's car. What the hell am I going to write about on the blog this week?

Of course, when I was working for a living, the annoying reminders buzzing around my head about stuff that needed doing and the decisions that needed to be made were about somewhat more serious things. Stuff that if I didn't do, or didn't do well enough, then it would probably get me fired, or transferred to Poland, or at the very least shouted at in public by one of the various eccentric megalomaniacs who occupied the senior executive ranks of my employer's business.

And then I remembered one of the main reasons why I had stuck with this crazy game of Laser racing. For a few hours every weekend I could forget all that crap buzzing around in my head every other day of the week, and concentrate on the important stuff... like where the next shift is coming from. That ability to forget about work was probably essential to my mental health for many years.

Laser racing was - and still is - an escape from reality for me. And what's wrong with that, I'd like to know?


Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

The one thing that comes to mind as I think of myself racing in a large 38-ft Laser is that, as helmsman, I can never allow a glance around to look at wind or boats around me without Trophy Wife shouting at me, "Keep your head in your boat!" [Expletives deleted.] Just one more reason that now comes to me, why I want to down size. [The boat, not the wife.]

Baydog said...

Someone's been seriously slacking on keeping the frostbite site up-to-date, BTW.

bonnie said...

"Maybe I will get through the whole afternoon without being DFL."

What??? Stop it. That's MY goal. You can't have it.

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

That goal is all yours, Bonnie. Us old guys sail can sail just as fast as we ever did because we pay less attention to the boats we hit.

O Docker said...

I thought writing this blog was your escape from reality.

Tillerman said...


Andrew Burton said...

I have telltales on my sail. They seem utterly useless. I do recall(dimly) on my original boat I actually used them. Where do you locate yours and how do they look when you're going upwind?
Unfortunately, I had to pick up boat on Sunday and take it home so I don't get yelled at for leaving it there too long. Time to dig out the bigger boats and play with them til next winter.

Tillerman said...

They are a tad up and smidgeon forward from the window. When I have the bow down, they are streaming on both sides of the sail. When I am pinching, the windward one is lifting. After I have capsized they are sticking to the sail for about 30 minutes. When it is raining they stick to the sail.

I don't think I could sail without them. Like I couldn't eat hamburgers without drinking red wine, or spell Connecticut properly without having seen that Woody Allen movie, or write a sailing blog without the occasional knitting post.

Have fun with the big boats!

Andrew said...

Thanks for putting into words the feeling of escaping that is why I too sail the Laser.

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