|District 20 Regatta Report|| |
Sat Feb 11th, 2012 through Sun Feb 12th, 2012
| Sailed at Miami, Florida, USA|
Report from Andrew Campbell
The trick of the Masters Regatta is that the skipper must be 50 years old to sail in the regatta, but anybody can crew no matter the age. There is a long list of young sailors crewing for a legend or a mentor in the regatta for the weekend. I will be honest and tell you 'that I wasn’t really looking forward to jumping into a full weekend of Starboat crewing. I'd rather leave that to the experts. If you think the Star class is a fraternity, the Star class crews are a union within that fraternity that takes a different mentality to enter into.
Part masochist, part water-breathing fish, all super-human, Star crews must love sailing in a way that not many others possibly can ever dream of. Star crews spend upwind beats with their feet going numb and ribs getting squeezed by their vests, all the while trying not to drown because of their heads are barely six inches above the water. Every tack is a technically demanding dance as they jump up out of the droop-hike, uncleat the old jib sheet, kiss their knee-caps as they squeeze under the low boom and explode up to the new rail yanking the new jibsheet into the cleat as they take a leap of faith over the new windward rail, hanging upside down by their knee ligaments until they can hook into the new rail and "relax" as they get fire-hosed down by the next wave. At windward marks, Crews control the mast as it scarily jumps forward over the bow. Downwind, they control every gybe by performing the not-so-delicate tasks of simultaneously pulling on and releasing the backstays. I learned first-hand that gybing the whisker pole should never be taken for granted (I wrapped the jib around the sagging headstay three times on one gybe, something all Star Crews can read and smirk at what a rookie maneuver I made!). Leeward marks are where the artistry and the brawn of a Star crew are put to the test: They have to get the jib and whisker pole situated, do a 200lbs deadlift as they yank the backstay on and pull the mast back into its upwind setting, then spin around and trim the jibsheet perfectly as the skipper is lollygagging with 100 feet of mainsheet that will probably have to be cleaned up by the crew anyway after he jumps again headfirst over the rail into the next 20 minutes of upwind droop hiking.
I realize I should have written long ago about how tough a Star crew"s job can be, but nothing like the fresh soreness and bruises of a breezy weekend of Star crewing to inspire me to pay homage.
That brings me to this week's Rule to Sail by in 2012: Enjoy Sailing.
Mark Reynolds won the weekend series sailing with his long-time friend and teammate Hal Haenel. He said a few words at the trophy ceremony that resonated with everybody in the room. He talked about his experience sailing in the Masters Regatta in years past. He mentioned that he probably sailed in the regatta ten or twelve times before he was 50 as a crew racing with his mentors and legends of the class. During those years he conceded that he was almost always more "worried about the competitive aspects of sailing," it gave him some perspective on what the sport was all about. While sailing out to the race course as (feeling almost as out of place as I did this weekend as a crew) one of his heroes in the class Harry Walker looked around with a smile and said to Mark, "What a beautiful day it is to be out sailing!"
Sometimes it is too easy to get caught up with the competition of sailboat racing. I love trying to improve in the tactical, the boathandling, the fundamentals, and the fine points of sailboat racing, but not often enough do I step back and say, "This is pretty darn good, I'm going sailing today. How lucky am I?" This weekend was a rare opportunity to go sailboat racing with my dad. The recognition goes for any case where I can go racing with my mom, my brother, my wife, or my friends: Everybody should be so lucky. Everybody can be so lucky.
Dad and I struggled at times this weekend. We were probably 100 pounds lighter than many of the teams and had desperately little experience to rely on in our respective positions of skipper and crew in the Star. The breeze was up, always in the 15-18 knots range, making boathandling both critical and difficult. We had moments of brilliance, but they were fleeting. On Sunday morning we started well, but were caught out on the wrong side and rounded the windward mark dead last! What the heck have we been doing sailing our entire lives and we can't get to the weather mark ahead of one boat? We were able to make a good gain on the first run, had a great leeward mark rounding and on the second beat we gained again. Sure enough for the entire last run and the beat to the finish we were in striking distance of the leaders and enjoyed heartily our battle for a 4th place finish. We had literally punched above our weight and smiled about it! They call them "moral victories" for a reason... and we had won one.
The weekend affirmed my appreciation not only in for the camaraderie of the Star class, but also for how lucky I am to have a family that can enjoy our sport together. Very few other sports provide the same sorts of opportunities. I challenge you to take advantage of every opportunity if you have the chance. Think about what sailboat racing means to you. Then go grab some family or make time with friends and go sailing. That's what keeps you coming back for more.
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