Sunday, August 12, 2007

Call me Lady Skipper

Or, An Absurdly Long Meditation on Driving a Boat, Considering It Was a Very Short Race



Today was the first of SYC's Lady Skippers races (an earlier scheduled one was cancelled). I skippered, Andrew (the boat owner/skipper) and Mom did the rest. The winds were perfect - enough pressure I could feel the boat respond, but not so much we were overpowered - and I really tried to 'get in the zone'. I have no way to evaluate how well I performed, other than the results, which are not so positive - out of five boats, we finished fourth, however, we were the first to cross the finish line. Also, I had fun, Mom seemed calm, and I didn't break the boat. That sounds like a successful sail, right?

Shearwater Yacht Club
Sunset at Shearwater Yacht Club - I have so many of these shots. But Nature and its endless variety, etc., right?

We have a bigger handicap than every other boat at the club, and we often have trouble overcoming it (I think it's the highest - certainly of the boats that race on Wednesday nights). A handicap is a rating that a boat is given, based on how it "should" perform, which means that different makes, sizes, and rigged boats (ideally) compete on an even playing field. It means that the higher handicap boats "owe" slower boats time - it is not enough to cross the finish first, you have to put sufficient time between you and the other boats. Windseeker is rated at 118. The other boats in today's race ranged from 95 to 105. That means if we raced for 100 minutes, we would have to finish at least 13 minutes ahead of the 105-rated boat, and 23 minutes ahead of the 95-rated boat.

Tactics, then, are as important as speed (since lighter boats with lower handicaps may go faster in light winds than a 118-rated boat which weighs more) - and today, we (wait, I guess that is "I", since I was the skipper) took the start line in the wrong place, which meant we did not put the distance on the other boats that we could/should have.

But it's all about having fun, right? While I hope you know a bit more about how we race (since sailing is such a big part of my life this summer), I mainly want to share how much fun I had today. First of all, you get bashed around a lot less when you skipper. You also spend more time understanding the boat and the weather. A sailing book I bought Mom last year, for instance, talks about how, as well as sailing by telltales (bits of yarn or ribbon on a sail that tell you to let it in or out), wind guages and compasses, you should feel the wind on your face. Is it on your cheek, your mouth, or your ear? How does the tiller feel in your hand. Smooth? Biting in? Does the boat want to head up into the wind, and how should you respond? Sailing is, in short, an activity that requires not only strategy and knowledge, but a sensory 'connection' (how cheesy does this sound, and yet it is true) with the boat and the wind and the water.

You remember in Junior High English class, where you learn there are three plot types? Man against man, man against nature, and man against himself? Well sailing comprises all three. And I love a challenge.

2 comments:

jodi said...

Having been out on exactly two sailboats in my life (one the Silva last fall, the other a tiny sailboat about 30 years ago), I don't have sailoritis or know anything about sailing--but this post gave me a lot of insight into this aspect of your world. Glad you had such fun, and thanks for sharing this!

Sarah O. said...

The internet is great for being able to share more sailing stories, without boring all my close friends and family who have already heard it all before. Besides, it's easier to close a navigator window than to get me to stop talking about sailing! Glad you liked my post. :)