Sunday, was Raritan Yacht Club's annual Turkeybowl, a Frostbite series in JY15s. There were 7 crews racing and I was paired up with Eric Leitner, a very accomplished J24 sailor and bloody excellent dinghy sailor. I think, Kelly Robinson, the race organizer figured after my previous week's performance it would better to pair me up with the most experienced sailor. Less likely to go swimming that way.
Each crew did 9 races over a fairly short windward-leeward course. For late December, the weather was beautiful, clear blue skies, not too cold. After the gales of Saturday, the winds were a little on the light side.
We won the day, with Eric helming five races and me four. We won despite my best efforts to scupper us. I managed to hit boats multiple times, twice in one race. Doing penalty 360s put us back in the fleet each time. In addition to this my tiller/mains sheet-handling was less than fluid. Yet with Eric's coaching and trimming we managed to sneak back into second most times.
Last week, I watched as Eric raced ahead in every race. We just couldn't get how he could get the boat moving so much faster. It was humbling. Racing with Eric gave me a glimpse at how to do it. It's a steep hill to climb.
I originally learned to sail the wrong way round. I started on a 40 foot yacht and only came to small boat sailing in the last ten years or so and then not really competitively - More pleasure boating at resorts. Sailing with Eric was like going back to school. Over the course of 4 hours I learned to roll-tack, how to keep the boat flat, correct trim, how to lie in the boat when handling the sheets, how to sail a small boat downwind effectively, mark rounding and above all to get my ass up on the rail when helming. I will of course forget all of this by the next time I get in a boat. Except the ass on the rail bit.
After more than 20 years sailing it's scary how little I know. You get fat and happy in cruising boats. I know I will never hear the end of it from the Tillerman but you don't really know how to sail until you can race a dinghy well.
A while back, someone pointed out to me that I had a typo in the banner at the top of the blog. I left it unchanged but nagging me for months. I took advantage of the long Thanksgiving break to do a bit of an overhaul. As regular readers will see I changed the banner, added a few bells and whistles and did some short lists of various post down the right hand side.
The books on the left are not a permanent feature. This is a helpful list of suggestions you might want to share with your loved ones for what to get you for Christmas.
Let me know what you think. Should I have left well alone or is the new look better?
This is scary but has a happy ending. It's a video from the BBC of a sailor in the Clipper race on Hull and Humber being swept overboard.
Whenever I have sailed offshore, I have sometimes felt that skippers are a bit melodramatic in the routines they set for how to clip on. One in particular told me that the second I poked my head through the companion way I was to clip on. And on returning back down below, not to unclip till the last possible second. Now I see why.
For Alice and I, sailing has been a central pillar of our life together. I feel very lucky that we share this same passion and we have shared this since the start. It helped form the bond in the beginning, fixed the cracks later and now is creating a new foundation.
When we were first married, Alice and I had spent relatively little time together. When we first fell in love there was a minor inconvenience. Alice lived in Houston and I lived in London. We had an on-and-off long distance relationship for a couple of years and then took the all-or-nothing plunge and got engaged. I made the move to Houston and for complicated visa reasons we had to get married within 90 days of my arrival in Texas. We never really talked about it but we didn't really know each other as well as most couples do when they tie the knot. We just hadn't lived together that long. It was a big risk in retrospect. Fortunately there was sailing.
Neither of us had sailed much when we first met. Alice had navigated a Sunfish at camp one summer. I had been on sailboats a few times and had loved it. I had rowed for years but had no clue how to sail.
A couple of weekends after my arrival in Houston, Alice suggested we rent a Sunfish on Lake Conroe, North of Houston. The guys at the dock asked if we knew what we were doing. I nodded assuredly (lying through my teeth) and Alice oversold her camp experience. We had to sail the the Sunfish out of the marina and into the lake. We clearly had no clue what we were doing and capsized three times in the marina including in the narrow channel leading into the lake. I was laughing my ass off. The guys on the dock were enjoying the show too. It was ridiculous. But...Alice had a sense of humor failure. Danger Will Robinson!