A smashing final

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“Trim stay sail!!!” “Upwind. Keep it upwind. Shit ok, ease the main!! Ease the main!! Quick! Ease the main!I was in awe at how many orders the tactician was calling out in seconds.  The boat was heeled so much that I was standing on the vertical part which the guard rails go into. As the main sheet was trimmed too tightly, the boat was heeling more and more until the cooling sea water gently kissed my bare feet and I was desperately looking for something to hold onto. I looked at the crew member next to me,smiled and said, “Oh my god this is soooo coool!!!!” As they eased the sheets, the boat came up above the water line. 

 

My adrenaline was pumping. We crossed the start line too early so we had to do a penalty 360 and fell boat lengths behind the others. However we steered such a good course that we caught up with everyone and were nearly bow to bow with the boat in 1st place. “What the fuck is that guy doing??,” shouted what I like to call, the conductor (tactician). I looked around and saw a boat from a different class barrelling towards our port side. Our crew started shouting at him, “Starboard!! Starboard!!” 

 

He’s not moving and we can’t move because we are in between the winning boat and the committee boat that is marking the finish line. We are so close to the winning boat already that we could jump on to it. The conductor is still shouting instructions at the helmsmen as he can see better what’s going on. 

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As the bow of the other boat gets closer to our stern, the crew in the cockpit start jumping over things and towards the middle of the boat. The helmsmen keeps his cool and manages to keep a straight course as he casually walks around to the other side of the wheel to avoid being speared by the oncoming anchor. His 12 year old son is screaming and shaking. As I’m closest to him, I put my hand on him in a feeble attempt to calm his fear that his father is going to be killed. He looks at me with a deep look of helplessness as the anchor crashes into our port side stern. We are able to bear away a tiny bit, but the boat is still too close and hits us again scraping away the stern lifelines and leaving behind a scar of his blue paint. 

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That was the final knock and we cross the finish line second, in total shock as to what happened. “Why did Anna Bollina not bear away sooner???,” we all wondered. My captain asks if everyone is ok and then says, “They’ve crashed into another boat I was on, they should be banned from all races.” The owners’ son is left shaking and crying just wanting to get to land. 

 

We quickly gather our composure to bring down the sails and motor in to the bay. We are all in shock, the excitement of a close finish after being last by boat lengths tumbled into the sea. 

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However, this was my first time in a regatta and I refused to let their stupidity ruin one of the most exciting sailing experiences I’ve ever had! 

 

We completed three races and came second overall. A great result with a crew where only two people had ever raced before. There is so much excitement, adrenaline and manoeuvring going on it’s incredible. Each of us had a specific job and as we were all inexperienced, we listened to the conductor waiting to be told our instruction. Everything needs to be done quickly and the boats are so close to each other at the start and finish that a crash seems imminent! Sadly we know it can happen… 

 

The boat is heeled the entire time and those who aren’t involved in trimming the sails sit on the rails to get the boat down so that the keel is in the water to move faster. I watched the speedometer and at some points we were going 12.5 knots. The boat loves to sail and allowed us to get back in the race after we thought we lost it. She is a beauty and I have the utmost respect for her. The race appears to finish as soon as we begin, yet 1-2 hours have passed. 

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The noise of the sails going up, down and tacking seems as though she is going to break, but I know it’s just sheer power and she will hold. We had great wind for the last two races and I enjoyed the wind whipping through my hair and my feet being plunged into the sea as I pressed the electric winch and worked the code zero and gennaker halyards

 

The job hasn’t turned out to be how it was described to me (or the Captain), but then again, nothing is perfect. Captain T (for talent) is a skilled and experienced Captain who understands my learning style and has already taught me so much. We’ve learned quickly how to work and live together so I’m going to stick it out. It’s only for the summer and the experience and knowledge I’m gaining will last a lifetime. 

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The sailing world is still male dominated and sadly the racing world even more so. However I understand. A lot of strength is necessary. We have electric winches making jobs for women possible so instead of being disappointed that my chances of being on deck are slim in a more professional race, I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to participate in this race. Whether we won or lost was never important to me. What I wanted to experience was the teamwork involved and the excitement of being in a race.  That is exactly what I got!

 

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