I am currently wearing a few black bruises. My bruises are part of the deal whilst
racing scurrying from side to side on a leaning sea beast that waits for no crew member (particularly me) as it powers through the ocean, racing towards the finish line.
As the least competent crew member I am placed in the middle of the boat with the job of moving my body weight (perfect job) from side to side, whilst keeping my head connected to my shoulders and my feet untangled from the ropes. I cringe at the thought of what I look like as I move from port to starboard . Any grace I have demonstrated on a dance floor is absent as I lie head and bum down, inverted in anticipation, waiting for the boom to swing heavily across the boat. At this point my head is much closer to the water than my feet with the blood rushing down. My job is all about timing. Horrible if I miss-time the tack, I then have to drag my body up, over, under and through at an acute angle to get up to other side of the boat.
Hence I am wearing each bruise as a well earned badge, reminding me that I continue to be lucky that the Captain of Miss Conduct invites me back. Last week we lost a race by a mere two seconds. I am lucky, very lucky that I am not tossed overboard as the ultimate weight correction.
Same, Same But Different
I am quietly pleased that rather than being beaten, bruised and not happy, I am in fact in love with these hours on the water. Far more than I thought possible. Captain of our Miss, tells me that this type of sailing is different to cruising. Think Vegan and Carnivore at the same table ready to feast.
Good thing I am content wet and on a lean, considering I am about to give up many comforts for this adventure. Imagine getting off Miss Conduct and hating it…
Most important I am slowly learning. I would have appreciated a camera to capture the moment when the Captain at the helm is shouting at me to release the skirt from the rail and tangled sheet on the mast and I’m thinking what skirt?
What skirt you ask, why it’s the bottom of the jib sheet.
At times of high drama it pays to remember that ropes are sheets (not sails), and you must keep your feet out of the jib sheets. I wear a dramatic bruise gained whilst learning this lesson.
Racing Is Serious Business
Not understanding the road rules I find wonder in the other crew members, as they converge on a buoy calling out for space and ownership of the oceans path. Surprising also, is how serious a business this racing is. Strategy and planning are paramount to ensure success. Pre race start, which type of sail, is a critical question as the crew discuss the weather and which approach is most worthy to bring home victory. That each boat has several options for all types of sail for different weather conditions was a bewildering introduction to the mysteries of racing.
I was miffed to discover the course details are released only minutes before the race starting horn. Then I was even more surprised to see each critical turn of the race filmed to act as silencing evidence if needed for end of race disputes and disharmony. The other surprising aspect to racing is the start line to each race. This is when timekeeping and the right pre race maneuvers are a science all of its own. Each race Captain has a gameplan to be in the right place for the starting gun, yet this is no easy matter when you have over 100 various sized vessels all with similar ideas and approaches.
It is a good thing that the other crew members of our boat all seem to have a science degree of some nature. Maybe understanding the math and science is the secret ingredient to sailing fast. Speed, however, is not reliant on the current skills of the latest crew member.
As I said racing is serious business.
I Am Impressed
Each time time I go, I am struck by the power and beauty to be had onboard. The ease of the wind pushing a 13 tonne boat forward is nothing short of impressive. The noise of the sail, ocean and wind are intoxicating. Watching the hull of our boat or competitors next to us glide in and out of the water is a little hypnotic (I note all this while I cling on for dear life). It is very exhilarating.
I the Miss have to say watching the crew pull down on the backstay to pull the mast in slightly to trim the sails is awe inspiring. All this while I watch and listen to my other Captain conduct the whole affair, instruct his crew on every aspect whilst watching the wind, sails and executing winning strategy. It is multi tasking worthy of any mother.
As Well As Skirts And Sheets There Are Socks
Putting up and down a spinnaker is an art all of it’s own. Risk vs Reward is the question. You need wind, plenty of it and behind you. You need crew to lift and put the pole out, bring down the jib and get that spinnaker up as quick as possible. Getting it down even quicker is smart business also. It’s this need for crew that makes the spinnaker my new best friend as I think it is because of this sail that I manage to have a place aboard twice weekly.
I have a new truth in my life – Sailing at speed is a beautiful thing.
PS Can you believe I the Miss am actually using sailing jargon of sorts. Chest out pleased, I might even make a true sailor one day.