Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

One year later …

This is an important anniversary … or it’s not

Saturday night was the New Mexico Sailing Club Christmas party. At that event a year ago, I made a decision that has changed my life. I still have no idea whether it’s for the better or not. For those of you who may be new to this blog or haven’t been paying attention to it, allow me to recap the year’s events.

At last year’s Christmas party, Mother Superior was recruiting women sailors for an ambitious sailing program to train teams for the Adams Cup national women’s championship, which was to be sailed on J/24s in 2006. Both the Rio Grande and the New Mexico sailing clubs have typically had strong J/24 fleets, and so Mother was really interested in building up support. I said I would be glad to join the effort, and when Mother said there was a particular need for helmswomen, I said yes. I can’t blame beer for that decision; the overpriced Santa Fe restaurant where the party was held charged way too much for the beer for me to have more than one. But I’d been reading Tillerman’s blog about all of his racing efforts, and his determination, and his accomplishments, and all of the enjoyment he gets out of racing (in spite of the hardships), and, well, there seemed to be some sort of cosmic voice out there saying I ought to get into racing sailboats.

So I signed on to this sailing training program, which involved a lot of weekends spent at the lake training (or in many cases waiting for the weather to be good enough to train) for the Adams Cup. At the end of January was the Frostbite Regatta, which I sailed with a crew of fellow women trainee sailors and one coach. On corrected time, I came in second to Zorro, whose Etchells was the sexiest boat on the lake. I even beat another Etchells across the line. At the awards ceremony, I learned there was an Etchells for sale in California, but I wasn’t particularly interested; I was focusing on the J/24s for the Adams Cup.

Then one weekend it was decided that the Adams Cup training would go better if the novice crew and novice helmswomen would train separately. The crew were put onto J/24s with experienced skippers, and, since there weren’t enough J/24s, the two trainee helmswomen were put onto the two Etchells.

That was it. From that moment on, I was completely hooked on the Etchells. It was like, the instant I set foot on the boat, there was a resonance, sort of a humming; I can’t really explain it. The deck was comfortable and easy to walk around on, flat rather than sloping, with a fantastic non-skid surface, almost completely uncluttered with things that one could trip on or get bruised on. The handling was sweet and nimble, and the boat would go fast even if there was almost no wind. And when there was wind, the boat was awesome. I was in love, thoroughly, totally, head-over-heels in love, with this boat. Yeah, me, a cruising sailor with a MacGregor 26, middle aged, dumpy, the last person anybody would ever consider as a candidate to own an Etchells, and I wanted one. Bad.

So on Valentine’s Day, I came home from work to find Pat on the phone with the seller of the Etchells in California, arranging to buy it. Yeah, other women might get flowers or chocolates for Valentine’s, but I got a boat – a really awesome boat.

Then during one of the spring series regattas, while sailing on a J/24 in fairly stiff conditions, I got clocked by the boom and ended up in the emergency room. I needed to get my scalp stapled together, but that wasn’t so bad. What was bad was that I lost my lucky Aussie hat overboard in the incident, and then in the emergency room my gloves disappeared. (I was later able to find a replacement for the gloves; I’m still looking for the perfect hat.) Zorro was worried that the incident would make me want to quit racing and cancel the check we’d written to buy the boat in California, but I told him, “No way!” What’s a mere crack on the head, compared to being able to sail one of the most awesome boats anywhere?

In March, Zorro, Dino, and I went out to California to retrieve Black Magic. It was, to put it mildly, quite a journey. They’re both, now, definitely in the very small category of people that I consider to be close friends. I don’t have many of those.

In April, we had the Adams Cup quarterfinals at Elephant Butte. Because of politics and/or misunderstandings (“We thought after you got hit by the boom you weren’t serious about racing any more” – never mind that I had very loudly announced that afternoon that I wasn’t about to quit, within the hearing of many people), the women who were originally to be my crew were reassigned to another helmswoman, and I was left recruiting at the last minute. It didn’t work at all well.

Freed from the Adams Cup training program obligation to sail J/24s, I sailed Black Magic in her first New Mexico regatta the first weekend in May. I did well enough that, combined with my J/24 helming, I ended up fourth overall for the spring regatta series.

We took Black Magic up to Heron Lake for the summer. The New Mexico Sailing Club is still recovering from a drought that pretty much cancelled racing for two years, and we were hoping to revive racing this year, but that didn’t happen.

In August, we went to the Dillon Open Regatta at Lake Dillon in Colorado. It’s insane, but we didn’t find it as bad as people who have been there had told us it would be. We’re definitely going back again.

This fall, we’ve been sailing Black Magic in the fall series regattas at Elephant Butte. We’re learning lots about how racing boats have more things that break than cruising boats do. And older boats have even more things that break. And boats whose previous owners have been casual about maintenance have more things that break. And boat owners who have done stupid things to reduce weight on the boat (such as having really flimsy aluminum floor supports or boring holes in the tiller, which is a J/24 tiller rather than an Etchells tiller in the first place) cause even more things to break.

But still, I love my boat. Now Zorro’s boat isn’t the sexiest boat on the lake; mine is. And every time I step onto the boat, I get that vibe, that feeling that the boat and I belong to each other. Who would have ever thought that kind of thing would happen to me?

Tillerman, it’s all your fault.


Blogger Tillerman said...

All my fault? Sorry!

Sun Dec 10, 08:16:00 AM MST  
Anonymous Rhea said...

I read about you on Tillerman's blog, so I thought I'd come over and say 'hi'!

Tue Dec 12, 01:06:00 PM MST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me too! I have spent hours reading your previous postings and especially appreciated your grammer notes, despite having a sailing background myself.

Wed Dec 13, 02:09:00 AM MST  

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