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.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A peak experience with Team Zorro (part 3)

The high continues

Twinkle Toes was delighted with how well Windependent, the previous jinx boat and disaster waiting to happen, had done in the race. So he treated the entire crew, plus a couple of spouses, to dinner. Over dinner, the conversation centered mainly on the day’s events, and how well we had done.

We came back to several recurring themes: Even a boat with a slow design can be made to sail fast. Twinkle Toes’ improvements to Windependent were well worth the time and trouble, and although there are still a few things to improve upon, such as the mainsheet, traveler, and throttle linkage, this boat’s in a lot better shape than it ever was before.

A good crew can get good performance out of even a marginal boat. That was one of the best feelings – I’ve had similar experiences when performing with musical groups, such as choirs and chamber music groups. It’s that groove where everybody in the group is working together with everybody else in the group, and the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts. Sure, I can play the tympani part of the Carmina Burana, but without the rest of the orchestra and the chorus, all I am is some booming sound. It’s when the whole group functions that the audience gets the experience – and so do the musicians. Being together with the crew on Windependent was the same way. We were not seven individuals; we were seven components of a smoothly functioning … well, machine isn’t the right word, because we were more intelligent than a machine, and far more flexible and instinctive … we were an orchestra.

And of course, part of what makes an orchestra great is the conductor. Saturday, that was Zorro, who was at the helm and directing the entire show. He was able to call on the various talents of the musicians – er, sailors – under his command and get the most out of all of us. While some of us have sailed with him, and a few have sailed together for many years, we had a couple of newcomers, and Zorro was able to direct them and help them to become part of the ensemble.

As if to emphasize the value of a skipper’s leadership, as we were getting settled in to order our food, the skipper and crew of Erebus showed up. “Ross” has been on adventures in both polar regions, and has sailed to Alaska. His daughter, son-in-law, and two grandsons had never been sailing before. Saturday’s racing involved the sort of conditions that typically will scare off never-before-sailors and make them sure they never want to take up such a dangerous sport. But Ross’ son-in-law reported that the family had had immense fun, and that once they were sure the boat wasn’t going to tip all the way over, there was no fear whatsoever. The grandsons even did a lot of the driving. With a lesser skipper, the family’s experience could have been disastrous, but now, we’re looking at another family wanting to get into sailing as a way to have fun together. And it was icing on the cake that Erebus didn’t finish dead last, but beat Cultural Infidel, a theoretically much faster boat, on corrected time.

People may express doubts about a team of sailors from the desert doing well in the national Mallory Cup finals in San Francisco. But Team Zorro has a crew that can work well together, and a skipper who can inspire. If the team can get some good practice time in – both J/24 training locally and San Francisco training to learn the currents, I fully expect them to do well.

Meanwhile, back to this weekend. Sunday morning, we had the awards ceremony for the spring series races, as well as a sailing club board meeting. The most important results of the board meeting were approval of a cooperative agreement with the Coronado Optimist Club to support youth sailing, and approval of financial support both for Team Zorro to go to San Francisco and for Mother Superior’s team to go to the Adams Cup national women’s semifinals on J/22s.

During the board meeting, Zorro made an official announcement about his team. On his crew, he will have Twinkle Toes, Penzance, and Space Invader, and he will have Dumbledore, the J/24 genius, as his alternate crew. He also named me his press officer, so I will be doing a lot of work on publicity for his team, and, if possible, I’ll be going to San Francisco with the team in September – I’ll have to look into policies for taking leave from work.

In the awards, I got third place in the Etchells fleet for the spring series races, but the fun trophy that I got was for the Jack-and-Jill race. The perpetual trophy is a pail, and the tradition is that the previous year’s winner puts a bottle of champagne into the bucket for the current winner. Zorro and I won last year, and Zorro and I won this year. Since Zorro’s favorite is pink champagne, I put a bottle of that into the bucket this year, and then I shared it with all of Team Zorro. As big of a peak experience as I had this weekend, I could hardly do otherwise.

Sunday afternoon, the hullaballoo died down, and eventually the wind came up. Pat had been suffering severely since Saturday evening, as I and many other sailors had been enthusiastically telling of our adventures, while he had been restricted to a miserable time on the committee boat to get the races started and then sitting at the marina waiting for the racers to finish. So when the wind came up, Zorro invited us out on Constellation, for a couple of hours of low-stress time on the water.

The steady wind ranged from about 5 to about 20, with some higher gusts. We got in some work on shifting gears. But mainly, this time on the water was low-pressure unwinding time. Zorro talked – a lot – he tends to do so … he wants to get sponsorships to go to San Francisco, he wants to get practice time for his crew … and he told me that my presence on Windependent was a valuable contribution to the weekend’s success. He told me that having me on board, seeing me hauling on the main halyard to get the sail up when the engine was having problems, gave him the confidence to keep on sailing rather than giving up.

I suspect that was an exaggeration. I can’t imagine Zorro giving up a sailing race because the motor gave up. More likely, Zorro would have started hauling on the main halyard himself if nobody else was doing it. I just saved him some trouble.

Still, it feels good that Zorro values me so much. And now we’re at a stage where my strongest skills, my writing skills, are something that can really help Team Zorro. Prepare for the media blitz.

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Blogger Tillerman said...

Hmmm. Press Officer, eh? Congratulations.

When I read My Goal Post I suspected that you would end up making a major contribution to the success of Zorro's team. He sounds like a superb leader, just the kind of skipper we would all enjoy sailing with. I look forward to reading about your exploits as press officer to the next winner of the Mallory Cup.

Tue Jun 10, 11:36:00 AM MDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed your blog for along time now, especially one where you wrote that driving Dino's powerboat, I looked like " Tyrone Power and Old Hollywood" all that aside ..these three post were just fantastic. It really was just a wonderfull day, not only at the result, but as you write, the way everyone came together as a team!
I have a CD with Sammy Davis Jr., back in the 60's , live at the Sands when he says...Man , I can't believe this Vegas, it just keeps getting better and better, this has been sailing for me over the last month, first the Mallory win and the class way the regatta was run, the the Singlehand, then our win at the Jack and Jill and then the big week end on Windependent...
You know what Frank would say.....
" The Best is Yet to Come"

Wed Jun 11, 01:22:00 AM MDT  
Blogger Captain John said...

I'm a late comer to all this sailing blog stuff. These three posts being the first I've read in your blog (as a result of Tillerman's end of year challenge for simiply the best).

"A good crew can get good performance out of even a marginal boat. That was one of the best feelings"

Followed by your description of how a good crew works together. . . WOW, that is great.

I've been there, done that, but now I can point to your post and simply say - "That's what it's all about"

Hey, Tillerman, see what you miss when you singlehand? LOL!

Sun Dec 21, 08:59:00 PM MST  

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