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.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Disappointment for Team Zorro

Maybe the dream really was impossible …

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that Zorro and his crew have earned a slot in the men’s national sailing championship, the Mallory Cup, in San Francisco in September. We could stun the world, if a bunch of nuts from the desert showed up and actually did well.

We’ve been preparing. The Rio Grande Sailing Club pledged money to Team Zorro to help with registration and travel expenses. Zorro and Space Invader were working on lining up corporate sponsors to help with other expenses. Twinkle Toes’ wife lined up super-low-cost airline tickets – and apparently she was really looking forward to the trip, as she loves traveling to exciting places. I was hoping to get in on at least the last couple of days of the regatta, and I was planning on arranging time off from work to do that (I have a union contract that allows me some personal leave, but not enough to take the whole week off).

The problem is that Zorro has recently started a new job. When he hired on, he told his employers that he would need to take a week off in September to compete in the championship, and they said that was OK. But last week, they changed their tune and said that he would be fired if he took the week off.

Zorro can’t afford that. He may be unmarried, but he’s the sole support of a dog and a very large number of cats. He has to pay for canned food, kibbles, cat litter, vet visits, and more. Plus he has to pay a mortgage to keep a roof over all those critters’ heads, and he has to pay utilities to keep the space under that roof heated or air-conditioned for the animals’ health and comfort. So losing his job is not an option for him.

We looked into whether the rest of the team could still go to the championship without Zorro – Penzance could take the helm. But no, that’s not acceptable, since the helmsman is the focus of the championship. All of the rest of the team can be replaced with substitutes, but not the helm. So if Zorro can’t go, the team can’t go.

Part of the problem is the scheduling of the regatta – it starts in mid-week, and thus participants really do have to have the whole week free. That’s fine for people who are retired, or who have upper-level jobs in which they have freedom to schedule time off. It’s not fine for working stiffs who have very little control over their schedules. In addition to being nuts from the desert, many of the members of Team Zorro are working stiffs.

I hear complaints that sailing is unfairly labeled an “elitist” sport, and that it is open to anyone who is interested. But then I see sailboats priced in the hundreds of thousands of dollars labeled “entry-level,” and I see regatta scheduling that prevents working stiffs from participating. Yeah, local clubs can run races that are open to anybody who can come up with a fairly nominal entry fee, but the higher levels of competition seem to assume a certain degree of freedom that isn’t available to working stiffs.

I suppose there’s still a chance that Team Zorro can get to San Francisco, but it’s remote. What would be necessary is an employer who won’t fire Zorro for going to San Francisco, so he can keep taking care of the critters and paying the bills. That sort of employer probably doesn’t exist in El Paso.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


Blogger Pat said...

Other factors...
Although initially it seemed Zorro and crew would have boats to practice on, Zorro's boat was wrecked at its marina during a severe early-summer storm, and boats were not locally available from the J/24 fleet. (The J/24 was the type of boat to be used for the championship.)

Southern New Mexico and far West Texas are currently not the most usual places to find donors for a sailing program, so funding to prepare boats, travel to San Francisco for practice before the championships, charter a boat there, etc., was also an issue. a

Also an issue was was scheduling team availability for practice, especially to travel to the Bay area. Team Zorro could probably have used both some financial angels as well as a team manager to ride herd on preparations.

And, other obstacles cropped up, so including a potential donor being sidelined by a medical emergency, and some other commitments not coming through.

So, a whole lot of ill wind blew this program back into the harbor.

I can see how its difficult for the people running the championship to try to accommodate ordinary sailors with limited time. Because the races are being managed at a high level, the race committee must have enough days in its schedule to try to get off 11 races in weather conditions that are fair to all of the teams.

Because the teams are sailing on borrowed boats that may not be exactly equalized, the race committee plans to have each of the 11 teams races each boat once and then rotate to another boat. If each team races each boat once, that makes for a more fair regatta; hence the strong desire to complete 11 races.

Changes in conditions can force races to be postponed or abandoned. Races must be long enough and have enough legs to suit the boats being used and typically are about an hour long, assuming winds are strong enough.

So, with allowances for windless, stormy, or inconsistent weather, there's no way an event of this sort can be completed in a single weekend.

And, it's not fair to ask teams converging from all over the country to show up for multiple weekends -- that would be even more "elitist".

Sun Aug 31, 01:27:00 AM MDT  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

The vacation part usually works for many people as everyone can plan his vacation to the dates that suits him but new jobs are really bad for vacations.
I would have hired Zorro but I'm afraid I don't have a job to offer

Sun Aug 31, 07:11:00 AM MDT  
Blogger Lydia Manx said...

Zorro's bosses changing their tune is the exact reason I haven't been looking to change until after folks 50th anniversary in October. I need at least two full days off and I don't have any wiggle room. Thus I stay.

Tell Zorro we'll root for him next round! Ugh.

Mon Sep 01, 01:48:00 PM MDT  
Anonymous tillerman said...

Life is full of choices.

Tough luck for the sailors in your region, but if critters and cat litter and kibbles are more important to Zorro than the Mallory Cup, it's his choice.

Sat Sep 06, 05:46:00 PM MDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home