I am beat up.
My arms, shoulders, and back are particularly sore, from hoisting sails, climbing up a slanted deck, and shoving a spinnaker pole around against a powerful ‘chute. My legs ache from balancing on a half-inch toe-rail, changing headsails while the boat plows through waves that occasionally lift me off the deck. And I have a lovely black and purple bruise from that one time I slipped on the canted deck and went knee-deep into the water, under the lifelines, as we were doing 6 knots.
This is all part of the fun in racing sailboats – a different world from cruising with rum drinks in hand. The wind and waves can beat you up, or it can be dead glass-smooth calm and frustrate the heck out of you. In either case, the challenge of coaxing every little bit of performance out of your boat, while tactically outmaneuvering (and stealing wind from) your opponents is a mental and physical challenge where everything depends on reading the wind, and anticipating every little change.
For the past two days I’ve been working as foredeck – the guy on the bow, the pointy end, rigging, hoisting, and changing sails while looking out for traffic and “calling” the start – on a J-29, “The Doghouse”. The rest of the crew – 4 or 5, total – have been trimming sails, and driving the boat. All of us have worked together on tactics, and of course coordination on every tack, jibe, and mark rounding, while racing 10 other boats in our class (PHRF B) in the Screwpile Lighthouse Challenge. The race is held in the Chesapeake off Solomons, MD, every year in mid-July in typically widely-varying wind and weather conditions. This year started slow, but ramped up on Day 2 before winds abated (some) on Day 3.
In all honesty, “The Doghouse” is not a very competitive boat – she’s an older design, with less-than-crisp sails and a little more manual labor required to sail well than some other boats. But as a crew, we always have a good time on the water!
I’ve put a new video on my YouTube channel, with some highlights. If you’ve never done this sort of thing, and have access to a waterfront community – I encourage you to give it a try. Most sailing clubs have weekly evening races (ours are Wed for large boats, Thurs for 20′ and under), and most skippers are always looking for extra hands, and extra weight (“rail-meat”). It’s a great way to learn about sailing, and join a great community – just anticipate that sometimes, you’ll be faced with the agony of a “drifter”. It’s all part of the game.
Get Out There