Our Sport, in a Nutshell, in Detroit
At the Sperry Top-Sider Detroit NOOD, the best part about sailboat racing is on display for the TV viewing public.
Mike Eckstein (driving the black boat) and the crew of Demon Rum exemplify the mix-and-match nature of one-design racing.
Yesterday morning, as I was preparing for my appearance on Detroit's Fox 2 news with reporter Roop Raj (shameless plug, yes, but you better believe I'm going to milk these 15 minutes for all they're worth), I gave the inquiring landlubber a quick rundown on our sport and what makes the Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Regattas so much fun. I explained to him what a regatta was in the first place, what we mean by the term "one-design," and that, yes, we come back to the dock every night. Despite my explanations, Raj still seemed puzzled. He gave me this quizzical look as if to say, "Um, okay, so what's the point?"
With 30 seconds before the studio anchor cut to us live at Bayview YC—they were finishing up a segment on deposed mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and after our bit would move on to a piece about the death of Dr. Death himself, Jack Kevorkian—I scrambled to convey to Raj the essence of our sport. "What's cool about sailboat racing," I told him, "is that just about anyone can compete on a high level—young, old, big, small, boy, girl. With so many different types of boats, there's one to fit every sailor. And what's great about the NOOD regattas is that they accommodate the full range of sailors."
When the camera rolled, I said something much stupider. But when I got out on the water aboard Mike and Beth Eckstein's Tartan Ten Demon Rum, I realized that what I told Raj wasn't a total line of B.S. The Demon Rum crew exemplifies the mix-and-match nature of our sport. Since I raced with the team at last year's Detroit NOOD, Demon Rum has won the 2010 Tartan Ten North American Championship and finished first in the T-10 division at 2011 Sperry Top-Sider Charleston Race Week. The Ecksteins are veteran racers competing at the top of their class.
On the other end of the spectrum is our pitman, Jason Berger, who stepped aboard a sailboat for the first time yesterday morning. Berger was a quick study. He handled tasks like adjusting the topping lift and gathering in the spinnaker with aplomb, and he didn't complain when somebody elbowed him in the nose, repeatedly, during a confused leeward-mark rounding.
Joining regular foredeck crew Sarah Conger was her brother, Steve, a J/24 sailor taking his first ride on a T-10. I haven't done much T-10 sailing, either. We were a mix of skilled and unskilled laborers, but we pushed Demon Rum around the racecourse without any major boathandling errors. The pitfalls in our 8-5-7-3 scoreline had more to do with sup-par starts and hit-and-miss strategy, but that's not the point. The point is that a team consisting of a husband and wife, a brother and sister, a rookie, and a semi-useless media crewmember (me), was able to work together in harmony and keep pace with the fleet's other 11 teams, most of which share a similarly diverse composition. In what other sport does that happen? Also, in what other sport do the girls pee in buckets and the boys pee off the stern and nobody bats an eyelash? I imagine the close-quarters urination to be the aspect of our sport my new pal Roop would find most bizarre, but unfortanately he couldn't stick around for the actual racing. Dr. Death was waiting.
Jeff Sampson's _Space Junk leads the Tarten Ten division; for complete results, click here._