Highlander Fleet 14

One Wednesday Night in America: A helmsman takes along a camera and finds it to be a bit distracting.

Sailing World

Highlander wed night

Gary Vinicky

Highlander Fleet 14 on Lake Erie, Cleveland, Ohio

We launched eight boats from Whiskey Island and one from Edgewater YC, with everyone congregating near the EYC’s race committee boat just off of Edgewater Park.

Our fleet has quite a few sailors in their first, second, or third season. This season has been very interesting as the starts have become very aggressive. This is a very good thing as viewed from the eyes of this long time Highlander veteran.

Normally I do quite well in avoiding trouble, but for this night I thought I would try taking some pictures and video from my boat. It’s amazing how you must concentrate on what you are doing at every moment on the racecourse and on every maneuver in order to do well. I knew early in the starting sequence that I needed to put the camera down or there might be some bumping and grinding.

I was trying to start two-thirds of the way down the line so that I could get some good pictures or video. As things evolved, a boat to leeward of me was trying to get an overall and luff me, so I tried to see where I was on the line. Another boat was luffing up and pushing three or four other Highlanders over the line, so I couldn’t see the committee boat and I lost track of where the starting pin was.

At 5 seconds to go, I was scrambling to get free of the overlap. I reached out of that overlap and was now trying to find the start line. At 2 seconds to go, I turned my head to port and saw that the pin was well to leeward me. It was an “Oh s&!t” moment and as the gun went off I dived down to the line. I could also see several other Highlanders that I thought were well over the line.

I tried to get my boat completely below the line, but I could not get any indication from the committee boat on whether I cleared the line or not. I thought I did and that the I flag was still flying because of the other Highlanders that were still well above the line. Thinking I was clear. I started quite a bit behind and to leeward of where I regularly start.

I fought my way through the pack to fourth, and was feeling pretty good about that considering where I was as the gun went off. This feeling of accomplishment was quickly erased when I crossed the line and received no recognition from the race committee. This is not a good feeling.

As it turned out, I was never completely beneath the line after the start. It would have taken me 3 seconds more to sail further below the line to be completely and surely clear of the line, but in the heat of the moment, the mind does not think as clearly as it would under other circumstances.

This is sailboat racing and I love it even when I do not have great results. Sometimes I have tough day at the office, or a series of not-so-good days, and, in looking ahead, I not sure I want to go sailing. Because I made a commitment to my crew to be there, I go. It is an amazing thing—there’s nothing like stepping aboard your boat on a Wednesday night to erase the slate and refresh the mind.