The gusts up to 35 knots and big swell wasn’t the only reason that Saturday was memorable for Tango, a Beneteau 36.7 participating in the North Sails Rally, it was also the first race ever for crew member Phillip Podlasek, who just recently picked up the sport. Having brand new crew onboard the Tango is not uncommon practice for owner Chuck Norris, who sees inviting new people to sail with him as his way to give back to the sport. Norris has served as the Northeastern Fleet Captain and is currently the Vice President of the North American Fleet, and is known for his welcoming spirit.
“There are so many people wanting to get into sailing, and so few opportunities… I like training new people, it takes a long time to get someone who has never sailed before to learn the technique and procedures.” Says Norris, “It’s a big learning experience for everybody, including me, everyone just learns and learns and learns.”
While many skippers might find it challenging to work with such a green group of racers, Chuck is calm and directive at the helm. It’s clear that the bonds on Tango go beyond the deck. “If a captain is willing to take on green crew, that’s perfect, and the way to start,” says Carol Linett, who has sailed onboard Tango only a few times before today’s race. “Even though I come with some [sailing] experience it’s like starting all over again… Christina has taken me under her wing, and Chuck, the captain, so I’ve had a wonderful time racing. This is a dream to sail on Lake Michigan and to be part of a team like this.”
About half of Norris’s crew is new to the Beneteau this year, but you wouldn’t know it from their performance on the water. They saw today’s distance race as a welcome challenge. When the race committee called for a race close to 35 miles long in tough conditions, the crew stepped up to the challenge with the confidence of professionals.
The North Sails Rally was the perfect opportunity for a new sailor like Phillip to get introduced to the sport. It gives local sailors the opportunity to participate in just one-day long distance race, instead of committing to a full regatta.
Upon hearing about the opportunity, and the camaraderie of the Beneteau fleet, from a regular fleet member, Phillip says, “This seems like a really awesome thing to do and I would love to be involved, so here I am getting roped into this and learning… Everybody is really nice and forthcoming. Everybody is willing to teach you one thing or another. “As for Phillip, despite the rough weather, he says he appreciated the learning experience and plans to race more in the future.