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From Across the Pond: Part I

Amelia Quinn checks in from the windy Wilson Trophy in West Kirby, England, where she's sorting out boathandling in the British Fireflies and admiring kitchen marvels that make drinking tea a breeze.

May 3, 2013
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Wilson Trophy 2013

Wilson Trophy 2013

British Fireflies team race in big breeze. WilsonTrophy Twitter

Today was the first day of racing at the 64th annual Wilson Trophy in West Kirby, England. The fleet had a scheduled late start—the first warning signal wasn’t until 12:57 in the afternoon, although we arrived at the West Kirby Sailing Club (WKSC) promptly at 9 a.m. We had signed up for a 9:30-10:30 practice time, but all practices were cancelled due to the breeze already whistling through the boatyard and the desire to prevent breaking boats before racing began. The breeze only built throughout the day, until racing was called off a bit after 5:00 p.m.

I’m crewing for Ben Greenfield (BU ‘11), and our teammates are Ben Spiller (BU ’09) sailing with Fiona Gordon (BU ’12), and Mark Dinneen (Bowdoin ’08) sailing with Andrea Bailey (Georgetown ’09). Our team is the Rhode Island Pistols, although our light blue pinnies sadly say just “Rhode Island.” Greenfield, Gordon, Spiller, and I flew in yesterday morning so we’ve already beaten the jet lag, but Dineen and Bailey flew in early this morning. They have yet to complain about their exhaustion, but as I spent a significant part of yesterday on the WKSC’s sofa under a Delta Airlines blanket, I can’t imagine that they can be feeling especially chipper.

Today went decently. Our record is 3-1, putting us in either the second or third bracket (it’s in a Swiss League format, meaning that teams with similar records will sail each other in subsequent rounds, in theory leading to more competitive racing throughout the regatta). It’s not a bad place to be, but our one loss, which was in the first race, was entirely my boat’s fault. In team racing, sometimes the blame can be shared, but in this case it was definitely singular. The issue boiled down to boathandling, which as a crew is especially painful. We’re sailing in the British Fireflies, which are significantly different from those at MIT.

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The vang is not on the mast, but instead exactly where a crew’s body would normally be. To compensate, the jib leads are farther back than in any boat I have ever sailed and are located on the thwart. In addition, the sheets in most of the boats are incredibly long, leading some crews to tie them to be continuous, which I tried out for the first race with pretty poor results. My tacks were much sloppier than they should have been, but our real trouble came on the runs.

We had the vang cranked on for our runs in the first two races, which made jibing tough. The boom didn’t come across when we expected it to, and so we swamped on our first jibe in the first race and lost largely because of it. Ouch. Adjusting to the new boats in the nuking breeze was not ideal, but I definitely could’ve done it better. At least we both jumped to the windward rail and didn’t capsize—during the competitor’s meeting this morning, they had announced that any boat whose mast hits the water must retire so that racing can continue efficiently.

Efficiency is a pretty high priority here in general. With 34 teams and 36 boats (each flight has six races, and they roll into each other fairly seamlessly), making any error that can hold up racing results in the penalty of either pounds, half a win, or an entire win. Teams must promptly “muster” on the apron and catch their boats as they come in, or suffer the consequences. They called the racing off today just before we were set to sail New York Yacht Club, partially because of the breeze and partially (I suspect) so that both American teams will be in the first race tomorrow. The warning will go off promptly at 7:57 a.m., which means that we’ll be waking up bright and early.

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So far, none of the warnings that I had gotten about England have been true. Yesterday was a beautifully sunny day, and although today was overcast, it hasn’t rained a drop. I have yet to encounter any dry British humor—the members of West Kirby SC are incredibly friendly and welcoming, and our hosts, the Emmanuels, are lovely. They do take their tea very seriously—their kitchen sink even has a spigot just for boiling water in one of the greatest marvels of modern science I have ever seen. The food is decent, and the instant coffee surprisingly tasty. In terms of drinks, we made a point to sample nearly all the beers at WKSC’s bar yesterday, and although I only made it through a couple, I’d say that the Doom Bar is the best and the Tetley’s the worst. On that note, I’m pretty sure it’s my turn to buy a round …

Amelia Quinn is a senior at Tufts University, studying a little bit of Arts and Sciences and a lot of sailing. Stay tuned to her blog Rolling Start for more on the Wilson Trophy!

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