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Aisle Seat to Muscat

Max Bulger, a 21-year-old Tufts undergrad, heads to Muscat, Oman, for the first Act of the Extreme Sailing Series.

February 21, 2012
Sailing World

Max Bulger Blog 1

Catching up on some reading during a long layover in Frankfurt. Max Bulger

The first thought I had when I woke up this morning was: “Just another casual Thursday afternoon flight to Muscat. Good thing I’m packed and got a full night’s sleep, but it’s too bad I’m stuck spending the next two weeks sailing boring old Extreme 40s.”

OK, maybe it didn’t go quite like that. I got slightly less than a full night’s sleep, and woke up before dawn to finish cramming for my fourth straight midterm exam. I ran straight out of the Tufts University Center for Cognitive Science the second I filled in the last multiple choice bubble, breathlessly broke into the Tufts Varsity Sailing Team cave at 211 College Avenue, Apartment #2, and pirated a teammate’s computer to print boarding passes. That was followed by a leisurely sprint up the street to my own apartment to frantically stuff my suitcase full of shorts and Atlas gloves, while even more Jumbo sailors watched with amusement and patiently waited to drive me to Logan International Airport. A whirlwind of hugs, good luck wishes, and a short jaunt down I-93 later, I’m standing in line to board Lufthansa 423 and hoping I remembered clean underwear.

Perhaps I should have started packing about four weeks ago, when this all began. I was barely back from Key West long enough to drive from home to Foxboro for the AFC Championship (the last relevant football game of the season) when Morgan Larson called me.

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He was inviting me, he said, to join him on Team Oman Air for the 2012 Extreme Sailing Series. Still reminiscing on what a privilege it had been to sail with the talented and hard-working crew of_ Samba Pa Ti _in Key West, I was elated to get another offer to go to battle with phenomenal sailors. And, once he explained that the Series had adopted a new rule requiring teams to race with a fifth sailor who was under 24 or female, I started to actually believe Morgan might seriously be asking me, a 132-pound 21-year-old, to go Extreme 40 sailing.

I’ve sailed against Morgan three times before; we spent most of last August and September on the same itinerary, competing (on opposite sides) in the Canada’s Cup, and both flying almost straight to Palma, Spain, afterwards for the Melges 32 Worlds.

As the full scenario unfolded in subsequent e-mails, I continued to feel lucky and honored. Team Oman Air is comprised of four sailors with world championship victories, Olympic campaigns (49er and Tornado), top five ISAF rankings, and years of Extreme 40 experience, plus one Tufts undergrad who has hung out on the pointy end of a couple of monohulls.

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Needless to say, I’m still floored by the opportunity. I’ve spent the last month in the gym, and watched all the film I could get my hands on (possibly even during a couple lectures). I’m thankful to Morgan and Team Oman Air for the offer to go racing, and I’m thankful for the family, friends, and Jumbo sailors that helped get me here: seat 53G (aisle!) on the flight to start training in Oman. We have a week before the event starts, and a lot of work to do. The rest of the team is already in Muscat, and I’m beyond jealous. Nothing left but excitement, anticipation, a copy of Tom Whidden’s The Art and Science of Sails sitting in my lap, and a connection in Frankfurt. Speaking of which, the flight attendant is asking me to power down my phone. See you on the other side!

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