Baby Steps

Victory was elusive in the Storm Trysail's Block Island Race, but there was still plenty to be happy about for the Oakcliff All-American Offshore Team.

The Storm Trysail Club's Block Island Race was a challenge. Soon after the start, we tacked on to port, ducked Rambler 100, and high-tailed it to the Long Island Shore. We were the first boat from our class to bust through a transition zone and get to a new southerly. We blasted through the fleet [the Block Island Race starts the fastest boats last] leaving Rambler and the other 60-something, Zaraffa, miles behind. Through the night, though, it got tough. With fickle wind conditions, the 100-footer was able to get through the difficult sections at the right times. They made their time on us and finished with an overall win (and a course record). The race, however, was a major success for the team!

It was, first and foremost, a landmark in our progress. Secondly, it was a huge spike in our already steep learning curve. The light winds and fickle conditions demanded frequent sail changes. Navigator Chris Branning and guest strategist/Long Island Sound guru Steve Benjamin made excellent decisions throughout the race, and the whole crew showed tremendous attitude, skill, and work ethic.

For me, this is an exciting time. I’m getting to know my new team members and learning to appreciate all of their strengths. I’m getting to know a new boat and systematically improving. I think that most sailors have experienced this pleasure at some point. New boats and new crews present a challenge, but the rewards come thick and fast. Months or years later, when everything is a polished and improvements are more incremental, I will look back fondly on the time spent floundering around like an uncoordinated toddler, trying to find my feet, but improving rapidly.

That being said, I truly appreciate how talented this young crew really is. There is a wealth of experience that belies our average age. Problems are being sorted out and mistakes made once, are often not repeated.

Colin Orsini, a native of Seattle, is a member of the Oakcliff All-American Offshore Team. The team was created in early 2011 when Ralf Steitz, the director of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Sailing Foundation, a handful of Storm Trysail Club members, and the Oakcliff Sailing Center combined resources__ to provide what they hope will become an enduring training platform for young American sailors with offshore ambitions. The team, which is sailing the USMMASF's _Vanquish—formerly the STP 65 Moneypenny—has planned an aggressive schedule for 2011, including the Transatlantic Race from Newport, R.I., to England and the Rolex Fastnet. Orsini will filing regular updates for For more on the team,