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Into the Captain’s Chair

/SW/ editor Dave Reed anticipates his new role as fleet captain for his local Laser fleet. "Editor's Letter" from our November/December 2009 issue

October 21, 2009
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dave reed headshot

The presiding local Laser frostbite fleet captain blind sided me one morning last spring as I showed up to rig my boat. “We’ve talked it over and think you and Stu [Streuli, SW’s senior editor] should be co-captains,” he said in a hushed tone, as if he were passing some top-secret assignment. “You can’t say no-it’s already been decided.”
I laughed nervously and promised to talk it over with Stu the following morning. But I knew right then that there was no backing out. Having spent my sailing life benefiting from the labor of many fleet captains past, it was my time to serve, ready or not.

Talk it over Stu and I did, accepting that we were about to be handed the reigns of an operation that could pretty much run itself. The fleet has enjoyed a healthy existence for decades; the same dudes show up week in and week out and know the drill. Our local public sailing facility, Sail Newport, gives us run of the place from October to May, there’s plenty of money in the fleet account, the crash boat has a relatively new and reliable four-stroke engine, and so long as we remember to order the pizza after sailing, this should be easy. Oh wait. The bar where we assemble after racing each week handles that task. We just have to sign the check . . . I think. Details.

Fleet captains, especially outstanding fleet captains, are a special breed: they put everyone’s interest ahead of theirs and toil week in and week out with all the little details so that we can show up and enjoy the same quality racing we had the previous week. They’re ruthless in their pursuit of freeloaders and fastidious when it comes to making sure the scores get distributed in a timely manner. They play arbitrator to protesting parties, and they’re the last to leave the boat park or club each week, tidying up and locking the door on the way out. Rarely do we ever afford them the appropriate gratitude. When’s the last time you personally thanked your fleet captain?

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Our predecessors were smart enough to put two of us at the helm, and someday soon (immediately after this issue goes to press) Stu and I will have to sit down and divvy up who’s going to do what (as I write, we’re a month out from the opening day). Admittedly, I’ve already taken the shotgun seat to Stu, who took to the role with gusto, squaring away our finances and paperwork, keeping tabs on the massive e-mail list, sending out regular fleet updates throughout the summer, and keeping us all connected. Thus far, I’ve been a co-captain in every sense of the word. It’s a good thing he’s at the controls.

But as the first day of sailing draws near, I can honestly say I’m getting more excited about the assignment foisted upon me that spring morning. I’ve let the family know I’ll be leaving a little earlier every Sunday morning-and probably coming home later, too. And I’m thinking about little ways I can make a lasting improvement to the fleet: namely, how the races are conducted and boosting the social element. I realize it’s hard to improve upon what’s already a good thing, and I’m sure we’ll be reinventing a few wheels, but I’d like a little help from you. All of you current, past, and future fleet captains out there, tell me what works with your fleet, what keeps it fun and competitive, and what lures your sailors back for more.

-Dave Reed

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