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I Won the Golden Ticket

When your old college pal is Terry Hutchinson, sometimes you get tapped for dream jobs, like calling tactics for the Farr 30 Barking Mad at Key West Race Week.

January 13, 2011

There really is something to making friends in your college years, when the top criteria for hanging out is if the other person is 1) your age, 2) likes to do the same stuff, and 3) gets you into trouble. Add water and boats into the mix, and you have the perfect storm—friends for life. I’m fortunate that some of my college pals have gone on to sailing greatness.

As for me, after college, I decided to go out and get a job (What was I thinking?). But I still sail—as much as my career will allow. I’m sure most of you can relate.

This fall, I got the call all Corinthian sailors dream of. Terry Hutchinson invited me to race with Jim Richardson’s Barking Mad team on the Farr 30 in Key West. I’d raced with Barking Mad, as one of those non-pro guys that fill the positions the professionals haven’t taken. Positions with nicknames like “string puller, puck holder, pitman, floater,” Yes, none of these tags are glamorous, but they still meant I was on the boat!

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Now, in full disclosure, Terry is one of those friends I mentioned in the beginning. We’ve stayed friends over the years. When he tapped me for the regatta, my first thought was that it was going to be hard to convince my wife that (yet again) I wanted to take a week off work and go sailing. Before that thought made its way to words, Terry said, “I need you to call tactics.”

At that moment, I think I knew how Charlie felt when he opened the chocolate bar and found the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. I’ve been given the opportunity to battle it out with the big boys. The Weekend Warrior has risen to the top! My response to Terry was along the lines of, “Put me in, Coach. I’m ready to play.” I’d been in the pit, and I’d served as floater, but I’d never called tactics for Barking Mad.

In a roundabout way, my golden ticket opportunity has also given me a virtual voice, as Sailing World asked me to blog about my Barking Mad tactician adventure. So, rather than submit daily reports about our boat preparation, how we lined up for each start, and the exact rig tune for every condition, I’m going to try to bring you along for the ride. If you’re interested, I’ll own up to good/bad/downright ugly tactical calls I make each day. I’ll tr y to get you inside my head, so you can see 1) what was the situation, 2) what I saw and why I decided to do something (or not), and 3) how it turned out. A tactical scorecard of sorts. But I want to hear from you. What would interest you most (other than a recap of “post-racing activities.” Sorry, you’ll have to visit Sailing Anarchy for that!)?

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Regardless of how the week turns out, rest assured that, just like Charlie, I’ll have a pocketful of everlasting gobstoppers to give out to the team to help motivate them to hike harder.

Complete coverage of 2011 Key West Race Week.

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