Looking Back, Moving Forward

On the eve of the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race, the author looks back on a remarkable summer, and what needs to happen going forward.

Most of the time, preparing a team and a yacht for a big race or regatta can be a chore. For the last three days though, splendid weather and productive sailing have boosted the experience for the Oakcliff All-American Offshore Team. As it is our final day of preparation before our final race of the season, the Rolex Fastnet, perhaps a quick season recap would serve as a reminder of just how much we have accomplished as a team, and as a movement for youth offshore racing.

The OAAOT effort began as a brainchild in January. The idea was to create real competitive offshore opportunities for young American sailors. This task was daunting because of several constraints: money, organization, a boat, talented sailors and carving enough time out of each of our busy lives in order make a remarkable idea an actuality. It is safe to say that, while our camaraderie has grown and we have ticked off goal after goal, we have all developed a real sense of achievement. Boat work began in April. We have since trained, worked, and sailed in three races, the Round Block Island, the Annapolis to Newport and the Transatlantic Race. There are several unique challenges that we have overcome that don’t exist for other teams (certainly not offshore maxi-racing programs).

For starters, all of the sailors on the team share a variety of roles. We are not just sailors. We manage logistics on and off the boat. We fundraise to make sure the program succeeds. We manage time, resources, travel and boat work. We essentially take on all of the roles usually tasked toward paid non-sailing members of a team. We've really done it. And I hope we've paved the way for other young Americans that want to grow and develop their offshore skills. And for my team I have just a few words. "The work's not over. Let's have a fast, safe last race. Then, we need to carry this experience out into the world of to continue to improve ourselves, and help the sport of sailing."