The Naked Truth

Dave Reed takes a sobering look at his place in the pecking order. "Editor's Letter" from our July/August 2009 issue

dave reed headshot

It's impossible to argue with Moose McClintock, a sailcloth salesman from Rhode Island with a closet full of trophies and a long history of self-inflicted suffering on boats that bite-the roughness of his hands bear evidence to nearly a half-century on the water. It's impossible to argue with him because, for starters, he's always right, and secondly, because he's brutally honest. I'll get to this latter trait in a minute.

We were catching up after sailing one day at the Sperry Top-Sider Annapolis NOOD, and somehow in the course of our conversation the topic of frostbite sailing came up, in particular our hometown Laser Fleet 413.

The short history is that Moose kicks the living daylights out of me (and many others) every single Sunday during the season, even when he's having a bad day. Some days he takes home the daily win, other days he's at least in the top three, and he's rarely out of the top-five overall.

You don't need to know what my finishes are. Pathetic best describes them, though. I have my excuses.
But let's get back to Moose. At one point in our conversation he declared he was "a lousy Laser sailor."
"No way," I responded. "Moose, you're an awesome Laser sailor."

He argued to the contrary, explaining that Ed Adams, another brilliant, understated, and obsessive local sailor, had recently pointed out to him how the overall quality of the fleet wasn't as high as it was a few years ago. There are plenty of good sailors in the fleet, but some of the hot shots don't show up any more, others have aged, and the fleet, perhaps younger and more amateur-based, is less savvy.

Mid-fleet guys like myself might find Ed's assertion downright depressing. We sail as best we can, hoping to pick up a lucky shift or two for a chance at beating Ed, Moose, and a few others of their caliber in a race. This is how we gauge ourselves from race to race and week to week. Sometimes it's what motivates us.

To be honest, I can't remember being remotely close to actually winning a single race this past season (again, I have my excuses, No. 1 being time in the boat), but I suppose Ed is right. The rock stars of the fleet have moved on, and my schizophrenic downwind technique for one is certainly not raising the caliber of those who remain.

In our conversation that day, I confided in Moose that I had really struggled in the heavy stuff (it had been a particularly windy season on the whole). I couldn't hold a lane off the start, and it was nearly impossible to stay upright when it was blowing 20 knots.

At which point he delivered to me the hard truth.

"You know, Dave, let me put it this way," he said. "I'm a lousy Laser sailor, but you're a terrible Laser sailor."
I let it eat at me for about a day, but then laughed it off. Sure, the truth hurts, but it won't stop me from getting back out there again come November. It's comforting to know, however, that while Moose and I are at opposite ends of the talent spectrum, we are equal in one regard.

"I'll be honest with you," he said. "I don't care that I'm a lousy Laser sailor. I just love being out there."
Right again, Moose. I certainly can't argue with that.

-Dave Reed