dave reed headshot
The close of this issue-in the first few days of September-coincided with the end of our weeknight J/24 summer series, which did so abruptly, as it does every summer. My biological sailing clock doesn’t know whether to tick or tock. But what a summer it was.
In this space in the April issue I predicted everyone of us would not let the recession interrupt our sailing-at least not entirely. I was right. Nobody I know stopped racing. In fact, I bet a lot of you, like me, actually sailed more. Attendance at our Sperry Top-Sider NOOD regattas held even, the volunteers at US SAILING tell me their junior championships were at capacity, distance races on the Great Lakes had their usual bumper-crop turnouts, as did outings on the left and right coasts.
Like many of you, I suspect, I had a generous dose of summertime sailing and racing. I took the kids sailing nearly every weekend, adhered to my Wednesday sunset family cruise, and enjoyed my usual Thursday-night J/24 series. I even managed to fit in a race week, a national championship, and a short distance race.
The latter experience stands as the highlight. It involves my friend Ian, who, a few years ago, traded in his parents’ old Pearson for an aging, but mint-condition, Swan 36. This robust baby Swan and its glistening teak interior was supposed to be his cruising boat, but he knew damn well he’d eventually race it with “the guys.” He just needed an excuse.
That excuse came at the end of August: the 150-mile Ida Lewis Distance Race. Getting crew was easy: he just emptied his J/24 bench and added a walk-on navigator. In the weeks before, we went for a practice sail and looked at the boat’s inventory of secondhand spinnakers and jibs. He was ecstatic as each went up and down-he’d never actually seen a few of them. He painstakingly brought the boat into offshore racing compliance and readiness; buying all the safety equipment he didn’t have and clearing out the cruising bits.
Now, Ian’s not exactly an excitable guy, but on race day he was different, like a kid on Christmas morning, anxious for his parents to get out of bed. Once off the dock, he was glued to the wheel: through the pre-start, the start, and well into dusk, only finally handing over the helm so he could eat his serving of warm ziti. At least a half-dozen times in the first four hours of the race he commented aloud how much fun he was having. He simply couldn’t contain his enthusiasm. When he was off the wheel (which wasn’t often), he was restless. He’d sit for a minute in the cockpit, then bound to the rail, sit for a minute, hum a tune, and then move again to adjust something. I’ve never seen a guy so in his element.
After dozing off on the rail after dinner, I looked back, and lo and behold, Ian was back on the wheel again. We were approaching a buoy a few miles off Montauk, N.Y.; a white flashing signal; one short, one long. The swell from a distant hurricane was up to 9 feet, and the breeze a solid 15 as we tacked toward the light in the pitch black. Ian was wide-eyed, clutching the wheel, and grinning wildly as the bow cleaved the waves.
“This is awesome! I love it!” he said aloud over the hiss of wind and water. He was having the time of his life, simply driving toward a white blinking light in the darkness. As we rounded, the yarns snapped as the spinnaker filled, and Ian carried on, happily driving through the night without a wink of sleep. I’m sure it was the highlight of his summer, being out there with the guys. And you know what? It was for me, as well.