Weighing in and Fitting In

College sailor Abby Freeman earned a spot at the front of past Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Bora Gulari's talent-laden Melges 24 West Marine Rigging/New England Ropes, and as first-timer to Key West she's getting some proper schooling.

Sailing World

Abby Freeman

School of hard-hikes. Abby Freeman riding the rail of Bora Gulari's Melges 24.Onne Van Der Wal

Saturday, January 26

Sitting on my plane heading back to school, I find myself making extensive to do lists and mentally preparing myself for the inevitable all-nighter I will need to catch up on the course work I missed. At this point, any sane person would start questioning whether taking a week off school was all worth it. Before I started to get too negative about this particular life decision, I decided to think back on all the experiences, big and small, that made Key West Race Week 2013 worth it:

  1. The best sailing conditions we could've possibly asked for.
  2. Sailing on a Melges 24, which always provides for some heart-pounding fun.
  3. Being around the top names of the sport.
  4. Our friends on Full Throttle being named Boat of the Week.
  5. The "Top Gun" theme song being played at the awards ceremony.
  6. Feeding the Tarpon right off the dock.
  7. Hopefully getting a new Facebook profile picture.
  8. Attempting the Lewmar Grinding Pedestal's coed division and only getting spun off once.
  9. Making new friends and seeing old ones.
  10. Getting the best tan I could manage.
  11. Not being frozen up north.
  12. Racing some of the most intense and tight races I have in a while.
  13. Hearing the national anthem every morning at 8 a.m.
  14. Learning more each and every time I got on the boat.

Those are just a few of the many experiences that helped make Key West Race Week worth it for me. My team has a habit of asking, “Are you living this right now?” as if to bring every situation back to its very essence. Now that I am on my way back to Ohio, I can finally appreciate that little reminder to slow down and take it all in. I can say with confidence that I lived this year’s Key West Race Week.

Thursday, January 24
Spending most of my time racing Thistles, when I branched out into the Melges 24 class I thought for sure that the hiking couldn't be more uncomfortable than the three-inch rails I am used to. After my first experience in heavier wind during day two of Key West Race Week, I can't say it is less taxing than the Thistle, but it is definitely no picnic either. Heaving all your weight on your hip bones and stomach makes for some interesting bruises and sore spots that I wasn't quite prepared for, and Key West has given us plenty of wind this week to break them in.

As if that learning curve wasn’t enough, it seems that “Key Weird” has it out for the sailing community this week as well. Our team is three for five struggling with the stomach flu, and word on the street is that we aren’t alone. The most notable thing I learned from day four’s racing is that adrenaline allows you to push through just about anything, and thank goodness for that. We have struggled to find a solid mode this week until we finally were able to kick it into gear on day four, in spite of all the illness going around.

The pains of hiking and even having the flu were all worth it after planing in a Melges 24 for the first time, as well as the challenging and tight racing. Nothing good comes without the bad coming along with it, and racing sailboats is no different. I find myself smiling for all of the speedy mark roundings and dig backs within the race and brooding about the moments I didn’t perform up to par. When it is all said and done, Key West Race Week has been a resoundingly positive experience for me so far that I know I will take with me for years to come.

**
Tuesday, January 22** **
As a college student at a virtually landlocked Ohio University**—taking a week off of school for Quantum Key West Race Week was no small feat. As most everyone knows, the freshman fifteen is not a myth—attempting to maintain a diet with a dining hall menu was easily one of my biggest challenges. Monotonous. That's the only way I can describe my Key West weigh-in diet: Turkey and hummus were staples and salads from the salad bar filled in the rest. I did come to appreciate the fitness facility that's free for students, despite battling for treadmills with the influx of New Year's Resolutioners and Spring Break bikini-preppers. Either way, all of this played into my first weigh-in that we literally and figuratively sweated out—I can't say that was my favorite part of Key West Race Week so far, but there was definitely some team bonding going on in the sauna all day.

Speaking of teammates, mine definitely consist of another challenge completely. I am racing on a Melges 24 with skipper Bora Gulari, Jeremy Wilmot, George Peet, and Mike Rehe. To say the least, I was in for a bit of a culture shock when I went from hanging out with girls on my floor all day to spending time with this bunch. It’s probably safe to say that guys are much less of a mystery to me since the beginning of this regatta. It was a great opportunity to be able to sail with them and has turned out to be just as fun off the water. We are celebrating Jeremy’s 10,000th day alive today (Monday) and looking forward to a bigger breeze day tomorrow. I’m sure day 10,001 will be just as good, if not better.

_**Access SW's complete coverage** of Quantum Key West 2013._