|Green Fleet (Radial Apprentice) at the 2012 Masters Worlds|
Many years before, Doug met his very good friend, Brad, at that same infamous Laser regatta in Austin when it was Brad’s first time to sail and race a Laser. Doug saw Brad rigging and noticed the tangle of lines and the clueless expression on Brad’s face. Doug stopped to help him sort out the rigging and then Brad spent the day swimming. Brad was so far back in one race that the race committee didn’t even realize he was racing and they started the next race without him. As he was coming into the finish line, the guys starting were screaming at him to clear the line.
Just a couple of years ago, I was at another regatta. The local Laser fleet, for some inexplicable (or maybe not so inexplicable) reason had all but disappeared from circuit racing. Attendance was down and at this particular regatta, there weren’t enough Lasers signed up to make a fleet so the few diehard Laser sailors switched to Sunfish which had 30+ boats. So there I was, still directionally and rules challenged, and I was coming into a mark as Eric Faust (our current ILCA General Manager) was leaving the mark. Eric knew I’d sailed Butterflys with his father in Dallas and that I was married to Doug and it appeared he made the natural assumption that I had a clue what I was doing. But as I was headed straight for him still trying to figure out what tack he was on, the light went on for him and he said “starboard’. So, then my brain was trying to figure out if I was starboard too and whether I was windward or leeward. The distance was closing fast and one of us was obviously going to have to avoid the other but I hadn’t a clue who. Well, with almost no time to react, Eric began a rapid fire “starboard leeward, starboard leeward, starboard leeward” with each repetition getting louder. I started trying to avoid him but those dang Fish booms are pretty long and I clinked him with the end of my boom as we passed. Crap! So I rounded the mark and started doing my circles but with every turn I fouled yet another boat and just kept spinning. When I was finally done, I was head to wind and rapidly sailing backwards into the mark. It was at that regatta that I decided I needed some type of warning sign for others.
This past April at that ever so popular Easter Laser Regatta, I was back racing in Austin. Scott Young, a friend who is almost always favored to win the event, did something that was interesting. I’ve been the marshmallow (or is it cream puff?) that folks find along the start line and get below and then screw up my start while they have a nice little lane. That usually happens about once at a regatta where Doug is sailing with me and then at the next start Doug lets that person know how it feels to have their start ruined. Well, Scott started just below me several times. At first, I was just sure, friends or not, he was going to mess up my start, but he didn’t. See, Scott knows I’m not that great of a sailor and could easily bet that getting off the line with speed isn’t something I’ve mastered. It seemed like he perfectly matched his skill and mine so that he powered up and took off with a nice gap above him, and with him out of the way, I had room to foot a little and get speed off the line which I rarely have.
It has been my experience that
newbies fresh sailors are not even a remote threat to an experienced sailor so long as the experienced sailor can identify the newbie inexperienced one. And even a newbie an unseasoned sailor coming across another newbie unsalty sailor, can benefit from knowing that they are about to encounter someone with as little experience as themselves and start talking alot sooner to avoid the inevitable disaster. I didn’t do the whole junior sailing scene with the Opti green fleet, etc. I started as an adult and I’m pretty sure I should still have some type of “Learner’s Permit” warning indicator when I’m on certain boats and in certain conditions. At the Masters Worlds, the various fleets all had colors on their masts to identify which fleet they were in. The competitors could easily identify their competition versus those they didn’t need to worry about. So, if the juniors do it and the Masters do it, why can’t the rest of us do it? Is there a down side to clearly identifying the masts of challenged sailors so people know who could use a little extra room, encouragement and advice? I know the Laser fleet is known for being ultra aggressive but, the number of sailors racing in our district circuit keep going down. Would that change if the newer sailors felt a little more supported and were given an opportunity to get their feet wet without a trial by fire episode every time they raced?