A Pat­tern Re­vealed

Ev­ery­one has a method, es­pe­cially the fast guys, and it even­tu­ally comes to light.

Sailing World - - Starting Line -

Q “All good up here?” I ask the bowman who is ro­tat­ing off the boat we are ro­tat­ing onto. It’s a cour­te­ous way of ask­ing if I’ll run into any sur­prises or po­ten­tial break­downs as I get my play­ground in or­der. We’re mid­way through the Argo Ber­muda Gold Cup Match Race Re­gatta. Our skip­per, Tay­lor Can­field, and the rest of my team­mates make quick pleas­antries with the pass­ing crew. They’re not as up­beat as we are. Per­haps they are not hav­ing as good of a day or just lost a match. With four matches go­ing on at once, it’s hard to know how any­body is do­ing at any given mo­ment.

“All aboard?” asks the “barge master” be­fore send­ing us on our way, mak­ing room for the next set of teams to ro­tate.

As we push off the barge, our roles un­fold. Putting the “Can­field” name plac­ard onto the main­sail is not only first, it’s an honor badge, a patch that says who we are and who we fight for. I would think see­ing one’s name, in big block letters on the sail, would be a ma­jor mo­ti­va­tor, but it doesn’t faze Can­field, who makes a game of putting it on smoothly as I hold one side in place. Our tac­ti­cian, Mike Buck­ley, com­ments, “Is that the best you can do?”

The plac­ard isn’t per­fectly smooth and re­quires a slight ad­just­ment. I no­tice the D on one side of the plac­ard has peeled off and has been re­placed by a faded D crafted by a per­ma­nent marker. I make a men­tal note: Fix that be­fore to­mor­row. It doesn’t look cool, which makes me think of my dad’s Rule No. 1: “If you don’t look cool, you prob­a­bly aren’t.”

The vibe on board is re­laxed. Can­field plays around with the tiller, com­ment­ing on the dif­fer­ences from boat to boat. He won­ders aloud why this one has a stain­less-steel tiller ex­ten­sion. Some tillers turn too far, some not far enough. That’s a trait worth not­ing be­fore the next dial-up.

Our jib and spin­naker trim­mer Ge­orge Peet and main­sail trim­mer Vic­tor Diaz de Leon check the bilge for wa­ter while I stare at the mess the pre­vi­ous bowman left me. The start­ing sig­nal ac­com­pa­ny­ing the foxtrot flag re­minds us that we still have a fair amount of prep work to do be­fore our start. Foxtrot is my friend, sig­nal­ing that the first se­quence is two min­utes away. It also sig­nals the start of me for­get­ting to start my watch, re­peat­edly.

Can­field al­ways gets his watch go­ing, even with­out warn­ing. He smiles, prob­a­bly think­ing to him­self that’s why he’s in the back of the boat and I’m on the bow. The jokes, jabs and end­less nick­names slow to a dull roar, and it’s mostly busi­ness from here. Diaz de Leon hops into the cock­pit and goes straight to the jib hal­yard, which ex­its at the base of the mast. I’m sure he en­joys go­ing be­lowdecks at the weather mark to drop the jib and at the lee­ward mark to re-hoist it.

Peet calls hal­yard ten­sion so that Diaz de Leon can tape a good mark on it. It’s not easy at a rushed lee­ward mark to be down be­low, blind to what’s hap­pen­ing above, try­ing to get a jib hal­yard onto a winch and find your mark, not one placed by the pre­vi­ous crew. Luck­ily for me, the jib- lead place­ment for Peet is easy — all the way for­ward. If pos­si­ble, even par­tially off the front of the track. Can­field re­minds us, again, that he is look­ing for all the power we can give him. He looks on with a watch­ful eye.

“Ninety- nine per­cent trim,” says Peet. That’s code for “per­fect.” The fi­nal 1 per­cent is re­served for a higher, slow­erve­loc­ity-made-good mode.

Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, Buck­ley and Diaz de Leon assess main­sail trim and add tape marks as well. These IODS are odd. The main­sheet is at the back of the boom, and the traveler is for­ward of it. On the prac­tice day, we fig­ured out that Buck­ley should be in the back, pulling the main in and out at mark round­ings, and that Diaz de Leon should be up front work­ing the traveler along with an as­sort­ment of other con­trols.

Can­field adds his in­put on how the boat feels and cau­tions about over­trim­ming. “Trust me,” Diaz de Leon says, re­mind­ing Can­field that he proved him­self at Con­gres­sional Cup with a dif­fer­ent trim style than oth­ers. The ban­ter con­tin­ues as Tay­lor ex­plains in more de­tail how the boat feels dif­fer­ent. Diaz de Leon, con­fi­dent in his setup, lets Can­field know again that he doesn’t need to worry.

“Trust me, Tay­lor,” he says in his Venezue­lan ac­cent.

Mean­while, I’ve been clean­ing up my bow area, keep­ing my head low and avoid­ing the friendly ver­bal can­non­balls vol­ley­ing in the cock­pit. At this point I’m re­minded that if I put my pony­tail through my hat, I will be less likely to lose it.

Mo­ments later, Buck­ley an­nounces they will shave my head if we win this event. I nicely, but in col­or­ful de­tail, let him know I would kill him if that ever hap­pened. An awk­ward mo­ment of si­lence fol­lows. Maybe that was a lit­tle dark. Over the top? Un­likely, but you never know where the edge is un­til you peer over the cliff. I think, You bring

me into a win­ning Amer­ica’s Cup Team … maybe.

The boat doesn’t feel as if it’s go­ing well. Some­one is pinch­ing. As I look up from my bow prep, I find Buck­ley and Can­field scan­ning the race­course for more wind and a fa­vored side rather than sail­ing to the tell­tales. A plan for the race­course evolves. Diaz de Leon was brought in for his main trim­ming skills and tac­ti­cal prow­ess, and he adds his ob­ser­va­tions. When three or four smart guys in the af­ter­guard agree on some­thing, it gives you a great con­fi­dence in their abil­ity to ex­e­cute the plan.

By this time, we’re a fair amount up the course. I of­ten find my­self as the voice of rea­son. I’m the old­est aboard, so it’s a good role for me. I re­mind the lads that we have to get back to the start­ing area. We put up the spin­naker. This is solely to make sure the pre­vi­ous crew didn’t rip it and to check the top­ping lift height. With an IOD, this prep work also teaches us where the var­i­ous cleats are. Al­most com­i­cally, the cleats and leads are dif­fer­ent from boat to boat. For most of us, it’s pretty easy, but for Diaz de Leon, it’s a mess. Af­ter a few choice words, every­thing is un­der con­trol, mem­o­rized or la­beled.

“Top­ping lift, Vic.” “Hey Vic, top­ping lift.” “Vic­tor, top­ping lift!” I say, my voice get­ting louder each time. “Oh, copy,” he shouts back. Peet shakes his head with hu­mor­ous dis­ap­point­ment.

Who needs en­e­mies with friends like this, right?

As we near the start­ing area, Buck­ley no­tices one gate is fa­vored. Qui­etly and with­out com­mand, I call for the top­ping lift to be un­cleated and to store the pole be­fore drop­ping the kite. The goal is to get it down, clean, void of tears and dry, and run the tapes be­fore Tay­lor de­cides to head up and add to the ap­par­ent wind­speed. As a former bowman now find­ing my­self back on the fore­deck oc­ca­sion­ally, I grum­ble un­der my breath at any helms­man who makes things even 1 per­cent harder than it needs to be dur­ing spin­naker drops that aren’t rushed.

“What was that?” Can­field asks out of the blue. “Noth­ing,” I re­ply. “All good.” Peet and I share an ac­knowl­edg­ing smirk. We both know that is not a con­ver­sa­tion worth hav­ing while we’re try­ing to get into the race at hand.

The ban­ter re­laxes as we close in on our fi­nal seg­ment of the pre-race rou­tine. We sail around the start line, mak­ing sure not to in­ter­fere with matches al­ready in process. We check lay­lines, time and dis­tances from the line. The trim­mers make last- minute ad­just­ments to the set­tings.

Rather then dis­cuss the aero­dy­namic im­pli­ca­tions of an ex­tra few mil­lime­ters of back­stay, we hear, “Back­stay at two.” “Copy, back­stay at two.” This quickly be­comes a new theme that breaks ten­u­ous mo­ments. “Vang at two.” “Traveler at two.”

We fin­ish our pre- race prep with the rit­ual of chew­ing a new piece of gum and a fist bump. “Let’s have a good one, boys,” Buck­ley says.

Fast- for­ward. Close to the fin­ish line of our first loss of the series, Buck­ley starts the di­a­logue of where it went wrong. Peet has a col­or­ful yet likely ac­cu­rate as­sess­ment of the is­sues. Be­hind at the start, to weather in light air, down-speed, tacked into a light header, etc. Sounds about right. Can­field finds him­self with lit­tle to add, leav­ing him un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally quiet.

Some­times, it just doesn’t go your way, but that couldn’t be it, so we search for more plau­si­ble rea­sons. Ah, gum. Yes gum.

Buck­ley has a prob­lem, er, rit­ual of chew­ing a new piece of gum — in fact, some­times, many pieces — be­fore each race, mak­ing sure there is al­ways one left over to of­fer to the sea. The sea only rec­og­nizes the of­fer­ing if the gum is bounced at high ve­loc­ity off the deck.

Af­ter our first loss, it dawns on us. We were out of gum. No bounce. No of­fer­ing. With lit­tle time be­tween matches, we sail past the VIP boat, where I jump off, run to the top ob­ser­va­tion deck and ask a crowd of spec­ta­tors if they have any gum. Luck­ily, race com­men­ta­tor Tucker Thomp­son does. With a twin­kle in his eye and a happy sneer on his mouth, he hands over just enough to get us through the day.

The sail in at the end of the day is short. Just enough time to start the cleanup and re­flect on a good day of sail­ing. Once docked, it’s all we can do to roll the sails, col­lect our wa­ter bot­tles and our gear and re­turn our name plac­ards.

“We go,” Buck­ley says, in­di­cat­ing the day is done.

The pat­tern, dear reader, is patently clear when sail­ing with Can­field and com­pany. Through the play­time, there’s al­ways learn­ing, prac­tic­ing or ac­com­plish­ing a goal. There’s trust and ad­her­ence to pro­cesses and job as­sign­ments. Trust in one’s team­mates is cru­cial as well, trust ev­ery­one will do their job but al­ways be ready to help oth­ers. De­tails mat­ter, of course, as does hav­ing fun. Q

When three or four smart guys in the af­ter­guard agree on some­thing, it gives you a great con­fi­dence in their abil­ity to ex­e­cute the plan.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.