Sailing World

There’s one basic sailing technique that’s easy to master and infinitely faster.

There’s one basic sailing technique that’s easy to master and infinitely faster.


On any given winter weekend, there are nearly 30 diehard sailors eager to race in Newport YC’s Turnabout Frostbite fleet, which continues to be my winter sailing outlet. Problem is, there are only 12 boats. The fleet is divided into A and B divisions, and sometimes there are more sailors than boats when we draw for boat assignment­s. If you draw an X from the bag of numbered wooden cubes, you sit out one race.

Drawing the X is an absolute buzzkill. Nowadays especially, once Sunday morning rolls around, I’m amped to go sailing. For me, being on the water, no matter how cold or brief, is an escape from the coopedup anxiety of my house. The simple pleasure of breathing fresh ocean air, socializin­g with new faces (albeit, behind masks), and having a little clear-head space in a small fiberglass boat are more important than ever.

On this morning in early January when I arrive at the club, the wind is light offshore, grooming the empty harbor with long, black wind veins that fade into the hillside of Brenton Cove across the way. From the south-facing porch of the Newport YC, the low winter sun hits me right in the face. It’s race weekend No. 3 in our winter series, and I’m itching to race after suiting up—in the following order: long johns, drysuit, sneakers, PFD, mask, hat, batterypow­ered heated gloves and my trusty old Ronstan ClearStart watch. Then I visit our fleet mother, Ms. Winkle, and get my boat assignment­s for my first two races.

Mm-hmm. Boat 2, Race 1. Nice. Aw. Dang it. I got an X for Race 2.

So be it. Rather than stand around onshore after finishing my first race, I snatch a post on the club’s Boston Whaler safety boat. It’ll be a good chance to take some photos and videos and do some recon on my rivals, particular­ly newcomer Amanda Callahan, who is leading the series, and FJ Ritt, our fleet captain.

I grab the Whaler’s steering wheel and dust off my photo-boat-driving mental manual. With only an iPhone, I’ll have to get in close if I want decent photos. As the A-division skippers line up for their start, I key in on Ritt. He has an orange Kokatat drysuit top that stands right out.

Taber French leans into his Turnabout’s chine and cruises to a race win in the Newport YC Frostbite series.

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