Writer says he competed at the North American Flying Scot Championships in Westport over the weekend – The Westport Local Press
As I see it: fear conquered in the waves
The Daily News from Newburyport | by Marilyn Archibald
“Big wave, big wave, BIG WAVE!
It was our second day of sailing in the North American Flying Scot Championships in Westport, Connecticut. I was told that the worst problem with boating in Long Island Sound in July was usually the lack of wind. Instead, we had stormy gray skies, 18 knot winds gusting to 25 and sea 4 feet.
These conditions were unlike anything I had ever encountered. Heading straight into the waves, our 19 foot Talk like a Pirate boat rose up and fell with stomach-turning clicks. Going sideways tipped us dangerously. In both directions, buckets of water flooded us almost continuously up to the skin.
Coming out of the harbor things didn’t look so bad, but the minute we reached open water the real conditions became apparent. Any error could result in an immediate capsize, a broken boom, a collision with another boat or one of us being thrown out of the cockpit into the water.
“I don’t know if I can do this! I screamed at my husband, David, grabbing the lines of the boom and guy line like grim death.
” Try ! One race! You can do it! ”He cried back.
“Nooo,” I moan, sobbing lightly. Then I gave myself a mental jerk. The truth was, I wasn’t afraid. I trusted my skipper. And if I didn’t do my crewing to the best of my ability, using everything I’ve learned over the past 10 years of sailing, I would be putting us both in danger. My husband needed me, I needed him, and together we could do it.
So I held on, shifting from one side of the boat to the other as we tacked, screaming back when the waves ahead sounded like something from The Perfect Storm.
Sailboat races have both upwind and downwind sections called legs, and while sailing upwind at this time was absolutely wild, sailing upwind – while looking less scary – was actually more dangerous. Waves can push the boat faster than the actual wind speed and push the front or bow of the boat underwater, causing the rudder to rise and lose control.
“Come back, come back! David screamed, as we rode one huge wave after another, and the water cascaded over the front of the boat. I rushed back and the bow came up. We finished the race and wave after wave came back to port like a rocket, drenched, beaten and for me at least, completely euphoric.
The two days of sailing that followed couldn’t have been more different – nearly flat seas and so little wind that most of the boats were towed in and out of the course like baby ducks in a row. But these light wind conditions, which require the extreme patience Skipper David has in abundance, favored our skills. We took second place out of over 20 boats in our division on both days.
I am a better sailor today than a week ago. I am unlikely to see these extreme conditions again soon, but now I know I can handle them. Doing scary things is hard, but that’s how we get stronger, as sailors and as people.
Marilyn Archibald lives in West Newbury and sails with her husband, David, at the Sandy Bay Yacht Club, Rockport, Massachusetts.