Bob Little – Guest helmsman
Published on January 5th, 2010
An unexpected opportunity
(January 5, 2010) Bob Little has played the game of sailing at nearly every level, and would have likely been racing a Lido 14 with his kids last November if not for an unexpected phone call and opportunity. Here is his story:
It wasn’t the type of phone call a guy like me would expect on a random late October night on the way home from work. It was a message from Paul Cayard asking if I would be interested in joining him and his RC44 program ‘Katusha’ as the Helmsman in their next event called the Gold Cup in Dubai. “Interested? Dubai? Paul Cayard? Me? Helmsman? Is this for real, I thought?”
I dialed him back and learned that he needed a helmsman for the fleet racing portion of the event who is qualified as a category 1 sailor and willing to make the trip to the UAE during the entire week of the Thanksgiving holiday here in the states. It took all of two minutes to get the support of my wife “Mrs Peaches” (more on that name later), so I jumped at the opportunity.
Now… I have sailed with Paul before on John Kilroy’s Farr 40 program, so this was not a total cold call… but why me? in this amazing event 8,500+ miles from home? Let’s be fair, I am not out sailing on a daily basis these days. And as far as Paul Cayard goes, I presume I am like most other sailors… more used to reading about him sailing around the globe or keeping up on his Volvo or America’s Cup email updates rather than fielding phone calls from ‘the man’.
Anyway, on Saturday, November 21st before Thanksgiving I was off to the Dubai, passport in-hand, ground transportation instructions and a target weight for the morning after arrival crew weigh-in. Having no cell phone or email reception the next morning, I found my way down to the dock where I saw an amazing line-up of these RC44’s. The shore teams were already populating the dock that morning with work lists and projects that needed to be done. The boats are a true sailor’s machine, designed by Russell Coutts and outfitted with the best equipment and pro sailors available on the planet.
So let’s see… I am in the office Friday in Los Angeles and Monday I am standing on the dock in Dubai …not bad. A 1:00 pm dock start for starting practice that day got things rolling quickly and I definitely felt a bit rusty getting plugged into this great team of sailors. Hopefully, I would be a quick study as I was asked to play tactician while Paul drove the match race practice drills! After starting drills I was able to get some driving time in preparation for the fleet racing series later in the week. I can tell you that these boats are as hard to drive as they are fun. If you are off the pace, guys like Marco Contant and Robbie Naismith are quick to let you know your deficiencies and keep you focused!
After a couple more days of practice, we were ready to begin the event with the match race portion starting on Wednesday. We had a great series finishing 3:1 in light and shifty conditions but were penalized for an incident causing damage which deducted a couple points from our overall match race series score. Somewhere along the line Paul had written a daily report about my nickname “peaches”, which apparently clogged his email with responses, for which I apologized to him about… “Sorry about that Mr. Cayard”.
But for those interested, approximately 24 years ago I got crossed-up with some guys named Craig Leweck, Kimo Worthington and Billy Worthington doing an IOR boat delivery from LA to San Francisco for Big Boat Series, and yes, all I brought to eat for the entire six days at sea was Del Monte canned peaches. They starved, I was fine. End of story (P.S. they also thought they were pretty cool back then).
Friday dawned, the first day of fleet racing, and I was psyched to be behind the wheel of Katusha and give it my best. The conditions remained fairly light requiring major concentration and feel for the boat. It also reminded me that on every level, sailing boils down to the basics; getting line sights, judging the wind strength for boat set-up, checking current, sailing upwind to check speed, keep your head out of the boat, look for pressure, etc. But like all competitive classes it seems the whole fleet arrives at the first mark at the same time regardless of how good you start and how smart you sail. Clear air and positioning were key and we did a good job of always being in the game with finishes of 4-9-5-6-3-7-8*-10-7-4 (the 8* representing double points for our 4th place finish in the distance race, which was a tough race and a great experience in itself).
It was great sailing with Paul and all the guys on Katusha, I was truly honored to join them in Dubai; the whole event was very organized and professionally managed on and off the water. We had such a good time and I learned a lot. Departed the UAE Monday morning after Thanksgiving and after gaining 12 hours, I arrived in LA noon the same day.
Tuesday I was back at work reflecting on what seemed like a dream. I imagined it would be akin to an amateur golfer with a real job, being invited to play a scramble at the Masters at St. Andrews with the likes of Michelson, Woods, Furyk or Westwood; and then after a week in that environment returning to the office with just the reflection of an opportunity seized… and it all started with a phone call on a late October night.
When Bob isn’t fielding dream phone calls, he is a Project Manager in the commercial real estate industry.
Photos from the Gold Cup in Dubai