Published on February 7th, 2016
by Dillon Paiva
Sailing is the greatest sport that exists today. I felt this way the first time I stepped onto a sailboat in eighth grade and have continued to feel this way ever since.
It is a sport that allows eight year olds to hold both tiller and mainsheet on a boat and be in total control of their destiny with no help from parents, allows men and women to compete on equal footing, and allows old salts to leave young whippersnappers like me in the dust when we get too cocky.
I had an experience at a recent regatta that reaffirmed for me why I love racing slow, small boats around in circles, or in this case, a digital “N.”
At this year’s edition of the Midwinter Team Race (Dec 31-Jan 2) hosted by Eckerd College in St Petersburg, FL, I had the pleasure of racing with Catherine Pelo, Chris Lash, Emily Pelo, Brendan Healy and Rebecca Liggins on team Big Whoop!. I had been beaten by this team at numerous regattas and it was exciting to get the opportunity to sail with Big Whoop! and see what we could do together.
In one of the first races of the top 8 round robin, we sailed against the team of Jake Reynolds, Beka Schiff, Dodge Rees, Julia Wiesner, Scott Sinks and Allison Ferraris. Approaching mark 4 of a digital N course, my team had the losing combination 1-5-6. In the process of trying to force our opponent in 4th place around the mark, my teammates Brendan and Rebecca (clear astern), hit the back corner of Jake and Beka (clear ahead), spinning them out of control and into a tack.
Although Brendan and Rebecca took a penalty turn immediately, the foul allowed Catherine and me to pass our opponent and end up in a much better 1-4-6 combination. We promptly pinned Jake and Beka, which allowed our teammates to sail from the 6 into the 5. Things got scrappy on the last beat, but Big Whoop! crossed the finish line with the race win.
After crossing the finish line, our opponents who had been hit, Jake and Beka, looked at Brendan and me and asked if we could re-sail the race since our team gained a significant advantage by fouling at mark 4. Without looking at each other or discussing at all, Brendan and I simultaneously said “Yes.”
It was absolutely the right thing to do. We briefly discussed with the rest of our teams and all came to the same conclusion. I sailed over to the race committee boat manned by Mitch Hall and told him what we had decided. It took him a few seconds to process what I was saying. Why, after all, would a winning team elect to re-sail a race? Why not force a protest situation on shore and maybe get away with it? Because that is not what our sport is about.
The one thing that makes sailing stand tall in a world where there are more “sports” than can be counted is the fact that sailing is a self-policing sport. This encourages comradery and friendship, not only among the people on your boat, but with every person on the water. I will end up racing against these same sailors for the rest of my life, and I want to make sure they are excited to line up with my team at the start, as opposed to thinking “ugh, not these guys again.”
In a sport that is always struggling to get more people involved, it is important to not scare people away with sneaky or underhanded tactics.
We ended up losing the re-sail along with several other races in the round of 8. So we didn’t win the regatta, but big whoop. More importantly, I walked away from the event having made several new friends that I hope to race against soon. I can’t wait to get back on the water at the next team race regatta on the circuit.
Dillon Paiva graduated from Old Dominion University in 2013, receiving the Robert H. Hobbs Sportsmanship Award that same year. Dillon is now an Assistant Coach at the US Naval Academy.
MORE: You’d expect two professional tennis players in a competitive match to grind out every point, battling to the end. Not American tennis player Jack Sock, playing against Australian Lleyton Hewitt during a Hopman Cup match on January 5, 2016.
Hewitt served, with the umpire calling out on the ball. Sock decided to intervene, saying, “It was in, if you want to challenge it,” to a rather bemused Hewitt. “Challenge it!” Sock shouted, before Hewitt decided to tell the umpire to check the replay. What a sportsman — and Sock was right too, by the way. Video below