It’s About the People, Not the Prizes

Published on May 8th, 2017

While our sport is a competition, and we applaud the winners after the last race, the game is ultimately about the people who play it. If you are lucky enough to play it long enough, the racing becomes a blur and what stands out are those moments defined by the people.

When Scuttlebutt shared a report about a violent collision that occurred at the 52 Super Series Miami Royal Cup, it conjured up memories for Moose McClintock who found himself in a similar situation during the 1991 Audi Yachting Race Week at Key West, FL. But as Moose chronicles the episode, it ultimately became a story about a special person.

The collision was between Capricorno and Infinity that were competing in a 15-boat fleet on the 50-Foot World Cup Circuit. The DeVos family couldn’t make the regatta and chartered their boat Windquest to John Thomson for $1 to keep the fleet size up. John, who renamed it Infinity for the event, was thinking of getting a fractional 50′ since his other Infinity’s were all masthead boats and he was trying it out. And at the time of the collision, I was at the helm of Infinity.

Conditions were top end of the heavy #1 with full runner on. Due to several factors, we were making a port tack approach into a crowded weather mark starboard layline. As we approached a small hole, I started to tack but couldn’t turn the boat fast enough since the bow was right on the quarter of a passing starboard boat. Carat, who was to leeward of us, saw us tacking and spun a quick tack under Capricorno, who was laying on starboard.

Unfortunately, because we had a slow turn, Carat caught our stern with their bow, which lodged itself firmly about a foot from the transom. The impact of them hitting us spun me up and over the wheel, smashing face first into the starboard lifelines, the scars of which still show on my face.

2017-05-08_11-40-49My momentum spun the wheel back to the right and we immediately turned back down into the oncoming layline herd with Carat pinned on our quarter, making a very awkward V.

I was nearly knocked out but opened my eyes to see the bow of Capricorno, who was aiming into the center of the V with nowhere to go, coming straight for my head. Fortunately, Chris Cantrick grabbed my feet and pulled me out of the impact zone. Capricorno nailed us right where my head had been, their bow striking our rail just above their waterline.

With the immense load on the runners, Capricorno’s bow blew straight off but stayed attached at the deck so it just flipped up and sat on deck, upside down; how the rig didn’t come down I haven’t yet figured. And as I lay with my head on the deck, I realized I was looking straight at Gary Weisman in Capricorno’s cockpit, but through the interior length of the boat.

After we got untangled, we all made it back the dock. I went to a protest meeting where Carat was looking for average points (which they received), I withdrew from the race and we all got yelled at by Tuna Wullschleger for being “bad boys” and having a collision. Weisman, for his part, put some of the blame back onto the protest committee because they had adopted a policy of “no contact, no foul”, which he argued forced everyone to push the limits; an interesting viewpoint.


John Thomson

I accept full blame for everything that happened and it haunts me to this day. When I saw videos of the TP52 collision it immediately brought back bad memories. But for his part, John Thomson smiled and said, “Don’t worry about it, things happen,” and bought me a couple more drinks at the Tiki Bar at the Galleon.

John never mentioned it again and held no malice to me for it. In fact, later that year when the 50’s went to Japan, John had to dismiss himself at the last minute because of a health issue and immediately called me to drive the boat.

John Thomson was an incredible person, a true Corinthian and someone that I was very honored to have called a friend. Bringing up this incident should have nothing to do with his name other than his making sure that everything worked out in the end for all parties. I wish he wasn’t gone but memories like this keep him fresh in my mind.

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