Nice Starts get better with age

Published on August 13th, 2020

Following the story, Earning a start the old fashioned way, we got the idea to ask for ‘Nice Start’ stories. Much like the fish we catch, these get better with age… here’s a sampling:

During one America’s Cup 12-meter summer in San Diego, Dennis Conner’s wife made a starting audio tape that was used during practice. The crew punched it in at the ten minute gun and listened to Judy dutifully calling off the time right down to 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 10, and start. After a brief pause, Judy said in a voice full of admiration, “Nice start, Dennis.”
– Roger Vaughan

Craig, you are fully aware of the admiration I have for your dad, and I was so proud when he asked me to be tactician on Party Girl one weekend for the Malibu and Return Race. I got the “song sheet” as he called it and my first job was to say, “Nice start Tom.”

Well, the start did not go well as were fouled and pushed down the line. The gun went off and I did my job. “Nice start Tom?” He responded with “Thanks smart ass, now get us out of here.” Your Mom smiled and shook her head. We all went to work… we won.
– Glen Uslan

Having been a race committee member of the well-run Cortez Racing Association Beer Can Series, with an average Wednesday evening attendance of 90 boats, “Nice Start” means the committee boat hasn’t been hit.
– Christy Schisler

Growing up racing in our home fleet against two Star Class World Champions, Don Edler and Bill Ficker, provided a steep learning curve for the then 14 year old. One afternoon I’d timed our start nicely at the weather end committee boat, and on our final approach, Ficker came barging down on our weather beam.

“No room, Mr. Ficker,” I hailed. In a confident and quiet voice, Bill Ficker replied, “Sorry Skip, I have an ‘absolute’ and will need room.” Huh? My inexperience showed as I dipped just enough to allow Ficker’s NHYCUSA to gain the perfect start in the space we’d created.

Later after the race I mustered courage, walked down the dock and asked Bill Ficker “What’s an ‘absolute’?” Said Bill with a pleasant smile, “Oh, that means I have absolutely no rights.”
– Skip Allan; Capitola, CA

In the 2016 Pacific Cup, aboard my new-to-me Santa Cruz 50 as navigator was Liz Baylis, former Women’s Match Racing World Champion.

Now, at the start of a 2000 mile race, most folks are pretty cautious, and that is my general approach, but as we lined up nicely for an on-time start at the pin, Liz spotted two or three boats trying to barge in above us.

“LEEWARD!” she hollered to them as she instructed me to head up, which we did, thus boxing them out and watching with satisfaction as they spun around for a second approach to the line.

Who closes someone out at the start of the Pac Cup, you may ask… well who barges? We went on to take second in the race!
– Michael Moradzadeh

Tom & Barbara Leweck were always top competitors in my class 40 years ago and they were generous bringing new sailors out to crew. The newest crew member on board was given the responsibility to say in a loud clear voice after they cleared the start line, “Nice start, Tom,” which it usually was. One rare time the Leweck Merit 25 got badly tangled in traffic (and the R.C. boat ground tackle) I heard a young woman on the boat hail joyfully as instructed, “Nice start Tom” to the general amusement of the entire fleet sailing off toward the weather mark. I was so impressed that I chatted her up at the yacht club after, and then we dated for a very pleasant year.
– Tom Tunks

In 1983 I was a trimmer aboard Brooke Ann, Larry Harvey’s Nelson-Marek 41, at Antigua Race Week. Lowell North, the Pope himself, was our skipper. Although it was clearly a vacation for Lowell, his starts were always perfect, clear air, full-speed, right on the line every race. “Nice start, Lowell!” At the end of the series I asked him, “How are you able to get such consistently great starts?” He chuckled and said, “When you’ve made as many terrible starts as I have, you begin to figure out what NOT to do.”
– Ned Johnston, Bar Harbor, Maine

It’s 12:30 pm on June 30, off of Point Fermin, California for the start of the division 3 (50 foot boats) and 4 (35-40 footers) in the 2001 Transpacific. I’m aboard Seth Radow’s brand new Sydney 40 BULL, about to start its first race. There’s just a breath of air so we’re doing our best to stay away from other boats and simply keep moving. In the pit, I didn’t have anything to do during prestart other than call out the time to the gun. At less than a minute, we’re in clear air below and outside the pin. Seth and navigator Steve Steiner decide we’re starting on port. We hit the line just inside the pin with speed.

There were a few close crosses but we cleared plus we are heading far closer to Catalina’s West End, where the starboard starters are aimed more toward Avalon. I can’t tell you how that start contributed to our finish almost 11 days later, but it sure fired up seven guys who were already pretty stoked. We finished first in class and corrected over Pegasus by 1 1/2 hours to take the overall. I’ll never forget that start!
– Joe Dervin

In 1998, my new to me C&C 32 was entered in cruising class in Eastern Yacht Club’s Annual Regatta. One of my other competitors in my class that year was Shamrock V, the 120’ J boat. As we were maneuvering for the start my good friend Craig Smith (who had America’s Cup experience) had me tack out from the line with just a minute or two to go to the start. I immediately saw Shamrock V coming in on starboard doing a Vanderbilt start.

Craig must have seen the wild look on my face for he laughed and said no worries! He had us tack back for the line at the exact right time, and kept us close to the committee boat. We hit the line right at the gun With Shamrock V of course RIGHT behind. Craig said “Nice Start, now pinch like mad to force them to go below us”, which Shamrock did and as they went by the crew yelled to us how lucky we were to have them duck us, we owe them beers afterwards etc., etc. BTW, we missed correcting over them in the race by less than 15 seconds after the wind lightened.
– Tom Anderson, Marblehead, MA

Ages ago (40, 50 years?), Boston Bay yacht clubs had well attended Sunday interclub races for various classes. Back then, the race committee boat used a small cannon situated on the stern transom to signal starts. I still recall a port track start my 210 in which was so perfectly timed that the cannoneer was unable to fire the cannon for fear of damaging my mainsail yet the race proceeded. Sadly, great start, poor finish in what in those days were great sized 210 fleets.
– Quentin Walsh

Sometimes it is best to not have the best start. In the early 1960s, I would sometimes crew for Roger Miessinger on his 8-Meter Yucca. At the start of a Huntington Tidelands Race with moderate Newport winds, Roger had Yucca well positioned at the leeward end of a large fleet, driving hard on starboard. Yucca could really point and at the line Roger decided to take the whole fleet up, I guess because he could. Ticonderoga (Big Ti) was in mid fleet above us, but couldn’t point with an 8-Meter. Big Ti had to luff and in so doing hit the backstay of an L-36 and spun the smaller yacht totally around 180 degrees. The L-36 ended up clattering off the hulls of a few other starters heading back toward the beach. Oh, the yelling was marvelous. Does anyone else remember that day?
– Dan Feltham; Fallbrook, CA

Port tack starts at the pin are so much fun, even if you need to need to leebow a starboard tacker at some point. It is all about clear air and focusing on the breeze and not other boats. Only one boat wins at the committee boat, presuming no dramatic wind shift. Good luck presuming that. But if you have kids who are focused on starboard starts they are likely at the boat in a crowd or in the middle of a serious line sag three boat lengths back. At least at the pin they can judge the line better and not get caught in the giant line “sag”. They have no bow person. So for young sailors, be at the pin to avoid the conservative crowd and find clear air ASAP so you can focus on the goal of getting to the mark first and not worrying about boats near you. Easy to say. Hard to do.
– Paul Fleming

I realized that my large size start watch on the Laser mast has failed just in time to borrow a wristwatch from another sailor. In the last minute to the start, boats to windward and leeward were covering me from the “eyes” of the committee boats. All of a sudden an alarm went off on the watch. At once I switched to ‘sprint mode’, blew by the boats to leeward with total clear air from the windward side.

I was “flying” all alone when all of a sudden I heard the committee boat gun go off. Wow, this watch had an alarm set prior to the start. I was unable to see the flag post for an individual recall flag, and just kept on sailing. I finished top three, and back at the boat yard after racing received many compliments from the best of sailors for my great start and ability to judge my position on the start line with so many boats around and no shore reference. If they only knew…
– Ari Barshi, DOM 187794

First Big Boat on “It’s Ok” with one of the all time great owners, Lew Beery. It’s early nineties and IMS is just getting going. We are tied for 1st going into the last race of Big Boat with an all-pro team from Texas on a Tripp 40. We are all amateurs and it’s winner take all. The line is a clubhouse start in max ebb. On the first start we are well down the line and it was a general recall, thank god! Andy Rose is calling tactics and I am steering. After the recall he asks what do you think and I reply, “I have got this”!

We started at the boat on a close reach in max ebb, basically the race was over at the start. Oops! The top mark was Blackaller, it’s blowing 20+ and we set the 3/4. It blows in half. The boys call for the 1.5, which Lew and I decided to leave on the dock. Up goes the .5. Never broke in the three runs in 25+. Our first Big Boat win. Thanks Lew for all the fun.
– Craig Fletcher

Many years ago I was crewing for Bruce Kirby at the CDA championships in International 14’s held at Kingston during CORK. I was wearing a shorty wetsuit, which becomes important later. We had a not serious deal that we would cease yachting if my cigarettes got wet or Bruce’s chocolate bar got wet. So we were making a perfect mid line start and the second the gun went so did my trapeze wire and in I went. Boom Boom. General recall, but none of this worried Bruce, the first words out of his mouth were “your cigs wet?”

Upon inspection my wetsuit had kept them dry, the relief on his face was palpable. It was after this relief period we set about tying a knot in the trap wire for the next start. As we cruised about one of our fiercest competitors lumbered by and I said, “this is what happens when your father is the RC chairman and you break something at the start, general recall”. Talk about going over like a lead balloon. For the record, my dad had no idea anything had happened to us. Good times.
– Alex Watters

One of the most memorable, and interesting, starts I can recall was that of the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta. RC members, stationed on the signal boathouse top, provided starting signals wearing more-or-less flag color & class appropriate t-shirts. At roughly the appropriate time, the duly cladded member would rise from her seat and jump up & down for as long a period as she cared. Did it work flawlessly? Not even close, as most members weren’t fully appraised of the start sequence. Did we get a technically good start? Other than choosing to be at the boat end of the line, I can’t recall. But it certainly was fun.
– John N. Sweeney

My story is back in the mid-1970s when the 470 became an Olympic class, everyone who was anyone in the British dinghy sailing scene wanted to have a go. Even in those days there were dedicated Olympic crews and several joined the fun of the new class.

The first major outing was Weymouth Olympic Week (in those days this was the annual British regatta for Olympic classes) and a friend and I decided to enter. There were over 70 entries – a real Who’s Who of sailing talent! There was even a radio reporter to keep those onshore informed of the progress of the race.

In the first race we achieved THE start at the pin end – probably because all the experts wanted to go right on the first beat. Although we made the best start we were held on and on by someone behind and to windward, with me cursing him all the while as I wanted to tack too.

Eventually he tacked and we carried on another 50 yards to clear our wind and as we were about to tack we got a 10-15 degree header. We tacked and led by 100 yards round the windward mark. Apparently the radio reporter had to do a long search through the entry list to find out who we were. We finished the race 3rd and the experts came to inspect our very amateur set-up for tips on how to set the rig up, etc.

Sometimes being forced to do something against one’s will turns out for the best.
– Jeremy Rook

I recall a start to a squadron run (race) during a very traditional and Corinthian yacht club’s annual cruise. We were probably the eighth class to start, and the wind had clocked ever so slowly during the sequence from a beat, to a close reach, to eventually… a slight beam reach.

As we approached the start line, on starboard, running the line with a minute to go, we had competitors getting closer screaming about barging and proper course and keeping clear but when the gun fired, and we EASED to cross the line— with all of the screamers TO WINDWARD of us, it was an AH HA moment for many. Oops!

Windward boats keep clear, even if the windward side is behind the starting line. The best part was that the loudest protestor, who eventually figured it out and dropped his protest, was a very experienced America’s Cup veteran. Sometimes situational awareness in quickly changing conditions makes all the difference.
– Bill Doyle

A bunch of amateur but enthusiastic sailors from Ireland descended on Malta in October 2013 to tick a box – the Rolex Middle Sea Race. We saw some fantastic sights, got great suntans, had a marvelous time but ultimately didn’t trouble the scorers, as we say over here. But we hatched a plan to come back, and we did in 2015 on a chartered French J/122 called Noisy Oyster.

Anyone who has done the race knows the start – in a walled harbour, surrounded by ramparts, cannons booming, no wind in the harbour and the VIP’s on the ramparts looking down on the boats. The race start morning was sunny, with about 8-10 knots of breeze, and we had our eye on the pre-race favourite – Artie, a local J/122.

I’m on main trim, and our helmsman, a former All-Ireland dinghy champion, tells me, “I fancy a port starter here.” I’m thinking, “We’ll be right under the harbour walls, where there’s no wind.” But we go for it – starting on starboard right under the cannons and almost immediately flicking over onto port and clearing the fleet. I swear the locals on Artie said, “Woah, who are these guys?”

We led the fleet to the harbour mouth, grinning like cats. No need to talk about the rest of the race. Best bit ever? It was captured on video, and you can hear everyone going, “Wow, who are those guys?”
– David Greene

Each and every time there is a general recall, I instantly think back and say to myself, “That sucks, that was the best start I ever had.”
– Tucker Strasser

My best start memory was during the 1990 50-foot Class Worlds regatta in Tortola, BVI. I was on Abracadabra with a great team, competing against 16 or so boats, and at the start the race committee called over radio, “All boats over early except two, called numbers of boats starting properly.”

We were one of the two that started okay, Tom Whidden’s boat was the other, but they only heard their number called so they went back to restart. We had about a two minute lead at the start because all the others were restarting. And yes, we did win the world championship that year.
– By Baldridge

It was the 1997 Round the Island Race (UK), and the Solent was heaving with well over 1500 boats of every shape and size. The start line was over a mile long to accommodate so many starters in each class, and we were plotting our approach.

The wind was NNW 15 – 18 kts so we decided a middle of the line start on starboard would be good so as to catch the best of the ebb in the deep water and also not get pinned over on the Island side with the hundreds of starboard tackers.

With six minutes to go, we were the closest yacht to the Island in our start when I spotted a shift in the breeze on the Island side. It was tracking left inshore of us so we reach at full speed towards the Island. This reach steadily becomes close hauled and still we press on until our start gun.

As the gun fired, we tack onto port, cross the start line and our entire class (of some 130+ boats) as we are all but fetching Hurst Narrows.

It was a nice start especially as we went on to win our class by 18 minutes on the water and 15 minutes on handicap.
– Paul Newell, Chartreuse III – GBR 5630

At the 2000 Key West Race Week, I was racing on the Mumm 30 Twisted Lizard as a tactician, main sail trimmer, back stay, and traveler. There were so many Farr 40s and Mumm 30s that we were given our own circle west of the other three.

While watching the Farr 40s starting, I noticed a big header on the circle next to us. I told Mike Lathrope, the owner/skipper, to go for a committee end start, second row. Stick the bow in there and don’t let the leeward boat tack. As soon as we cleared the anchor chain we tack and the big, big header arrived.

Went back to starboard and eased sails to the weather mark, passing Farr 40s. It would have been an easy win but the Race Committee abandoned the race. We were the only boat in over 30 Mumms to get the boat in the right place and take advantage of the header.
– Tony Sanpere

The Royal Swedish Yacht Club runs a multi-race spring and fall regatta on what seems like a large lake near Saltsjöbaden. At 15 and 16, my sister and I were racing the then very popular Snipe against senior sailors and were competitive in the light air we had one day.

The lake had its prevailing winds, and the starboard pin end would generally be the best bet, but we sniffed a port start at the other end. The result was huge as we had no problem crossing the others, we got a nice lift almost heading straight for the first mark, and with the light air the new wind was very slow to reach that crowd at the other pin.

Back then, if one boat finished within the stipulated time, all others either had to sail on, even if the wind faded, or paddle home. When we finished just under maximum time, we couldn’t see the numbers on the nearest finishers. We’d put away the boat on the trailer, and waited to greet the rest of the fleet as they finished. Luck? Sure, winners have lots of “luck”.
– Olof Hult

When I lived in Falmouth, Cornwall the local gaff rigged oyster fleet would race twice a week on Tuesday and Friday starting in the centre of the town visible to all. Many of these boats are over a 100yrs old. There were many exciting starts weaving between moored boats and definitely no quarter given. A zealous harbour master at the time tried everything to stop this procedure even though it had been going on for more than 50 years. He finally got his way by booking the whole fleet for speeding in the inner harbour at more than four knots. The starts had to then be outside his jurisdiction with no pleasure to spectators from the shore.
– David Redfern

It was our first start at the Pitch Regatta in Bellingham, I think it was 1980. Me, the coach, calling tactics, and Bob Maclean, our sailmaker, were the only adults on the boat, a Two Tonner named Heather which had been donated to the Boy Scouts by John Buchan. The rest of crew were all teenage boys and girls from Explorer Post-950. I’m coaching and calling tactics and we have a 15 year old boy, full of confidence but short on experience (as was I) on the helm.

There were 16 two tonners in that regatta, boats from Seattle, Anacortes, Bellingham, and Vancouver, and Victoria, most with top sailors from their respective areas. The day was sunny and bright with a brisk wind blowing.

We held back a bit as the other boats approached the line early and were all luffing and fighting for position. There was a lot of noise, shouting, winches spinning, sails flapping, spray in the air glinting in the sunlight, and boats swerving radically. It was crazy. It was glorious. But by then we’d sheeted in and were making our run for the line near the boat end and had speed on.

But there was nowhere to go! The other boats were all chock a block on the line and down speed. Frankly I didn’t know what we were going to do.

Then, as a miracle, a hole opened up right in front of us and we blew through it and had a lane and a lead which we held for several legs.

“Nice Start, Matt” I said.
– Fred Roswold

During the 2018 William I. Koch International Sea Scout Regatta, a biennial event for Sea Scouts, I was the pin boat operator, along with Roger Gray from Canberra, Australia.

Thirty-two teams from nine countries sailed FJs at Sea Star Base Galveston. Roger’s son and daughter and two scouts from my unit located in Heath, TX were competing.

As we were hanging out by the pin between races, I noticed my scouts making several port tack approaches. I told Roger to pay close attention to the next start.

Sure enough the scouts from Texas came in from the left, went one boat length past the pin and tacked, winning the start against the rest of the fleet coming hard on starboard.

They saw an opportunity, practiced and timed it perfectly. It was beautiful to watch it happen.
– Robert Phillips; Heath, TX

I can’t say it was a great start but it’s one I’ll always remember. It was in the late 80s early 90s and I was crewing for my Uncle Woody ( J.W. Redmond) in his Dark Harbor 20 (S&S design) Kingfisher, and the race committee boat was Mrs. Becky Crane Tompkins’ beautiful wooden motor yacht Momo with a gorgeous wooden row boat hanging in davits off the stern.

It was the normal windward start for the one design class, and the committee boat end was favored. As we maneuvered to start at the committee boat end, there was a boat to windward of us to which uncle Woody yelled there was no room.

As the boat kept coming he yelled they were barging, and as we couldn’t fall off as there were boats below us, a few seconds later when the gun went off, the offending boat smashed into the committee boat & dinghy, crushing the dinghy.

I’ll always remember hearing Mrs. Tompkins yelling at the offending skipper, “You hit my Momo!”

We had a great start, and my uncle was a great guy and excellent sailor, always asking his crew what they thought in every situation.
– David Devens

With about ten seconds to go, we were in a great position heading for a perfect starboard-end start when the boat to leeward and a length ahead pinched up to try and squeeze us out. Their boat was a fairly heavy boat, and didn’t lose much speed while pinching, but I could see that they were going to be a few seconds early.

They had too much speed and couldn’t slow enough to avoid an OCS on their current heading, so their only choices were to either bear off or be OCS. They had plenty of room to their leeward, so their choice seemed obvious.

Since we were lightly overlapped, we had to luff to avoid them. Being lighter, we luffed up, eased sails, and easily slowed down for a couple seconds, pointed right at the committee boat, a little less than two boat lengths away.

My two crew were in a panic, thinking we were about to impale a large cabin cruiser. They wanted to tack away and go around again. However, I knew the other skipper would have to bear off, and as he did, we fell off, trimmed sails and slid between him and the committee boat for a perfect start. No red flag and no comments, but a few worried looks from the RC.
– Gordie Couture; Lake Saint Clair, MI

My memorable start story happened a few years ago when racing on a good friend’s Hotfoot 27 during one of Royal Vancouver Yacht Club’s Wednesday Night “Beer Can” race.

Some of us in the crew have raced together for longer than anyone cared to remember but as everyone knows, it makes it so much more fun when racing with people you enjoy being around.

We are not “grand prix” north of the 49th Latitude, but certainly don’t lack participation and enthusiasm when it comes to summer mid-week after work fun.

There is quite the mix of boat types, sizes, and shapes in our division and of course this is all handicap (PHRF) racing and about a dozen boats any one of which can top the leaderboard if all the stars align and a little “luck” doesn’t hurt as well.

Being the “driver” of the boat, we were in our pre-start and doing the usual jockeying for position. We were less than a minute from our start and made our final tack just to leeward (ahead and clear) of one of our competitors who was 34 feet (as said, we were 27).

As we approached the line near the committee boat end, we got a good gauge setting up on the line, competitors to leeward and of course the committee boat as a great reference when we felt a jolt on the boat along with me feeling a little “tap” on the back of my head (wearing a cap). I turn around only to find the bow of the 34 staring me right in the face.

As you can imagine there was a little commotion on both boats and once the dust settled and assessing that the damage was minimal (slight bent stanchion on our boat, no damage on the 34), we decided to continue racing. (Remember, not grand prix but for a good time).

Of course by this time the fleet was gone, however, as I am sure we all know, sometimes there is merit being a “little late”. We assessed the course, fleet and wind conditions and could see some big shifts on the left side of the course. We rounded the weather mark in first and never looked back (no pun intended). We ended up winning the race by over 2 minutes on elapsed time!

After the race the crew thought I should get bonked in the head more often. 🙂
– Marc Herrmann

We drove out from Cambridge for the 1975 Timme Angsten Regatta, held each Thanksgiving in Chicago’s Belmont Harbor. It was one of the most coveted regattas on the college circuit, and extremely competitive, especially when it came to starts. Eighteen really good teams, a short line, and typically two tiers of starters.

A minute into a three minute sequence I noticed a sizeable shift to the left, so the usually straight line set up by the very competent RC was suddenly port favored. We broke away from the pack lining up for the starboard approach, and were the only boat trying for a port tack start. We were able to reach in and round the pin on the gun, clearing the nearest starboard tacker by a foot or two.

Not only had we won the start, but we were on the long tack to the weather mark, while everyone else was stuck on starboard and struggling to find a lane to tack in. We led all the way around and won the race.

The fun bit was that my coach, Mike Horn, a well-known and highly regarded college legend, ran out to the end of the dock and yelled at me with smirk on his face, “How many times have I told you, Tony? NEVER start on port!”

The next spring I was writing a thesis which kept me at my desk a month into the sailing season. The day it was due, I threw the copies of my thesis into my backpack, dropped them off at the history department, and peddled down to the Charles River. It was such a relief to get back on the water, and I was singlehanding an IC dinghy because I was late to the practice and didn’t have crew. Mike was running the starts from his window on the second floor of the sailing pavilion.

Somehow it all clicked. I had plenty of space on the line on either side. I put the bow down for a few seconds and then hiked and rolled to windward right on the gun, jumping out a half boat length ahead of the rest.

Mike was never big with compliments, especially over the PA system, but he called out, “Nice start Tony. And welcome back!”
– Anthony Leggett; Manchester, MA

Sailing a Hobie 14 in Clearwater, FL years ago, I think it was a Hobie for Heart event. A buddy of mine, also with a 14, drove in Friday night from Tallahassee, FL. We double stacked the 2 14’s on a trailer and pulled it all with a 1970 VW Bus. When we left the beach Saturday morning for the first race there were 40-50 or so H-14’s in the start area. That’s a pretty big fleet, as it was the heyday of Hobie racing. Among the participants was Augie Diaz – a youngster at the time racing his 14, up from Miami.

Everyone was running the line, testing, trying to pick a spot and so on. It also appeared that everyone was setting up for the RC end and a starboard start. All these helmsmen, each and every one, but me. By my calculation there was easily a 20-degree port tack advantage, favoring pin end.

I’m sitting there wondering why I was the only one looking to start on port, hummmm? THE ONLY ONE in a 40-50 boat fleet! What had I missed, was I set up wrong, somehow? Nothing made sense because there were some very good sailors in the fleet, hell, Augie Diaz was sailing….

I stuck to with my plan and what I believed, and hit the pin end on port tack right at the start gun. Hobie #21227 and I easily sailed over the top of all of the Hobie 14’s by at least 6-7 boat lengths (it was that favored). This all while they fought for clear air and room, totally crammed down at the RC boat. I was so clear of the fleet. Sadly, there was only me to comment to myself “nice start”.

I led the masses at the weather pin, the reach mark, and leeward mark, on a once around triangle. Rounding the leeward mark – easily 15 lengths ahead of the others – I tacked to the center of the course to cover – and sailed into a huge hole. There I watched the entire fleet remain on port, sail past me, and finish. Talk about distraught. I still don’t know if it was a bonehead cover, or just a payback of fate. But it will never be forgotten. A huge port tack horizon job in a big fleet of hot Hobie sailors, nice start kiddo!

It woulda been nice to hit the finish line for the bullet. Oh well, such great memories. Love Sailing!
– Mark Johnson

One of the classes in the 1997 Key West Race Week Regatta was the one design Mumm 30 fleet which featured 36 boats from several countries. I crewed on Nick and Tina Worth’s Mumm 30 Moon Doggie which finished mid-fleet in the nine race event. However, we did have that cherished “NICE START!” moment in one race, the kind that seems so easy it makes you wonder why you can’t have a great start every time.

The boats were spread fairly evenly along the starting line. We started near the middle and very quickly realized we were at least a boat length ahead of every other boat, going like gang-busters in clear air and lengthening our lead. Naturally, the sounds of “Nice Start”, “Great Start” and the like were quickly heard from all aboard.

Just as quickly, however, the outhaul line broke and we went shooting out the back of the fleet. What a change of emotions when you suddenly realize you will certainly be in last place before a jury-rigged repair can be made and with little chance to secure a decent finish.
– Bill Wheary; Norfolk, VA

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