Walking away with good memories

Published on September 12th, 2021

The Vineyard Race is a classic Long Island Sound overnighter which completed its 86th edition in 2021. Tim Zimmermann describes the experience:

With any sailing experience you never really know what you are going to get. It’s mostly up to the Weather Gods. Sometimes—maybe often, depending on where you sail—they are cruel, and heap abuse upon you for even daring to hope for a good time.

Too much wind, too little wind, rain, cold, heat. They have a lot of different ways to mess with you. Suffering is part of sailing. And of course, that makes it good for you. It builds character and resilience.

As the great racing skipper Carleton Mitchell liked to say, “You eats what the cook serves.”

Sail GP

This stoic attitude has always appealed to me, and is not a bad approach to life in general. Still, it is awfully nice to tuck into a gourmet meal every once in a while. And after a summer of crazy weather and abandonments, the weather gods finally relented and served up a really nice one.

I was back on The Rover, a Swan 44 MKII, with my friend Steve and his competent and companionable crew for the annual Vineyard Race. We had decent wind, a tricky and interesting race course, and Chamber Of Commerce weather.

Being on a sailboat, these days especially, is a highly therapeutic escape from the painful ills of today’s polarized and warming world. Your universe shrinks to 44 feet and what you can see between you and the horizon. Your community shrinks to a small group of shipmates, united in the goal of driving a sailboat as fast as it can go over the most favorable course. You sync into tune with the wind, the seas, and the feel of the boat.

During this race we had sun, a sliver of a moon, and spectacular night skies. Jupiter blazed like a beacon. Saturn glimmered nearby. Shooting stars regularly scorched across the firmament. Not to be outdone, the mellow sea gods sent us a few dolphins, who jumped off the stern quarter and urged us forward. It is a simple, uncomplicated world, and when you sleep you sleep deep and untroubled.

I’ve been on boats where this alluring alternate reality is marred by a cranky crew, or outsized egos. Managing a sailboat under race pressure, especially if the weather is bad, can be testing and stressful, and getting the crew mix right isn’t easy. But Steve has cultivated a skilled and agreeable team for The Rover. – Full report

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