Survival on the Octagon of Sailing
Published on January 13th, 2022
In his January column for Seahorse magazine, when Paul Cayard noted the value of his heavy air upbringing on San Francisco Bay, it brought back some less fond memories from others:
I was sailing in the Laser Slalom and, because my start time was not for a couple of hours, I was sitting in the bar at St. Francis Yacht Club with some competitors, where we could watch the other racers go up and down the line of buoys in the Slalom. At one point, a young man named Paul was racing, and we racers watched him. We had never seen anything quite so fluid, so sure, so totally in command both upwind and down.
I had already been through the Slalom a couple of times and realized that my efforts must have seem incredibly clumsy by comparison. Upwind, I was ok on the tacks, but downwind, jibing between the buoys, two things were going on. First, I was scared to death. Second, my jibes were cliff-edge affairs teetering between swimming and spinning out.
Watching Paul, several of us looked at each other and said, “Let’s not bother going out. Let’s just keep drinking here in the bar”. He was so comfortable in those Bay breezes that I, from balmy Southern California, was in awe. Somewhere, I still have my numbered sweatshirt from the Slalom, but I don’t think I’m going to frame it.
As kids from the doldrums of Long Island Sound, sailing the 1972 Soling Trials on Berkley Circle was an eye opener! When we got to SFYC front desk I asked, “Does it always blow this hard?” The reply was, “THEY always get a race in, if that’s what you mean!”
Yes, I can relate to being one who came to San Francisco Bay only to survive! We came from San Diego for the Adams Cup regionals. Our team made a fabulous start on the first race, and thought we were very cleaver as we rounded the weather mark lengths ahead.
We quickly hoisted the spinnaker, thinking how sharp we were, and then were suddenly slapped down in the unforgiving San Francisco Bay conditions. BROACH! We watched everyone sail away, humbled very quickly in this venue which required a very different strategy.
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