Stories of Sportsmanship

Published on November 10th, 2022

Competition allows us to test our sailing skills, but can also challenge our human skills. David Bannister shares these stories of when both were managed:

My first “real” boat was a Shark 24, and we had a very competitive one-design fleet of 9 or 10 of them at Grand Bend Yacht Club (Grand Bend, ONT) on Lake Huron. I recall one race in a very brisk offshore breeze and calm water, and when my foredeck crew went forward to set the spinnaker pole and collect the genoa, the pole snapped in two and he went overboard holding onto a sheet line.

As he came sliding down the port side of the hull, we were able to get him back on board but had dropped into second spot. Suddenly, the Shark ahead of us had the same pole break happen. Nobody went overboard there, but the skipper managed to cut his hand on the pole, and handed the helm over to his son. We passed them during this mayhem and held them off to the finish line.

A few days later there was a knock on my door. The skipper of the other Shark had been to a ship’s store and brought me the aluminum extrusion for a new pole – the same as he had bought. That was the kind of fleet it was.

Skip to a few years later, and I was now racing “Respite”, a C&C 35 MkIII in the same club, under PHRF rules. Several of my competitors decided they wanted to enter the venerable Bayview Mackinac Race that extends the length of Lake Huron. They had concluded that Respite was the best candidate for this race and approached me about it. We ended up doing that race two years in a row, with my crew being five other skippers from GBYC.

In our second effort this turned out to be a godsend, as conditions were so rough that an hour at the helm was enough. Instead of going with a 2-helmsman rotation, we utilized all six of us. At the finish, other boats with only two people steering looked exhausted. We were in pretty good shape and enjoyed good company with our significant others who drove up for the celebrations. A good time was had by all.

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