Sailing season is over. It happens every fall, and not because of the change in weather but because of the dwindling daylight. We’ve got to have time to get through traffic (even if we cut out of work early, and we do cut out early), get the boat rigged, and finish a few races before dark.
With any luck, it will be snowboarding season soon and I’ll pick up my love/hate relationship where I left off last year. Maybe I’ll go back to yoga or I’ll make it to my aerobics class more often. I enjoy all of these activities but none of them are sailing.
One of the things I’ll miss most this winter is my team. Teamwork brings to mind all kinds of cheesy cliché’s, but there’s something so beautiful about a good team. When I raced in my twenties there was so much ego involved, so much self-definition. As a young woman people often assumed I didn’t know what I was doing, and I spent precious time and energy proving them wrong. Now, partly because I’ve been sailing with Doug on and off for twelve (twelve!) years, the definition and egos are gone (mostly), even when we add a third crewmember. There’s just the beauty of synchronization.
Our teamwork involves more than physical coordination, the logistics of who hoists the kite and when, or who will stay down on a roll tack in light air but also how the larger decisions are made: whether the shift is persistent or oscillating, where the next puff will appear, and where we want to place our boat on the course. We have intense conversations, debates, heated at times. We draw pictures with tiny pencils on the fiberglass seats to make a point. We go to restaurants and use cups, salt shakers and straws to illustrate the boat and the course and the wind direction in an effort to reach a consensus. On such occasions, some of us occasionally regret having a glass of sake, wishing we could focus better and keep our debating skills sharp. We do all this without having an individual member of the team, even the tipsy ones, lessened, weakened or belittled by the exercise.
We took first place in eight races in a row this summer. We started the season strong, sailing well but not placing well. Then it was like we couldn’t not win. Every move one of us made seemed to complement the others. Of course, eventually, the magic ended but for those races in late-July we were in a state of near perfection – blue sky, white sails, and Mt Baker glowing pink in the evening sun.
For now, I’ll put my bag of sailing gear in the garage and maybe I’ll buy a new pair of yoga pants. I won’t think about sailing too much until some gray February day when I’ll be on the freeway, driving over Portage Bay. I’ll remember those cold winter afternoons of college sailing where we raced right up to the decks of the houseboats and waved at the people sitting on their couches, sipping their hot beverages. I’ll think about the slide of the boat into a roll tack — when every person has their motion that must be perfectly synchronized with the others and adjusted to suit the conditions. I’ll crave that movement like a runner’s high or a hiker’s summit. I’ll go home and watch this video and think about my team and count the days until daylight savings time.
PS – The video starts pre-race and continues up the first leg almost to the first mark.
AND – In case you (or your spouse, mother, brother, friend) hasn’t voted already, the contest ends on Sunday. Last time I checked I was 1% out of first place. Thank you, thank you!