A few weeks ago, I participated in a 45 mile ocean race with 6 other crew members and a 33-foot boat. There were 10 other competitors in our class. One of them – a very fast boat-had a handicap rating, which meant we had to beat them by 20 minutes (in a 61/2 hour race).
We did our best and did a good job with tactics and sail changes. But our handicap was such that this just wasn’t enough.
A big boat from another class was right behind me, bearing down hard, some 13 miles from the finish line. My tactician said “Okay, now I’m going to teach you something new.” He had me maneuver the boat so they’d go under me (meaning I was between the wind and the other boat) so I would not slow down in their wind shadow. Once they almost passed me, and I turned the boat down to catch their wake. Evidently, this is the “on the water” version of what bicyclists do when they follow another closely – it actually makes you go faster! And it worked, because, suddenly, I was going a knot faster. The waves were big, fast, and furious. It took a lot of strength on my part to keep my boat directly behind the bigger boat and stay in their wake. I stayed in his wake for 8 miles and 1 hour. When the wind died down a bit, his boat took off, and I was back to just being a small boat in the race.
The guys in front on my boat were getting soaked and when one more huge wave actually broke over the boat, I too was soaked. One of them leaned back and said sympathetically, “Oh, did you get wet Doc?” I said “Yes,” as I spit out salt water. As if orchestrated, they all turned and said simultaneously: “Awwwwwwwwww.” It was hilarious, and it felt great. The team was working together, kidding each other in the heat of battle, and I just loved it!
When we docked, we all got off the boat extremely wet and all body parts hurting. We all moaned and groaned as I said “Whose stupid idea was this?” Again, they all turned, laughing, and pointed at me. We hit the restrooms and cleaned up, and then went out to dinner to celebrate a job well done…done as a team, and done with humor.
We were at the restaurant toasting each other and laughing and throwing food down with passion, when we realized we were happy and didn’t even know if we had won anything in the race or not. That was the best part – that we didn’t need a “win” to enjoy our camaraderie and our time out on the ocean.
It wasn’t until the next day we discovered we had won the race by (remember, this was a 45 mile race that took 6 1/2 hours)…..TWO SECONDS! Bless that big boat’s wake! We were all stunned at the result. Whew! But even without the win, we had a great time together facing the elements.