Thursday, July 4, 2013

My career as an America's Cup sailor

Growing up near land-locked Dallas I was always impressed by what I didn't have....the ocean, and in particular sailing ships. They were just so foreign to anything I ever saw here.  All we have near me are lakes, which are usually packed with drunken redneck boaters doing stupid things....nothing I want any part of.  

In my yout I always looked forward to watching the America's Cup races on ABC's Wide World of Sports.  The America's Cup was the most prestigious event in sailing, and the boats were sleek racing yachts crewed by intrepid sailors hanging on for dear life.  To me they were the most beautiful, exotic things in the world.

One summer around this time we were invited to go with our friends Ingrid and Bill to Galveston Island where Ingrid's aunt and uncle had a beach house.  Best of all, they also had a sailboat, and I was determined to launch my America's Cup racing career in that little boat.  It wasn't much, but it was a start....a little tiny thing that was just big enough for two people.

It looked something like this.

I bought a book on sailing and learned all there was to know on the subject, or so I thought.  In my mind I could "reach" and "tack" and "run", all those nautical things I would need to know during The Big Race. 

After a few days lying in the dirt on the beach I broached the subject to Ingrid:  "Why don't we take your uncle's little sailboat out?  I know how to sail."

Always game in a sort of wonderfully ditsy way, Ingrid and I lowered our racer into the water and pushed it out a ways, then I raised the mainsail and we were off!  Down the canal, into the marina, then out into the open bay we flew.

I was doing nicely until I realized we were getting uncomfortably far from land.  Time to turn back. That's when I realized sailing into the wind was a lot easier said than done.  I tried to act cool, but Ingrid and I both soon knew it was time to start paddling.

After what seemed like forever we finally made it back inside the protected bay where the wind changed on me again.  I don't care which way I turned the rudder, my boat was going where it wanted to go, my input be damned.

And where it wanted to go was straight into a covered boat stall on the far side of the marina.  Somehow by the Grace of God I "sailed" straight into the only one vacant.  The relatively soft impact with the dock threw me out of the boat....into water about 4 feet deep!  It was a humiliating waist-deep walk back across the marina pulling that little boat with Ingrid still perched on top.

That day I learned a valuable lesson:   It's a very short walk from being a Hero to a Zero.


Today I was reading about the Louis Vuitton Challenge Cup currently underway in San Francisco to determine the next America's Cup challenger.  Now their boats are huge catamarans and they're flying through the air about as much as they're skimming over the water.  Just amazing!

I'm still impressed!  Maybe in my next life.  *sigh*

Happy Independence Day everyone.  ;)



  1. Like you, I have a fascination with the ocean. If three or four months pass without my seeing it I start to get crabby. Happy Fourth to you and "K" and Luke.

  2. I know people who have a boat. They told me what "boat" stands for: Break out another $thousand.

    Happy Fourth!

  3. I once decided to take sailing lessons. After a weekend of classroom talk, we went to a tiny lake and one by one lowered ourselves into tiny boats. Every time I tried to turn it, it tipped over and dumped me into the water. Finally the instructor asked me how much I weighed. When I told him he said "well that explains it. You weigh 20 pounds more than the boat!" And that ended my sailing career.

  4. Remember the Australia II back in the '80's with the "winged keel"? Lots of controversy and that was back in the day when people really tuned in to the America's Cup races and it seemed to matter. How are they getting away with catamarans these days?

    I learned to sail a little on a lake in a friend's Sunfish back in the day and even rented one once in Biloxi. We didn't have too much trouble with anything but jellyfish, which were apparently having a convention that week. What a mess! But good memories.

  5. I'm with Robert, the America's Cup should be limited to single hull boats.

    My Uncle used to say if you wanted to get a feel for Ocean Racing, Sit on a lawn chair in front of a hose and next to a meat grinder. Turn the hose on to high spray and every thirty minutes put a $100 bill in the meat grinder and turn the crank.