Covering Sailing Isn’t Exactly A Breeze
So the other day I’m pulling my plans together for my maiden voyage into the sport of sailing (last nautical pun, I promise). The web site page with the schedule of events is uncooperative in loading, but much to my delight there is a phone number listed on the home page for “General Questions”. See, being the communications Neanderthal that I am, I actually prefer to talk to a person when I have a question. Weird, I know.
So I called the host site for the U.S. Youth Sailing Championships, the Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club. A very pleasant woman answered the phone and asked what she could do for me. And it was at that point that I realized that I didn’t even know enough about sailing to ask even the most basic of questions. Like what time was…OK, not tip-off…not kickoff…not faceoff, or post time…the starting gun maybe?
Me: “What time does the race start?”
She: “Well, First Warning Signal is at 12:30, you know…”
Me (silently channeling my inner Jetson’s dog Astro): “Ruh-ro Reorge”
Me (out loud): “Is that the time they start sailing? I’d like to see them go off.”
She: “You mean you want to watch the races?”
That should have been my first clue.
She (either amused or annoyed – I’m not sure which): “Well, if you go all the way down to the end of Cabrillo Beach to the jetty, you’ll see the 29ers on the inside course and everybody else on the outside racing area. Trust me, you’ll see the boats.”
I Google Mapped L.A. Harbor, and there it was, big as life – a jetty that went on forever. Sweet. I’ll just read up on the rules, put on some good hiking shoes, drive over to Cabrillo Beach, climb out onto the jetty, and…
Houston, we have a problem.
I scanned the horizon, hoping to see someone else out on the jetty so that I could utilize the “Well he did it too” strategy that proved so effective at the Pac-10 Track & Field Combineds in May. Nothing but seagulls. Not wanting to be the first fan in history to be ejected from a sailing competition, I needed a Plan B.
Fortunately, Plan B – known to his friends and family as Dave Calhoun – just happened to be sitting there in the sand, eyes glued to a set of binoculars – which were a dead giveaway. I knew he was either: (a) an undercover agent monitoring international shipping lanes; or (b) intently tracking the Youth Sailing Championships. I took a chance on the latter.
I learned from Dave that I had indeed come to the right spot and that the competition had just begun. He gave me a brief rundown of the conditions, ending with “the day’s a little bit of a bust – there’s not much air out there”.
I made a note to myself: There’s clearly “windy” and then there’s “sailing windy”. Dave estimated that it had been blowing at 10-12 knots for most of the day, in contrast to the previous day when winds as high as 25 knots motivated the regatta officials to cut short the competition. Which turned out to be fine with the kids once they found out that they didn’t have to actually stop sailing and come in off the water.
Let me think – was I ever that fearless in my youth? Ahhh…no.
Dave was in SoCal with his son Doyle, who with his friend and sailing partner Sean Golden, has been sailing competitively for most of the summer. And doing quite well as it turns out. Coming into this Championship, they had won three events in a row, but on this day things weren’t going quite as well.
Fortunately, there wouldn’t be much time to stew in disappointment, because another event was on the horizon. In fact, on the very near horizon, as Team Calhoun would be packing up quickly after this race and catching a red-eye back home to Massachusetts, where they were scheduled to take part in a three-day racing event in Buzzards Bay that started in less than 48 hours.
Two coasts, two races, three days. It looks like I’ve got a little company here on the Fanatic side of town.
I indicated the fishing pier that ran for a couple hundred yards parallel to the jetty, and asked Dave if the view of the action inside the jetty would be any better at the far end. He smiled and said “Well, a little.” That’s all I needed. I hiked out as far as I could go, and found much to my delight a bevy of sailboats approaching me at a pretty good clip.
Game On! Or is it Race On? Sail On? I really need to invest in a good nautical Thesaurus.
To be continued…