I have been sitting here thinking, and chuckling to myself, about the way some things have worked out with my so-called racing career. I know that no one cares about this stuff, but it does me good to write it down sometimes.
When I was about 19 years old I was a pretty damn good middle crew on a very fast Lightning. Fast enough that we were one good day from being on the Pan Am Games team of whatever year that was. Once while sailing Flying Scots in Pensacola I saw a big fleet of Windmills, and knew that that was the boat for me. I found a heavy old 'glass Newport hull with a wooden mast and fell in love with it. $300 later she was all mine. The Southern Champs were to be held in Pensacola that year, and I wanted to sail it. Never having sailed the boat didn't matter. My Lightning skipper consented to crew for me and off we went to sail against the best Windmill guys around.
Hilarious (or sad if you want to look at it that way, but we didn't). Not only were we the heaviest boat there, we were the heaviest crew, the only wooden mast, and the only one using the sails that we had. In the end youthful enthusiasm helped us to beat four or five boats. The next year we came back with a new rig and a suit of Shore sails and we did better, and then we wound up a very respectable 11th at the Midwinters. After this I moved to the Star.
With the Star the reason why I started at the bottom was easy: I was poor. I just wanted a boat. I wound up with a wooden Lippincott and actually did o.k.. Many years and several Stars later I finally wound up with equipment almost as good as the best, and if I wasn't the best in my fleet, I was up there with them. But then I got a J/24.
The J/24 really shouldn't count because I only ever raced her PHRF, but I did race against other J/24's while racing PHRF. I paid $5K for her. Re-rigged her. Bought all new sails. Won a bunch of troiphies that meant nothing to me. Yuck. Not my cup of tea. So I bought a 5.5 metre, and another Windmill, and a Beetle Cat, and some others that I am probably forgetting. and then I bought the Dragon.
I had always wanted a Dragon. I used to dream about Dragons. One day I just decided the time was right and I bought one (I had actually had one earlier, but never got to sail it. Longer story even than this one). So now I have this Dragon that I have to haul 1000 miles to race, and I get waxed when I go up there because everyone else is sailing fleet races every week of the summer all summer long, and I am sailing one regatta a year. Still, I wouldn't trade the Dragon for anything. I LOVE it.
And that brings us more or less full circle to the Finns. About five years ago now I bought a 1983 Vanguard sight unseen because we were building a fleet. The ugliest Hall round carbon mast you have ever seen, and a bag of five dacron sails. I went to our first regatta in New Orleans without ever having been in the boat, and having been in a Finn once, about 25 years earlier. I sailed the entire day with the halyard not locked in and just tied off at the butt of the mast, and I still beat one boat (of four). Over the next two years I missed a total of one regatta, bought a nice carbon wing and enough sails to make the choice tough on race day, and worked my way up to the middle of the fleet. And then one day, driving home from a race in Gulfport, Mississippi, I decided to sell it. Sold her the next day, and then I bought the IC.
The IC looked like a great idea at the time. My hope was to buy a brand new Jibetech Finn, but I didn't have the money at the time. The IC was cheap and looked like a blast, and I fancied that I could sail it. I couldn't. Oh well. The experience was worth it, and she is with a good guy now who will sail her. Nothing lost, really. It's hard to lose pride when that got shredded at the age of 19. Then I bought the Megabyte, as yet another inexpensive replacement for the boat that I wanted, which of course was the Finn that I had just sold. Nothing wrong with a Megabyte, it's just not really the boat for me. I'd sell it today if someone asked about it.
So now I am back in the Finns, with a 1970 model boat, an aluminum rig, and dacron sails. I went out and sailed Masters without ever having sailed the boat in anything other than a drifter, and the rudder tore off. I am basically exactly where I was as a fresh faced kid with that Newport Windmill so many long summers ago. The old saying about not learning from history and being doomed to repeat it? I am the poster boy. What would I have done differently? Lord. So many things. And then again, maybe nothing at all. I see friends who lucked into buying nice Finns at really good prices and have had great success sailing the same boats that they started out in, but that luck has just never been mine. With me it was always sort of something like fate pushing me along, sometimes a fate that didn't seem to like me very much .
Where do I go from here? Sailing. I hope to sail the Dragon this weekend, and the Finn schedule is cranking up for real. I'll just keep going out there and getting killed. I don't really know why, it's like I have to do it. It would be nice to get to the front of the fleet again someday. I'll just keep pushing and see where things go.
Sorry for this long ramble. As a very good friend of mine once told me (God bless him) 'when you suck as bad as I do you do a lot of soul searching'.