Stars & Stripes Forever

I've loved sailing and sailboats since the early 1970s, when my family would spend Sunday afternoons tooling around the Shrewsbury river in our day sailer. My father and I crewed for one of his friends on a 30-foot boat, competing in a summer race series that taught me (at the age of 12) what it was like to perform under pressure. Minus a professional league or local team to root for, we developed an interest in the America's Cup, particularly challenges held in 1974 and 1977. As I reached young adulthood, any thoughts I had of actually joining an America's Cup crew were dashed by three factors strongly against me: weight, strength and Australian affiliation. I had too much of the first, not enough of the second, and no idea on the third.


And so the thought went dormant for 30 years, until this week when we participated in the 12-meter challenge off the coast of St. Maarten. Having acquired both of the American entries in the 1987 Challenge, as well as the entire fleet of Canadian boats, the 12-meter challenge lets you get two sheets to the wind on a racing sailboat that has remained unchanged for 20 years: no bathroom and no shade. However, there was an immensely helpful policy update: no weight limit.

I fulfilled something of a teenage fantasy as I got to be a "main grinder" (half of the winch operating team for the boat's main sail), along with my son, while my wife was a primary (foresail) grinder and my daughter fed the line connected to our winch. Along with a dozen others passengers doubling as crew members, we raced on Dennis Conner's Stars & Stripes, the boat that brought the America's Cup back to the States after a brief stay Down Under, although we didn't duplicate his feats in our race for tourism dollars. Partly that weight and strength thing again, proving that some other things don't change.

Comments:

My family travails on waterways have built bonds amongst us and fond memories that have extended to other seafarers!

Hal, you couldn't be more onboard! :-)

Posted by Carolyn on March 26, 2008 at 02:56 PM EDT #

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