Thursday, January 3, 2013

Learning to Sail

Cowan Lake
The first time I ever went sailing was at Cowan Lake, near Wilmington, Ohio.  I'm not sure exactly when it was, probably the spring of '72 or '73.  A college sailing regatta was being held there. I knew quite a few of the Wright State team's members as there was a large overlap between the Ski Club, which I was very active in, and the Sailing Team.

I'd spent a fair amount of time in boats before this, but it had all been in either powerboats, canoes or rowboats.  I was intrigued by sailing, and hoped I might get a chance to try it, but I had come just to watch the race and visit with friends.  When I arrived I spoke to a few of the people I knew and was introduced to others.

Not long after this Reiner, the Team Captain (also a skier). and another man came over to the WSU contingent.   They were looking for a WSU student to "crew" on one of the boats as one of the scheduled sailors had not shown up.
Wright State Campus
I wasn't paying much attention to these two -- I wasn't a sailor, heck, I wasn't even a member of the Sailing Club.

Then I heard Reiner say, "Hey, there's Tom.  He can do it!"

This really surprised  me.  I explained to them my total lack of experience and non-membership.

"That doesn't matter," Reiner claimed, "you're a WSU student and I can fill out the membership paperwork later.  You can "crew" easily -- you've been in boats a lot and you're a great athlete, the best skier in the Ski Club.*  [Forgot the name of this sailor] will show you what to do.  It'll be fun."

So a few minutes later, there I was, setting in a Flying Junior Sailboat in the middle of the "start melee" trying to take in the instructions the skipper was giving me (1 - move to the high side of the boat. 2 - adjust the "jib sheet" so that the two pieces of yarn on the front sail are both flowing straight back al0ng the sail and not fluttering.)

The first heat was fine, we finished somewhere in the middle of the slow part of the fleet.  Reiner was second as I remember.  The next heat wasn't so good.  We capsized before we got to the first mark.  Looking back on it, I now realize that he wasn't a highly skilled sailor. After the capsize we drifted into some bushes along the shore and he didn't know how to get us upright, off that leeshore and moving again.  A powerboat had to come out and tow us, with a hull-full of water, back to the marina.

Reiner told me later not to feel bad about the events, "I'm sure it wasn't your fault," he said, "[The skipper whose name I can't recall] capsizes just about every time he goes out."

* The only part of this sentence that was true was the part about being in boats a lot.


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