Serious Fun: The Heineken St. Maarten Regatta

If we didn’t finish DFL we certainly weren’t much farther ahead. The first race of the 2012 Heineken Regatta in the waters around St. Maarten finished a couple of hours ago, but I’ve yet to bother finding out how the Lady Ann did.

Not that it wasn’t fun and not that things didn’t go well. But we have so many handicaps that the likelihood of us placing highly are as slim as the possibility that I’ll go home on Monday NOT looking like a lobster that’s been boiled for far too long. And after four days on the Caribbean, trust me: my skin is already fried.

The bottom line, pun intended, is that the Lady Ann has a modern underbody and a modern keel, so her rating in the eyes of race organizers is that she must be a fast boat. But we’re not racing with a spinnaker — or even a gennaker, a hybrid between a spinnaker and a genoa — so our downwind legs aren’t exactly blistering. Going to windward, Lady Ann performs reasonably well but with all the extras on board for cruising — the creature comforts below that facilitate her existence as a charter vessel — she’s bloated way beyond the light weight of her competitors who skim over the sea, taking better advantage of the gusts.

As if Lady Ann’s limitations weren’t debilitating, her crew would cripple even a speed demon. Yes, we’ve been practicing this week but none of us are true racers. And none of us has been in our role WITH the others on THIS boat so that we can anticipate better. We’re all still dependent on our leaders, Boogie and Marlies, who tell us what to do — trying to keep it as simple as possible all the time — and then end up babying us through the task step-by-step. No matter how much better we get, however, we also have limitations brought on by strength (or the lack thereof) and age (or the advanced nature thereof). Suffice to say: We’re getting better, but we are NOT a well-oiled machine. And it’s safe to say we never will be.

So combine all of those factors and apply them to a boat competing against boats that are 80-plus feet long, and longer, and crewed by a dozen-plus sailors and Lady Ann’s goals wind up being a little more down to Earth.

Not that it really matters how well we do. I mean: win, lose or draw, we’re sailing on the Caribbean on a lovely yacht. The water is turquoise, the sun shines brightly and the wind whistles in the rigging. Pick any cliche you can think of…it’s here for the living.

But as mellow as I like to think I’m becoming as I mature (cough, cough), getting smoked offends my competitive nature, I must admit. I’ve been able to dial back my amp level when I play beer-league hockey, you’d think I could dial it back when I’m out sailing. But there’s something about competition that makes me want to tweak every little aspect of the boat and crew, trim the sails on a second-by-second basis, and strategize to the Nth degree, all in the quest for microscopic increase in speed and being first over the line. I guess old habits die hard.

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