I learned both sailing and racing simultaneously on Pirate. This is certainly not optimal but that’s the way it happened. In one of my early races, on an absolutely beautiful evening off of Oxnard harbor, the race had just gotten underway and we had picked a nice spot out of the fray back a few rows as had become our custom. The reason being that I knew my skill was limited, and I wasn’t real sure about a lot of the other guys. As every nickel of her restoration had come from my pocket and not from any of the folks on or near Pirate, I was certainly not going to let some yahoo hurt my beautiful lady, hence the standoff distance. Just when we were trimmed up and starting to gain on the boats ahead, some unnamed person cuts in front of us yelling “Starboard!” My immediate thought was he could have just as easily taken his “Tupperware boat” behind us so I responded angrily ‘Tonnage!!”. The offending boat immediately changed course to run parallel until he could pass safely behind us. To this day I don’t know who that was as no one came up to me to explain his right of way. My own guys thought I was kidding, I guess. Oh well, “live and learn”.
On one summer “Wet Wednesday” (local
beer-can club race) my crew, other than Chris and myself, consisted of
a bunch of guys from Exxon-geologists, engineers and the like.
I was using them primarily as “rail meat’ because we were out strictly for fun. We normally raced these kind of events as preparation for the Annual Classic Yacht Race which, for us, was very serious. These races normally gave us rehearsal time as a team which, if nothing else, gave us our winning confidence for the August Classic. This evening was not a rehearsal but Chris and I were racing hard anyway.
I had taken a position close to shore trying to pick up every bit of air I could and was parallel to but ahead of Sirius, an 8 meter / N class sloop, owned by a great friend and mentor of mine, Jack La Mar. Before I had time to react, we were suddenly sliding down a hole in the ocean that had occurred out of nowhere. It had to be mere seconds but the guys were yelling with delight (they thought this normal) and I was glued to the tiller praying I would do the right thing when we hit the bottom of the trough. I knew we were in serious trouble and that broaching was imminent. Fortunately the Irish have a special place in God’s heart and without any skill on my part, we came flying up the other side of this wave. We went on to finish and although soaked to the bone as usual went to our slip grinning from ear to ear. The guys from work thought it had been terrific. I never said how close we had come. The high point for me was when Jack called me later that evening to see if I was OK and told me I resembled the opening scene on Victory at Sea where the submarine bursts into view coming from underwater.