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DÉJÀ VU AND THE GREAT RACE (2)

So, nine years after my first days on Sachi I found myself heading up Long Island Sound for the second time on a boat delivery. Like the Ohlson, this Tartan was dark green, had as-big-as-one-can-fit Barient stainless winches, almost the identical inventory of Hood sails and Hard spinnakers including a blooper and a tallboy. It had a roller-reefing boom that had been disabled because it too did not work. It had the very same large Kenyon sailing instruments including the second close-haul indicator I had ever seen, rod head- and backstays, and it had the optional deep keel but with a standard height mast - hmmm. It was even equipped with the identical brown snatch blocks, which by then probably cost 30+ dollars. Cos Cob, by the way, is ten miles from Mamaroneck. The first owner of record for the Tartan was from Huntington, NY, across Long Island Sound from Cos Cob. I have to believe that this boat and the Ohlson were bought the same year from the same pretty persuasive dealer. The only thing coincidental about them was the color.

In short order I learned how well this Tartan sailed. Nic was waylaid by a business trip the first day of the delivery, so Judy, Joyce and I left Cos Cob at daybreak in calm air, and with a slow motor because the propeller shaft vibrated so much. We later found that the prop shaft was bent from what appeared to be a badly placed lifting strap, something the surveyor did not pick up on. Our ETA at our first layover, Old Saybrook, CT, was 6:30 PM assuming we could average a little over 5 knots. We sputtered along at 3-3.5 knots until the wind came up a little at around 9 AM. The schedule was not looking good.

With the wind directly behind us we put a spinnaker up, thinking it was the smaller of the two based on the bag labels. I thought caution was in order given the light (and tentative) crew, and our unfamiliarity with the boat. We actually had the large chute up because their bags were switched. No matter, the going was easy in light air. But none of the instruments worked. We had not so much as a telltale to gauge the wind, and the speed and depth gauges were dead. As the morning wore on the wind picked up, eventually to what had to be 20-25 knots. The seas were brisk and the whitecaps were large and abundant. The chute was basically left flying all day because none of us was willing to deal with taking it down. Neither of the crew wanted the helm under those conditions so I ended up driving all day with my eyes constantly on the spinnaker head and luff in order to avoid the uncontrolled jibe that we were always on the edge of. The next day I could not turn or lift my head because my neck was so stiff.

Nic arrived in Old Saybrook a little before 6:30, expecting to wait for us for awhile. However, we were into our second cocktail, having arrived before 5 and already showered. In order to arrive that soon we had to be running well into the sevens for a good part of the day. My comment to Nic: "I'm glad that was not my spinnaker."

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Now for the great race part of this story:

Nic and Judy had owned the Tartan for two or three years and Joyce and I had crewed for them off an on as well as raced against them on our Catalina. There was a particularly memorable race that was sponsored by a local boat yard in Newburyport and it drew a fleet of about 60 boats from everywhere within a day or two's sail. One of the visiting contestants was Sachi, skippered by my old friend Bill. Joyce and I and a couple others crewed for Judy and Nic on the Tartan. The dark green New York boats finally met.

This race had some interesting twists. First, there was one rule, and that was that there were no rules. There was a protest committee chaired by Slocum, the yard owner's dog. No spinnakers were allowed and everyone started at the same time. The whole point was to get a lot of people involved and have some fun, hence the bid for the non-race-oriented boat owners. The last leg and finish line was in front of the city docks and waterfront park, about three and a half miles up the infamous Merrimack River. Having it there provided a large crowd of spectators. Nothing was to be muddied up with any gibberish about classes and handicap ratings. The first over the finish line was the winner. It was Yankee Homecoming Week and the race was a key event followed by a big party in the boat yard with Reggae music, dancing, feasting on goat stew, and a spirited awards ceremony.

Racing in this potpourri of boats called for a different type of strategy, more focused on keeping the boat undamaged and finding clear air. I actually remember very little of the start of that particular race, but I can tell you that at the start of the same race the previous year, when we raced our Catalina, a bowsprit came in under the stern rail past the lazerette hatch, to just inches from my leg. With no place to go because the boats were so packed together I just winced and waited for the collision. There was none. No boats touched. True.