Jennifer and I were able to get a one week summer vacation and since we've only had our boat since last Fall we wanted to get more experience racing Scots. Even though we have participated in some club races and Wednesday night races, two regattas (Clinton Lake SA 2009 Glow, Carlyle 2010 Egyptian cup) and the Mid Winters in New Orleans, we felt out of our element racing in a larger group. We thought that if we were to brave up and race the NACS we would learn a lot about racing and become more comfortable at regattas.
Even so, in the days before we left, I had doubts (in spite of lots of encouragement from Ben Williams and Deb Aronson) that we belonged there. I emailed the FSSA president, vice president and the gulf district governor expressing my concerns. All three heartily encouraged us to come. The president, Charles Buffington, even introduced us to the current Flying Scot national champion, Allan Terhune and asked him to check our boat for correct setup and advice, which he did graciously. I was pleasantly surprised. At the NACS we made new friends, strengthened existing friendships, increased our comfort sailing in large groups and improved our sailing technique.
One of our problems has been focusing so much on sail trim and boat handling that we forget to look outside. We haven’t been able to free ourselves up enough to get our heads out of the boat and look for the part of the course that has better pressure, to see what the competition is doing, or even closely follow the wind shifts. With the many hours we spent racing over the last week I feel we were able to make some progress in these areas.
For the first time, in some of the races we actually had more than one boat behind us at the first windward mark. In one of the earlier races, which was eventually cancelled due to the wind turning completely off, we were on the line, in a clear spot, right at the starting gun. However, we were not up to speed when I decided to tack. We only made it halfway and were caught in irons. Even so, we went to the side of the course that benefitted from a persistent shift and had 8 boats behind us at the windward mark! I was so surprised I counted the boats behind us several times until Jennifer yelled to me to turn around and steer. This was a thrill and a huge victory for us .
Of the 16 boats who completed all three of the races in the challenger series we finished 2nd from last and were miles behind the 1st three-fourths of the Challenger group. To sum up: even though we were at the back, my doubts were unfounded – everyone was friendly and welcoming; we gained experience, confidence, and some skills; and most importantly we had a lot of fun. Even though this serious event was thickly populated with professional and expert amateur sailors, there was still room for inclusion and encouragement of these two newbies.
Congratulations to Clinton Lake’s Ben Williams and Deb Aronson 2010 NACS Challenger National Champions!