What was the sailing moment you will remember forever?


So many good memories associated with sailing, but the one that is probably the most burned in my mind is the 2013 Down the Bay Race (Annapolis to Hampton on the Chesapeake).  In a race that is normally upwind in light air, we got 30-40 knots downwind the whole way.  We were just off the Potomac sailing really deep to try to make Smith Point on a Sabre 426, full main and AP kite.  I looked at my buddy and said we should probably take the kite down, and as I was saying that we got a huge puff to 40ish.  We're flying doing a boat record 18.6 knots when all of a sudden the bow digs in to a wave and I can't get it to pop up.  18.6 to 0 full stop followed by a huge Chinese jibe.  Miraculously nothing broke and no one was hurt, but I'll never forget the big girl rumbling downwind like that or the stop and crash that followed.

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Super Anarchist
I can think of sooo many, but this was a recent race I wrote up where you get to to the end and you want to just keep sailing.

I apologise in advance, I lack the ability to write in short tense  :ph34r:

Flashbulb moments.

The foredeck crew flat on his stomach, head in the forepeak as the boat buries itself into the third wave of the set. The gust atomises the water into a fog that whips over the crew on the rail before dumping over the boat, water pouring over the transom. The water dissipates and I see a dark head emerge in the white water in the bow. Good show, the bowman is still on. I’m pressing a bit, as I try and keep the boat moving in the short lumpy sea state, we’re only doing 7 ½ knots which I’m happy with, we’re not pointing as high as some but we’re not making much leeway either.

Under staysail and full main, the boat feels balanced with a slight weather helm needed in the puffs. The staysail is soo good to drive to in strong winds, but leaves me feeling a bit underpowered when the wind falls too much below 20 knots. The boom is up near centerline with some twist to exhaust the puffs, and even though it’s an ugly swell with the waves trying to wrap around the hull form, we’ve got loads of horsepower. Oh yeah.

I bear away a degree, eyes on the forestay angle, the weight on my feet shifting to leeward as the heel increases a degree more before planting the chine and translating the energy into go-forward mode. The helm pulls under my fingers as we surge forward into another set of three waves rearing up, I’m trying to twitch the bow off as the bow rises to meet it.  We slam into the trough hard, the furled jib gyrating under the deceleration as I squeeze some more weather helm for the next wave, not quite making it again, the boat falling into the next trough shaking itself, speed falling away. Ugh.

This should not be fun. It’s dark, it’s blowing 15’s to 30, the bowman is struggling to get the gennaker back on board as it snakes under the lifelines and we’ve got a 10nm beat in a wind opposing tide, albeit with not huge seas but one with a short nasty duration.

Wiping salt from my eyes, I realise I’m grinning like a loon. This isn’t just fun, it’s awesome!

The bowman calls for a tack, and we go over, putting the runaway gennaker on the high side and the crew haul it inboard. I look to port and downwind as the crew are trimming into high mode and there is The Matrix, a Beneteau First 50 and then Dream, an Inglis 38, both slightly ahead as we settle into an Easterly beat away from the shore. The waves on this tack are more abeam and a lot easier to drive in, the boat speed pegs past 8 knots but then I feather too much, the boat popping upright. I’m too focused on height, the leeward boats surge half a boat length forward and I curse mentally as the bow flicks off on a puff and now I’m too pressed, we’re now in low mode. For gods sake get it together Shaggy. We fight this tack to the layline, and just prior the Inglis flops onto port . I'm watching but not moving, and you bastard Craig, it's a beautifully timed cross, our bowsprit sliding through the water occupied by his transom mere seconds ago. I see a bunch of cheeky grins fading into the darkness.

Flashbulb moment again.

In spite of my mental focus, I can’t help but laugh in response. This is what it’s all about, the cost and worry of owning the boat forgotten. It’s dark, it’s blowing 25+ knots , boats crashing over waves, nav lights winking on and off in the darkness and you’re crossing with a mere metre or two of separation after a similar tussle on the long downwind legs . We know these boats and these sailors, and have come to trust each other, we all know our strengths and weaknesses, so we hike a bit harder and trim again, hunting for those inches and seconds in the darkness.

Another two tacks and we’re back in front and now leading the gaggle on the port layline to the shipping channel marker to the South. I sneak a quick peek over my shoulder, and coming hard down the layline and now planting herself firmly in the mix is Javelin, a J122. She’s had a great windward leg so far, so now we have four boats in trail leaping and lurching their way south to the boundary marker of the main shipping channel we need to cross for the last work to the finish.

I call out to the crew to check for any outbound traffic, clear comes back the reply. We’re now in the lee of Mud island, and all four boats extend slightly in the flatter water and it’s a mad charge to cross the channel ahead of an outbound ship. Then suddenly 5 long blasts pierce the darkness, and like a switch has been thrown we all bear away and depower, dreams of sneaking across ahead the furthest thing from our minds as we meekly pass under the rather annoyed gaze of the ship's pilot. Now all 4 boats are grouped and luffing just outside the channel with only 1.8nm to go. The ship passes and the course is clear, the four of us turn almost in unison, I’m dimly aware of the dark shapes, shouting and the cannon shots of sheets coming on, it’s a drag race and it’s on.

Javelin’s the lead boat now and has tacked over onto starboard heading for the finish line, and we follow, she’s to leeward and ahead by a length and may just lay the finish. The wind fills in to 20+ knots and everyone’s fully dialed up, no quarter given now, I try for height and the boat stands up in protest, the crew are yelling as I desperately fall back trying to fill the sails. I get myself sorted and with full sails up and 25 knots the boat accelerates enough to eke out in front before the slight but inexorable fall away below the higher pointing of the pack behind us. We need one more quick dig on port to the south to cross the finish line. It’s just there to windward, but we’re falling off, we’ve already crossed in front of the finish boat and are running out of room. I grit my teeth and curse myself for not laying it in one go, and push deeper for a bees dick of more speed, trying to gain separation from Javelin as she’s behind but above us,. This has to be good tack or we’ll not only foul Javelin badly, we’ll overshoot the line into danger shallow water if we’re forced to tack back away. Shit sit shit.

I look for some slack water, one last quick look behind, and another flashbulb moment of Javelin’s prow etched in white foam in the darkness. I call the tack, no finesse this time as I almost brutalize the helm over, and bless the crews cotton socks the jib comes on in a heartbeat, we’ve got speed and power and we cross just inside the pin end to take line honors with a few boat lengths to spare. Our handicap is a shocker after the last race but I couldn’t give a tinkers damn , I'm pounding the wheel as we celebrate, that was fantastic, close hard racing in fresh breezes and all the way to the finish.

Motoring home, under a moon which only now helpfully decides to emerge from the clouds, I’m contemplating why I feel so content. The flashbulb moments return unbidden, and I’m struck by the clarity of the images, sounds and smells returning to match the optics,and I realize the common denominator, they’re all dangerous moments. I note my lack of concern, is this bad? Am I getting sloppy? Chasing down this thought, I'm struck with the realization of how much trust we sailors place in each other in this sport of ours. Any serious occupational health and safety audit would ban the sport outright, and yet we see it as fun, that’s yacht racing y’know? Symmetrical and asymmetrical boats converging and diverging, with gusts near 30 knots and a sloppy swell, surfing then falling off waves, masts gyrating all over the place, bowman holding on as they get buried into the troughs, the crew hiking on the rail only held up from pitching into the darkness by a single stainless wire and clenched butt cheeks, I’m amazed that the modern worlds regulations and oversight has not made our sport as extinct as the dinosaurs.

I almost drain the first beer in one go it tastes so good, and half listening to the chatter of the crew I sit back and look around, taking in the night and thinking about what we can do to improve for next time. I’m smile in the darkness, my little lessons learnt forgotten in an a growing sense of freedom, and elation at being away from the bureaucracy and oversight that govern our normal lives. It seems in such contrast to the seemingly reckless and, at least to an outsider, suicidal behavior.  Out here, our safety, and that of our boats, is dependent entirely upon the skill of our fellow sailors on the course, as it has done for 100’s of years, before albeit well intentioned oversight existed. I relax, content just to be on the water amongst like minded souls. 

And long shall it ever be.



Super Anarchist
Mine's easy,

Motoring under the Blue Water Bridge in '90,  John looks at me and says Jim, if I had all the money in the world and could be anywhere doing anything this is where I'd want to be.

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So Cal
turning a swan 65 upside down (170 degrees) 1385 miles southwest of perth. You do the math!

17 broken masts. Dont sail with me!!

Helping design my boat with Tom Wylie, then cruising deep south Mexico for a year.

Those are near the top!


Unkle Krusty

Gabriola BC
I invited two girls to go sailing. One of them got coconut oil sun screen on my spinnaker, and it would not come off. I had a wonderful romance with the other girl for a few years, and she could steer.



Super Anarchist
turning a swan 65 upside down (170 degrees) 1385 miles southwest of perth. You do the math!

Bloody Hell was that on Sayula?

Well built boats, you forgot to mention she got upright and you kept on going!

A very sea kind hull shape that makes them a pleasure to drive even if the weather is snot although inverting them is slow and not recommended.



Being first to finish in a 1800 mile ocean race on a boat that I had built myself, off plan, in our garage at home.



Super Anarchist
BVI.  Old 50s.  Moonless night.  8 knots downwind.  Warm. Really flat water. Like floating in the cosmos.

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2002 Bermuda Race between junior and senior year of college.  Probably last full-send for the IOR 80 Drumbeat/Congere/Spank Me BT, champaign sailing in the Gulf Stream with big quartering seas in 20-30 knots, full sun, digging a 10-16 knot hole in the water with a full main and #2 jib-top after the vang tore it's track off the bottom of the boom.  SDL 3rd overall, 3rd, in class.


And the subsequent failed 2002 Around Long Island attempt, which concluded with my last time climbing that rig, a 1am mast-head mission with a flashlight and radio to confirm bridge clearances on our way back through the East River to Manhasset Bay.



Super Anarchist
Bay Area, CA
Last one (?) from me.

Delivering Formidable from Cowes to the Med for the 1980 Sardinia Cup, we dropped into Camaret on the Brest Peninsula to wait out the tide for the Raz du Sein. 

Motoring out in a flat calm early in the morning, a big black thing loomed through the fog.  It was Pen Duick VI, the mighty Whitbread ketch.  No sails up, nobody aboard.  

Until I saw Eric Tabarly on the stern with a huge oar, sculling his engine-less maxi alone into Brest.

All you could do was raise the hat and call "bonjour, maître."




Wife and I have only been sailing for about 8 months, took the first two ASA classes late last year.  Around January we took the boat out on our own for the first time.  Wind and waves got pretty heavy for the little J80.  The best moment was when the first line was tied to the dock when bringing it back...no accidents, no problems, did not hit the dock.  We have since taken out the club boats out over a dozen times since then and had some really great sails.  But nothing will top the satisfaction of doing everything ourselves the first time without an instructor.  



Super Anarchist
Falmouth Week '17 with my 2 boys crewing on our 1250 quid 4kt sh*tbox.

13 races, 9 bullets, a 2nd, discarded a 2nd & 3rd. Wednesday - Champagne Race does not count for the series - but won that as well, hence the bubbly, Class shield and the Drambui Cup for best yacht of the week.

What's not to like. B)



The Q

Super Anarchist
Back in about 2002 having won only 1 trophy in the previous 20 years of sailing, I started racing Yeoman keelboats, with a lady who was in her late 60's by this time, she'd never won a thing because she used to give way all the time although in clear water she could helm very well... With me shouting at her what to do , and taking turns at the helm race by race. We won 10 trophies that summer season, because all the hot shots were covering each other and ignoring us. The pile of silverware on the table at the prize giving dinner was impressive.

That was the first time I got to regularly sail a boat that suited me, We never won that many trophies again, but normally got 2 or 3. When she had to give up because of her husbands illness. I went onto another Yeoman, where again, we won 2 or 3 trophies a season.



Isla Magnética
Oh god, where to start.

The final reach of my first major regatta win as crew.  I was 13 QLD Cobra Catamaran states.  Blowing a gale on the wire with the jib in hand, my job was to keep the tip of the leeward bow hovering +/1 an inch or so over the top of the water.  If it got too high, my skipper would subtly ask "is the jib on?"" 

Planing to a thud in a sabot regatta (QLD selection trials?) in '93 in waterloo bay because of the giant jelly fish. (seriously, they were huge!) 

My first major laser regatta win.  QLD radial states '97 I think.  Went into the last race with a race spare, but only 2nd's to my name.  Got the gun on the last race to take the championship.  Not my first cube but my first win.   My 2nd QLD title I picked up with a more perfect win record, but was less memorable for some reason.

'97 radial worlds.  11 wide and 6 or 7 deep at a gybe mark.  The presentation at those worlds and being surrounded by military police with AK's after everyone started jumping in the pool.

Loosing the '98 youth nationals and selection trials.  The frustration of what was really several years campaigning to ultimately lose because I simply didn't have the right body mass.

Buying the yacht.  Every bill that comes for the yacht.

Getting my daughter out on the boat.  Having one of her first words be "boat"

The list goes on.  But then I have an odd memory.  For instance, I can tell you that in february or march of '98, I missed a shift in the RQYS club race because I misread a cloud pattern out on the left side of the course.  I think I recovered to third but brad taylor and brand anderson walked away.  But I forgot to buy a cake for my wife's birthday yesterday.



Super Anarchist
February 1988. AIKANE X-5 delivery from Oakland to Long Beach, CA. It was the second day and we had just passed through a Gale on the central coast and jibed before running into the back of San Miguel island in the dark.  A huge WNW swell was running as we screamed down the Santa Barbara channel in 25 knots of wind double reefed. Rudy and Barry Choy, Mark Wekmeister and the legendary Gary Craft along with myself were all witness to a beautiful sunrise straight ahead of us. As we run up the back of the next wave and then flew off the top and into the trough of the next we found ourselves rapidly passing a tanker going the same direction on our port beam. A flock of small birds was out in front us as was came off the top of a particulararly large wave and the flock disappears between the hulls and under the wing deck. As we landed in the next trough the flock emerged still in flight out the the back of the wing deck. Incredible.  Will never forget that. RIP Rudy Choy. Thank you for all of the memories.


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