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Graphics by Hannah Welch
Graphics by Hannah Welch

Sailing With Charlie: Look Before You Leap

Quick thinking is often associated with intelligence. Quick thinking often saves lives, averts serious accidents and can save disastrous losses in stock market transactions. But it can also have negative impacts in certain situations when the overall picture is not considered. The origin of ‘look before you leap’ was a proverbial warning before entering into the lifelong bond of marriage.

Charlie was privy to a story the other day that led to egg on a few faces. The Tortola to Anegada race is an annual carefree fun event where the racing is probably on a par with the partying and fun beach side activities at the destination. At this year’s event one competitor on an engineless racing machine decided to use his second set of sails, reserving his best for more serious events.

The crew departed Nanny Cay and began by tacking up the Sir Francis Drake Channel in a stiff breeze. During one tack, a rip appeared on the mainsail. The stalwart crew, making a temporary repair, decided to continue on but shortly afterwards another tear was seen and before long it grew from luff to leech along one of the seams. Bent on continuing to the finish and having rounded Beef Island and on a reach, the crew carried on under headsail, but as luck would have it this too blew out and that put paid to racing for the day. The crew abandoned the race, turned the boat onto a beam reach and hobbled into Cooper Island where lunch and an open bar were quickly put to good use.

Several hours later it was time to head for home and fortunately there was a spinnaker stored up in the bow. They hoisted the sail and a few more beers later were scudding along dead downwind back to base. One of the crew had been filming a Go-Pro video of the day’s excitement and somehow the camera dislodged itself from its mount and fell into the water. Quick as a flash, before the device sank to a watery grave, Jason, the youngest member of the crew, dived in, swam down and managed to retrieve the expensive toy. It was a heroic effort; only an immediate response could have succeeded. But now what! There he was in the water, the boat was a hundred yards away with no means of coming back to pick him up – sailboats don’t go to windward with only a spinnaker.

Jason soon realized his predicament and started striking out for the boat, now stopped, while the crew hoisted the torn main and jib and endeavored to sail back to the MOB. The boy was pretty unnerved looking down into the darkened depths. But his perseverance paid off and he hung on to that Go Pro with a fist of steel while slowly closing the gap between himself and the boat. Meanwhile the crew aboard managed slow progress sailing slightly windward of a beam reach.

After about 20 minutes Jason was pulled aboard with hearty slaps on the back and a promise from the Go Pro owner … “It’ll be a surprise,” he said, “but I owe you big time.”

Jason’s hoping for a large RIB with a couple of 350s.

 

Julian Putley is the author of The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI, Sunfun Calypso, and  Sunfun Gospel

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