The Savage Madness of Caribbean Yacht Racing
I have a horrible confession to make. Iâ€™m a member of RA. Thatâ€™s right, Racers Anonymous! This is a particularly stressful time of year for us, the start of another Caribbean yacht racing season in the Lesser Antilles.
Our organization is small-but-growing. We meet weekly, usually behind your local yacht clubâ€™s dumpster or, during actual regatta events, just beyond the line-of-vision of the Porti Pottis. We only use first names: no last names, vessel names or sail numbers are allowed.
There are only a few simple rules: no Mount Gay hats, for example. Ditto, wearing white zinc oxide on your lower lip. Nix on tote bags made of Kevlar. Ditto wearing a countdown yacht timer on your wrist. Above all: avoid showing body tattoos of your PHRF number or CSA rating.
We accept everyone: one-design, board and multi-hull sailors, even team, fleet and match racers! Why, weâ€™ve even have a couple of local ex-Americaâ€™s Cup sailors! (They seem to have a particularly hard time during the de-tox phase: some require triple-dosing on elephant tranquillizer just to allow our orderlies to put on their Musto strait jackets!)
While most of our members are male, there is a fast growing contingent of female yacht racers joining RA as well. Thus, the old sexist terms of â€˜bilge bunny, racer-chaser and rail-riderâ€™ are now frowned upon.
Our membership is open to everyone. All you have to do to be accepted is to show up and tell the truth. â€œHello,â€ I say firmly every meeting, â€œMy name is Capâ€™n Fatty, and Iâ€™m addicted to boat-speed!â€
Sure, it is hard at first. I, too, was in denial. I pretended that I really wasnâ€™t addicted—-that I didnâ€™t NEED to go sailing a couple of times a week, didnâ€™t NEED to constantly adjust the cunningham during each tack, didnâ€™t truly NEED to interface my Wi-fi wristwatch with my new Blue-toothed rig-load sensors!
Even off the water, I could think of nothing else! I was consumed with yacht racing. I lived solely for the sound of the starting gun, the drunken thrill of the award ceremony, the sweet-terror of the protest room!
Oh, when I think of all those hours spent pouring over the porno-shots in Seahorse, Sailing World and SAIL, what a completely decadent waste of time! And my normal sexual development was completely stunted: my first orgasm took place while staring at the centerfold in Yachting World, two of the most gorgeous 3DLs Iâ€™ve ever seen!
Even worse was the Internet: whole weeks lost to reading every letter ever emailed to the Curmudgeon in Scuttlebutt (www.sailingscuttlebutt.com) not to mention the equally evil sites of www.sailinganarchy.comÂ and theÂ www.thedailysail.com.
What was I thinking buying those autographed extra-large BVDs of DCâ€™s on Ebay?
In fact, I was in such complete denial that I had to bottom out twice, once at Antigua Sailing Week and the final time during Rolex, before I decided that I was â€˜self-medicatingâ€™ myself with yacht racing.
How did it happen? Well, mineâ€™s an all-too-familiar story.
I started out as an infant, attempting to understand the hydro-dynamics of my rubber-duckyâ€™s underwater shape while bathing. Needless to say, toilet training fascinated me. Soon I moved on to sailing Optis, Sunfish and Lasers, J/24s, Swans then Maxis!
Of course, I attempted to disguise my habit to my long-suffering wife, innocently pretending I was spending all my money on gambling, cocaine and hookers but, hey, she knew it was far worst than that and soon discovered I was now reduced to sniffing a bag of Harkenâ€™s Team McLube just to get out of bed in the morning!
Kicking cold-turkey isnâ€™t easy, Iâ€™ll admit. But it can be done. (Part of our national funding comes from Bill… er, Coke… one of our first wealthy success stories!)
We use a tried-and-true 12 step program.
The first step in acceptance that you are powerless against the â€˜sadistic thrillâ€™ of the starting gun. Another important concept: the Almighty. Ask directly for His help! If you have an irresistible urge to practice starts, gybes or roll-tacks ask Him for strength!
Donâ€™t helplessly fantasy about spinnaker-peels: concentrate instead on tubby Colin Archer-designed double-ended Tahiti ketches wallowing slowly downwind with mis-trimmed sails and barnacle-encrusted bottoms, sluggish Thames river barges, wallowing Madagascar lumber schooners!
Truth. Without admitting the truth, you will never be truly free! If your wife notices a bulge and starts getting frisky, be honest with her. â€œNot now, dear! Iâ€™m thinking of the new Melges 32!â€
Making amends. This is an important step. Example: apologize to former wives. (This could take awhile, but just do six ex-wives a week to start off with. Soon, youâ€™ll see the light at the end of the tunnel!)
Ditto, kids. If you remember any of your kidsâ€™ names or know someone who does, sincerely apologize to your former DNA for spending their childhood at the BVI Spring Regatta.
Is there life after yacht racing? Yes! Is it worth-living? Well, no, not compared to the Sint Maarten Heineken regatta!
But, no matter! We soldier on here at RA, meeting every week with former IMS junkies, PHRF addicts, and aging IOR veterans for mutual support and moral assistance! Does the program work? You betcha! I havenâ€™t raced since… since… well, since the electro-shock therapy! And donâ€™t forget our catchy RA motto: â€œSlow But Sure!â€
Cap’n Fatty Goodlander has lived aboard for 52 of his 60 years, and has circumnavigated twice. He is the author ofÂ Chasing the HorizonÂ and numerous other marine books. His latest, Buy, Outfit, and Sail is out now.Â Visit: Â fattygoodlander.com