This is a full transcript of the video audio. I have zero spoons to check for grammar at the moment, thanks for your compassion.
Time for another adventure with Skipper Jenn. This time we are going to show you what racing is like in the Pacific Northwest. We are a temperate and watery place. A haven for sailors. Seattle is surrounded by Puget Sound, Lake Union, and Lake Washington. Sailors headed from salt water to fresh through the train bridge, the Ballard Locks, the Freemont Bridge, then under the I-5 bridge, University Bridge, and through the cut to the Montlake Bridge and finally Lake Washington.
In this video, I hope to enlighten my non sailor friends a bit on what the hell I do with all my time and money and thrill my sailor friends with fun shots of their teams and boats with witty dialogue. I was very excited about Sloop Tavern Yacht Club’s third annual Freshwater Regatta for a few reasons. One: Bacon. Last year we got third and won a spatula and Bacon. That shit was good. Two: Pandemic. We all need to get outside again; it’s been a long winter. Three: my friend John.
John and I have been the most excellent friends for almost 10 years now. We went to the same university and are both mental health therapists and practicing Buddhists. John is not only super fun and hilarious, he’s also deep waters and helps me stay sane. I have been super stoked that he wanted to learn how to sail with us this season, and this was his first sailboat race ever and only third time on a sailboat, all three times have been with us. He’s a natural, and damn good company. I have found that who you sail with matters just as much as rigging and sails.
Oh, and John is black. He was the only black person on course and said this was the jovially said this was most white thing he’s ever done. Hint to the sailing world: might want to change your branding.
This is anchor, I met him last year at this race when he was a tiny pup. He’s a proper boat dog now! It took us an hour to get to Kirkland, ya, that lake is BIG. Others had gotten there earlier, or even stayed overnight at the Kirkland marina for the race.
For reasons I will explain later, this was the only time we saw La Lucha Moore’s spinnaker.
My Go pro did not record the start, but I nailed it and wanted to show you this way. It was the highlight of my sailing career so far that I was ahead of Alex Simanis for a moment in time.
However, our lack of practice was apparent quickly and we fell behind the top two boats in our class, Alex on the Moore, and Nate on the other Olson. It was time to duke it out with the rest. I didn’t get much footage of the start of the race,
It was light wind 5-10 coming from the SE. There are lots of land effects and convergence zones on the lake so it can be shifty and we luckily avoided holes. We finally launched our beautiful new spinnaker and had a very long and lovely downwind run on this 11.5 mile course.
Why do people race sailboats? I am sure it’s for a variety of reasons. I asked some of the folks racing today what they thought.
Jeff from Mata Hari: I race because I absolutely love it! It’s fun, exciting, mentally, and physically challenging and great camaraderie. Win or lose, it’s just plain exciting. As the saying goes, a bad day in the water still beats a good day at the office. I may have a video I can put together. It’s on my list of todos today. I’ll keep you posted and/or make a special abbreviated version For you.
Danae from her new J105 Dulcinea: I race because it gives me a scheduled time to get on the water. Every outing is a great learning experience, and I especially love the crew bonding. I’ve never done team sports and I have realized that I love being part of a team.
For me, it’s practice and growth. Racing has helped me tremendously. It has given me increased confidence on a boat through understanding handling and performance. It has taught me a lot about rigging and sails. It has gotten me to sail out in conditions we all can be potentially caught in, but I wouldn’t choose to go out in without incentive. The incentive? Teamwork, community, and bragging rights as far as I can tell. And the satisfaction that you did the damn thing. This was when we gybed and forgot to tell John that the other spinnaker sheet was indeed important to hold onto. Ooops.
Anthony from Where’s the Beef said: I love sailboat racing because it adds such a fun layer of competition and cooperation on top of an already amazing outdoor activity. Each person on the boat has the opportunity to improve their individual sailing ability, while also building their teamwork and communication skills. It’s really fun to be a part of the camaraderie that grows between a boat’s crew over the course of a race, series, or season.
That’s something that I have cherished on the water, especially since I am the rare bird of an outgoing introvert with horrible social anxiety. I can be in groups when I have a role, a purpose, and we have something in common to bond. it helps me feel like I belong, so I don’t freak out.
I am also a nerd and love team spirit and swag. GO TEAM O!
Remember when I told you we never really saw La Lucha Moore’s spinnaker again? Oh ya, that’s because they just flew away like magical beasts. The next we saw them they were tearing upwind down course before others had even reached the damn north marker.
Alex owns Ballard Sails and made our new spinnaker. I got him on the phone to verify this quote:
Jenn was ahead of us at the start.
I also wanted to get the overall winners take on the race:
We sailed it like we stole it.
We were shooting for clean air up the line and got luffed up by a J boat, then O got a great position and headed the start. The race was fun, it was cool to hang out with Nick. We’ve sailed a lot together, we did PacCup to Hawaii and haven’t seen a lot of one another this year because of the pandemic and he has a new baby. We are comfortable on a Moore, Joe’s boat has been a fun project and it is tuned super well now. In the light moderate air we knew we would be weapon, we wanted to extend the run and keep the wheels on the bus spinning up wind. We had a light air quiver of sails for the boat so we peeled to a larger jib on the upwind home.
20 years ago, I did big TP52 and Maxi boats. I did that and realized the big boat side is a pain in the ass, you are always fighting for a job and working hard, it’s just not as fun. I like racing more now because I like the people I race with. I’m competitive and like that, but I really sail for the people and because I think of nothing else but sailing all day. What I value more than anything else is the camaraderie and enjoying my weekend.
Sailing with John and Eric is like sailing with family. I am so comfortable with them both, I have no hesitation putting my life and wellbeing into their hands together as a team. People say that politics and sailing should be separate, and they get confused. They confuse that issues of identity are not politics; they are human rights. When I’m with John, I have to both forget he is a black man and remember he is a black man at the same time. I treat him like my friend John, I never forget that the world treats him like their projections of a black man. He decided this race we would call him BMOB, Black man on boat.
John said that while sailing has been predominantly white, he comes from a line of Navy men. He is also aware of the ancient relationship between Africa and it’s waterways and seas. As he was exploring sailing in the states he was inspired by places like the Jackson Park Yacht club and the strong presence of Black sailors in Chicago, it’s important that sailing community starts to open up invitations for more people of color on the water in all regions of the states.
This was the point where One Life went by with Eric’s good friend David Miller and two of my good sailing friends, Wendy Hinman and Lizzy Grim. Lizzy is the sailing Unicorn and yelled out that she was wearing her Unicorn Underpants for the race. I had to yell back “Me TOO!” Because great minds think alike.
The tiller extension was my nemesis. It broke and was totally stuck in a long position, so it made tacking extra hard. I fell a couple of times and threw a bit of a tantrum at one point, throwing the tiller into the cabin with choice words even for my salty foul mouth. Needless to say, I will be dropping some money at Fisheries’ this week for a new extension.
Sailors are a strange breed of people. Every time you see a sailboat out on the water you can assume that is someone that has spent a lot of time and hours cultivating the know-how for this lifestyle, hobby, sport, oh hell….let’s call it what it is obsession. Sailors are people who love the process just as much as product, who love to figure shit out and have multiple layers of focus and attention happening at once, and who quite obviously love the water and wind. Racing sailors up the ante on intensity and I have found to be a friendly, somewhat crazy, and very passionate (code for obsessive) bunch. We also apparently love to throw money away to race each other around floating objects.
In the PNW around Seattle, we have races pretty much every night and weekend of peak season April through August. It is a robust sailing community. We have many outstanding women sailors, and my hope is that we grow diversity in the sport in years to come. I asked some folks what they thought about this race:
Anthony Au Where’s the Beef?
Where’s The Beef actually hadn’t been out on the water at all since last year’s Freshwater Race. Despite some mental and literal cobwebs, we loved the sunshine and fun wind conditions, and we enjoyed the opportunity to rotate our crew through all of the positions of the boat in a relaxed but competitive environment.
Danae Smith Hollowed
This was the first time I’ve taken Dulcinea to Lake Washington. It was an adventure to travel through the locks and under the lifted bridges to race in new surroundings. Half of my crew is experienced and half is very new to racing, so the wind was perfect for a great training day. The fact that we finished in the top half of participants was a bonus!
David Miller One Life
I always wanted to learn to sail, but never took the time to start until my late 40s. From the first moment under sail, I was hooked and wanted to do it all the time. Racing allows me to sail often, but more than that I race because of the people. The racing community is simply fabulous, a precious thing these days.
With our performance, we thought we came in 6th, so were pleasantly surprised to hit fifth in class and thirteenth overall out of 32 boats. John reflected aptly that sailing not only takes physical grit, but great mental stamina to do a long race. There are so many things you need to focus on and attend to, the ever-shifting conditions, what’s going on in and with the boat, the direction and marks, other boats and traffic, your crew, all of it. I think of NOTHING but sailing when I am on the water, a true type of mindfulness, where I am in tune with my mind, body, and the environment all at once. What a gift.
Aquavit Dave Sinson