Jamie and I met racing sailboats in Long Island Sound back in 1988, on a J-35 named Peregrine. When we moved to the Seattle area for grad school and to be closer to my family, sailing took a back seat to hiking and camping for a while. Jamie was burned out from sailing professionally and needed a break. Surprisingly, outside a few races, this lasted nearly five years. It’s pretty hard for a sailor to in the Salish Sea and resist the lure! What Puget Sound became for us was the transition ground from racing to cruising.
Although we’re now solidly in the cruising camp, I think anyone who has raced seriously keeps it inside, like a kind of muscle memory. Something inside me hums in appreciation at beautiful, cleanly executed tack.
Still, I really didn’t think we’d ever be racing our home. When we did finally decide to sign up for the Borneo International Yacht Challenge to race along the Malaysian coast for a week, we expected our participation to be low key. I should have known it would be impossible not to get caught up in the racing fun.
One of the side benefits was how excited the kids were by getting involved. Racing just so completely different than the kind of sailing we do as a cruising boat.
Niall had a serious competitive streak come out. He was bummed that we didn’t want to set up our asymmetric for a 1/4 mile reach after the windward mark on the first start. We pointed out that it would involve requiring us to gybe the massive sail, which we haven’t done before, and probably shouldn’t try for the first time at a mark rounding. In our world, cruising means a single tack or gybe over the course of a multi-day passage! It’s not worth the risk of error that results in things getting broken or people getting hurt.
One of the challenges with a race like this is that it brings together very different types of participants. There are hard core racers, and there are easy-going cruisers. Then, there are cruisers who know a bit about racing. These different points of view sometimes makes for uncomfortable dynamics.
We saw it happen when the racing committee selected an inaccurate lineup of winners based on bad information (they made their own guesses about a motoring time penalty, instead of using data requested from the boats). As a result, the wrong boat was initially called out as the first place finish in the passage leg to Kota Kinabalu. The mis-identified boat was happy to get the record set straight and the small metal plate to the rightful finalist, but had catcalls of ‘cheater!’ and ‘loser’ follow them on their way to the podium to talk to the officials from the boat that thought they likely should have won. Unbelievable! It was embarrassing, really, and made me cringe to be associated with the catcallers as part of the cruising class…. even if they weren’t really cruisers (figures!), but expats in the region.
The race committee would have worked it out. Besides, this wasn’t some big circuit race- there’s really nothing at stake. Why vilify a boat who was caught in an innocent error in a formal reception, in front of a few hundred people- tourism board officials and the press?
The same boat that played poor sport above had also hit SY Sharita at the start, right in front of the race committee and shortly before the gun. This should result in an automatic penalty: when there is a collision, someone is always at fault. Sharita did nothing, because they don’t have racing experience and aren’t familiar with the rules- they just got out of the way, because they’re racing their home.
Jamie asked offending boat about it later- nicely, mind you. First, they denied it (no denying that crunching sound!). Oh, we were there? (yes!). Oh, that boat was on port tack, they didn’t have rights (well, actually, they were on starboard and they did have rights- and we have lots of photos that clearly show the windward / leeward situation). Oh, well I didn’t see what happened. (um, yeah). Again, unbelievable. Never fun to be reminded that there are people like that- this was one of the boats in the cruising class that did actually understand the rules, and took advantage of the fact their competitors did not. Ultimately, since there was no physical damage, the race was called off (the wind died), and Sharita actually is a good sport- nothing was ever done. No surprise, the other guys never bothered to apologize to them.
Attitudes like that? Not what we were there for. What is? Well…
Cruisers getting in touch with their racy side.
Racers converted to cruisers, grinning through a lot of sail tweaking on light air legs.
We really enjoyed making friends with the Royal Malaysian Navy team, and hope to look them up when we head up the peninsula. Equally fun was cheering on Ulumulu, a racy boat from with stunning colors sailed by Team Sabah: all around, a great group of people!
Outlier poor sports aside, the BIYC was just good clean fun. The cruisers we competed with were a great bunch, on and off the weather. Thanks to the event, we had some truly beautiful sailing days. After thousands of miles of motoring- those were like fuel for the cruising soul! We stayed rested, we had fun at the events, we made friends, and generally had a great time while ooching the junior set into another facet of boating.
Because really, aren’t good times on the water what it’s all about?