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SPLASH…My New Nickname?

I have been looking forward for the last 10 months to my reacquaintance with THE RAGE. Last year’s racing had been the best sailing experience of my life. So I booked this year’s vacation in Hope Town with race dates in mind, and to get away from the wettest year on record in the UK.

Wednesday early morning dawned with wind whistle-ling through the trees next to my house. Will they be racing was my only concern. Listening  to  VHF ch 68 cruisers net confirmed  ,,,YES WE WERE RACING  ..20 knots plus lots of white horses on the sea. Phoned Skipper STAFFORD to arrange a pick up at the post office dock, eagerly looking for how many crew would turn up…….. ideally 15 for this wind.

On boarding THE RAGE the usual suspects were there, with 2 newbies. One young guy who had never been on a sailboat before, but the total was 11. This meant to sail well we would be working hard to keep the boat trimmed for optimal speed. We have some practice tacks, initially very ragged but after 3 the crew was working as one.

After a delayed start (mark gone AWO) Skipper STAFFORD did us proud with a near perfect start, and with one reef in and 20 knots of wind all seemed well. The Rage seemed to be enjoying it and we were flying as if on rails. Tacking was good and the gybe mark was near perfect downwind. I moved to the stern to bring the weight aft, BIG  MISTAKE .. completely flat decks with nothing to hold on to. On the next mark, the Rage tacked, all my fault I was downhill, nothing to hold on to, and to my complete surprise I did a back flip into the Sea of Abaco. Trying to hold onto a rapidly accelerating craft, I tried vainly to hold onto a pry rope, but all I could see was a rapidly departing RAGE.

My feelings of such dismay at letting down our crew was my only thought. Water warm, no injury’s,,, swimming well. A passing racing catamaran gallantly asked did I need help? I said yes…. but they didn’t hear me… and they sailed past.

MOB!

 An attempt to pick me up was delayed by the mark anchor line getting caught round the rudder stock of the RAGE unknown to me. All I saw was Richard Cook apparently falling overboard. Was this a second unfortunate accident?? No of course not …..he was clearing the rudder very swiftly.

Now on the second rescue attempt all I could see was THE RAGE bearing down, apparently aiming for my head, at speed. Yours truly passing down the starboard side, then a rope was thrown at me. Luckily I was wearing crew issue sailing gloves.  Holding tight, as it really was now a matter of real importance, I was rapidly accelerated to sailing speed in a millisecond.

All I can remember is that I had to hold on, as I was underwater, unable to surface. I moved back down the line, hand over hand to give myself a chance of surfacing and turned on my back. Every time I briefly surfaced, I took a gulp of air. I was firmly holding on and the boat was slowing, then someone tossed a life vest to me. Not wanting to lose it, I tucked it into a hand, and yes they were pulling me in! I had been treading water for some minutes, but to me it seemed longer. Phase one completed.

Phase 2, getting me on board was more difficult, firstly tossing aboard the life preserver, me pretty tired by now .. relieved when 4 crew hauled me on board. I now resemble a dead whale (I’ve seen the pictures, thanks Cindy our on board photographer, snapping the whole incident). I have to thank Dave for pulling up my shorts as they didn’t seem to want to join me on board!

MOB2

Water was offered as I lay in the cockpit, extremely relieved to be on board again and having swallowed most of the Sea of Abaco. I apologized to everyone  in the crew for mucking up the chance  to get a  place, feeling such fool. The rage crew was very nice about it, but it still didn’t help my feeling of intense embarrassment.

MOB4

 What did the Rage crew do next………..give up……….retire? NO….back to race mode! We were overtaking the deaf catamaran and gradually making up ground on the 2 leading boats. As I recovered, I started to take more of an interest in proceedings, still offering my apologies. We were 3rd over the line on a perfect sailing day.

At the afternoon prize giving in the Sailing Club, I found I had the new nickname SPLASH, and was relieved that we held onto 3rd position after the dark arts of handicapping. I was pleased for Stafford and the crew, but I did feel I had personally robbed THE RAGE of a first place!

I’m looking forward to the race in a fortnights time, if they will have me, and I am going to hold on very firmly!!!!

Yours,    SPLASH, UK  (aka, Richard Barnes)

Filed under: Crew Experiences

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Racing Schedule

Wednesday, April 4
Hope Town Sailing Club
Triangular Course
Charles Pollack Trophy

April 24 - 28
George Town, Exuma
National Family Island Regatta

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