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Taming the Rage

John Storck, who calls himself  “The Old Man of the Rage,” describes his crewing experience:

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”

Well, not only men. That was good. And no bitter cold, nor darkness – also good. However, as we went across the starting line and brought the boom over during the first tack, I was not at all sure about a safe return.

My crewmate on the forward pry had told me to keep my head down. I’ve raced a lot on small boats so I assumed that I just had to kind of hunch over. What I didn’t realize was that she meant “make sure your cheek is flat on the deck.” It was just a little tap on my head; no blood spilled … yet.

So the next couple of hours proceeded in a kind of easy (ha ha) rhythm: Without the usual “ready about” warning,the skipper shouted out “TACKING IN FIVE FOUR THREE TWO ONE”. I then quickly got my body as flat as possible on the deck while simultaneously (a) slithering to the windward side of the Rage, (b) helping my pry-mates slide the pry to the other side, and (c) turning around to push my derriere backwards out over the water onto the other end of the pry. I certainly was envious of the fact that some of my mates were doing this without spilling a drop of the beer can they were holding in one hand.

And speaking of mates, it was amazing how fast 18 people – several of whom did not know each other before the race – learned to work together. There always seemed to be a helping hand to maneuver my old body into the right place. Maybe the hand was always there because 18 people on a 28 foot boat with an average beam of around eight feet works out to be a population density of about one person for every 12 square feet, i.e., a bit more crowded that your average cocktail party, which of course normally takes place on a level surface. Think about that!

In the spirit of being part of the team, when the skipper yelled after a gybe that more weight was needed aft, I offered my 145 pounds in sacrifice. Alas, as I sat on the starboard quarter, the boom dipped and so did I (see photo below: blue shirt/tan hat being baptized in the Sea of Abaco). Luckily, another strong helping hand prevented my total immersion.

Gybing the Abaco RageDid I bruise my knuckles? Yes. Did I scrape my shin? Yes. Did I wonder if anyone ever fell off? Yes (I had not met Splash at that point). Did I look down to see the clear water rushing by the hull? Yes. Even though we came in 11th out of 13, did I have the sense of pure sailing, pure exhilaration, pure speed? Yes!

This beautiful February day was one of the best I have ever spent on the water. It was sailing at its most elemental level.I don’t want to get overly analytical, but I felt some sort of organic linkage with the sea, as if the Rage was a creature of the sea with humans trying to tame it. I offer sincere thanks to donors, volunteers, and other crew who are keeping this tradition alive.



Filed under: Crew Experiences

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