The World’s Fastest Athlete—and Sponsored Too

Over the years, the guys have referred to it as the charity boat—just about anyone can sail onboard with us. On one hand that’s nice because we introduce others to racing. On the other hand, not so much; puts a safety strain on the core crew worrying about newbies cabin top slide through rigorous romps in San Pablo Bay. Worse—some of these newbies are highly annoying. We’ve already been accommodating one for a year now (Why? mumble, grumble). Last week another newbie was invited. Let’s call him Jack (for short).

At the most recent beer can race much of the core crew was away, leaving just three long timers. Include three somewhat recent adds, then cap off with two first timers.

fast and ugly, like a Vallejo hooker

Forecast says rolling waves end of channel and winds 15 with gusts. There’s a sizable draw of boats tonight and we hit the start first, maintaining a lead two-thirds of the way down the channel. Skipper eases into his lowside corner. Comme d’habitude, we initiate the main in-main/out dance through waves and puffs, then he says, “You’re driving the boat.” As a reminder, this is a Beneteau 36.7 with unmodified rudder. It’s a tippy-touchy boat prone to vigorous instant spin-outs, but her max performance is usually right on that verge. She’s got a mainsheet block which moves along the traveler located front of the wheel. As to mainsail trim, she breaks convention (even more so with old sails) in that she’s almost always better when she looks bad—‘fast and ugly, like a Vallejo hooker.’

Unfriendly Advice
Roughly one-fourth way down the channel Jack decides to stand in the cockpit (granted we’re constantly varying between 5 and 20-degree heel). He’s looking at the main, then he’s got his hands on the boom, pulling it in. I’ll ignore it because he’s looking at skipper (heavens no, why look to the girl who is trimming?). Skipper gives him a quick explanation that the sail is right as-is. Jack remains standing with hands on the boom, still trying to muscle it to windward. The boat’s on the edge and Jack’s using the boom to steady his stand. Again he says, “Trim in. I’m a professional windsurfer. I know what I’m talking about.” At that instant it’s too bad I need to drop the traveler (a split second before skipper calls for main out).

His chatter continues in a lowered tone so only I can hear it. I’m debating how strongly to reply. I finally cough up, ‘You’re a guest.’

I think that bobbled him a bit. Skipper then launches into an explanation about the rudder, main trim, force on this boat. That didn’t do much; he’s still moving the boom around and decides to look behind at me. Getting fed up, I finally say, “Please don’t move the sail.” He sits aside me, making overt glances up, then right at me, then back at the sail. His advice chatter continues in a lowered tone so only I can hear it. I’m debating how strongly to reply. I finally cough up, “You’re a guest.”

He siddles to another spot on the boat and starts yacking, eventually settling on the rail once the waves kick in. We’re hitting 6s and 7s heading to the mark. We round it and veer toward the wall, flatten out. Jack gets a beer and opts to stand starboard top of boat where the trimmer usually sits. We’re hitting DDWs and the boom is fully to port (no spinnaker today—not enough talent). Jack’s engrossed in diatribe with the other boat yacker who’s also standing in the kill zone. After a few call-outs from skipper, those two eventually move to safer spot.


Racing with just three tried and true core members of Summer and Smoke. Here's a post about guests on a race boat.

Racing with just three tried and true core members of Summer and Smoke. Here's a post about guests on a race boat.

Not Making Friends
We’ve flipped the sails and have turned now to head up the channel. A few moments later Jack’s trimming the jib, a beer in one hand and standing center of pit. Wind is steady enough to require two wraps on the barrel and we’re tending to 10-degree heel. Maybe magic is happening, but I don’t perceive headsail trim occurring as we move through puffs, and surely there’s no visibility for reading the tell tails from where he stands. Anyone who sails this part of the San Francisco Bay knows you cannot sit idle on this run; takes constant trim to power the boat, keep it at proper angle, work through changes in velocity and prevent round up. I think skipper finally realized we were void one aware trimmer, so he initiated grinding in the headsail while still driving the boat; he shared his trimming actions outloud. Jack eventually sat down, next to me again.

Within seconds he's back to the overt look up, look at me, look up, stare at me. By now I’m fully engaged in constant sail trim. He says something like, “I’m just trying to know what you are looking at…what are you doing?” All I can muster is, “I’m working the puffs.”

Race done, back to the dock. I look round and there’s two of us cleaning and coiling. Eventually a few more pop up. Points off again. Jack—fully engaged with a Red Stripe—is adding to the chatter below: “I’m the fastest windsurfer. I am still sponsored by company X.”