Monday, April 11, 2011

A French man, a quadriplegic and a Labrador on a yacht.

Sounds like the opening line of a bad joke, but alas it is not.  A list of the crew on the first yacht I raced on.

After my first sailing course, I put my name up on the notice board - Competent sailor in need of boat to crew on for beer can races - call .....

It was not long before I got a call and a spot on a boat for the coming Wednesday's Twilight Race.  I jotted down the details and heard what I should bring - Jacket, Sunscreen, Beer  and other alcohol. So off I went to the club that Wednesday with a sunscreen, a jacket and a ice cold pack of beer.

Got there, found the boat, but no one on-board - wash board still up, jib stowed, etc.  It was an old 30ft Miura that needed a few buckets of paint and a good scrubbing down.  A few minutes past (20min) and finally a random bunch of people came.

The crew was a mixed bunch, almost like the A-Team and had nothing in common except sailing:
  • The French man, who raced in the med on luxury yachts, but was working in South Africa now
  • An English woman, who was a skipper, but played waitress on-board
  • A Elderly man that was deaf and played the role of Bowman and line man - can you believe
  • Me, an Afrikaans 24 year old - grinder, shark bait and all things wet and dangerous
  • The Skipper - still not there
  • Crew no6 - still not there
We were ready to cast off and I made the fault of asking: "Where's the skipper and other crew member?" The Frenchman yelled from below - check the bar.

I ran up to the bar scanning the bar for this guy called "Russell" and not having any luck I asked the barman: "Do you know who Russell is and where he is seated" Barman: "His the guy in the wheelchair, The Commodore of the club "

Found Russell and Crew no6 (who was his Labrador and co-skipper who basically just slept the entire race).

All on board and off we went. Amazingly the crew all worked well together, the Line man (deaf) got us off the starting line at the right time and worked the bow as if he had a telepathic link to the skipper.  The Frenchman (mostly talking French) did all the trimmings to perfection and the skipper sailed straight lines, even when he was strapped in on the lee ward side of the boat. I trimmed and winched like hell, enjoying every moment, especially as the swells increased.  For a misfit crew on a old 5ksb we did well and almost landed a podium position.

That day I learned a valuable lesson:  Put a bunch of people who have nothing in common except sailing an they are bound to have tons of fun and might even land a podium position in the process


Tillerman said...

I'm not much into sailing in boats with more than one person in the crew, but one lesson I have learned is never again to sail with a deaf crew and a skipper who doesn't understand nautical terminology. For some reason the deaf guy was steering as we came into a crowded mark rounding and the skipper was giving instruction like, "Bear up," and Head off."

I'm amazed nobody was killed.

Smilicus said...

Luckily the guy in the wheel chair is a very good skipper and had a few ocean crossings under his belt. He and the deaf guy has sailed a lot together, so they had some sort of system going.

That was just the first sail, later in the racing season we went out in a near gale and was ons of the only yachts to complete the race.

Miura's are tough little yachts, specially made for the Cape Waters. Long after the fancy yacts turn for harbor, the Miura's still dance around on the swells confidently.

I guess at the end of the day it is the competence of the crew that is the big factor and not their nationality or handicap.