Another year, another regatta, another HAT for my collection.
Once again, I'm lucky enough to have a crew member volunteer to write the story so y'all don't have to read another of my boring ones! The following was contributed by Dr. Carmen Ortiz. Nice to see a fresh perspective from someone on her first REAL regatta! So here are Carmen's words, but you have to read it with a spanish accent... it sounds more like HER that way!
Typically I write of my sailing experiences tongue in cheek, laughing at the antics that occur on a sail boat. This time I find it hard to do.
Last week I crewed on a boat of heroes.
Miami Race Week attracts many sailors from around the world. The
TP 52s, the Farr 40s, Star Sailors, etc.
The docks of the Miami Beach Marina are filled with many flags and many languages Norwegian, Finnish, Argentenians all mingle with the common language of sailing. They recall different events they competed against and with each other, because truly, in the world of sailing many sailors crew for different boats and different skippers, and thus we can see friends competing against friends and enemies sailing with enemies but all with the grim conviction of an all out effort to win.
Gordon Ettie had a vision. He had finished first in this magnificent race eleven years before. For the last ten years he had continued to attempt to repeat that performance, and always came in second or third. Frustratingly, Sazerac, had come in second for the last two years. Sometimes the difference between a first place and a second can be mere seconds.. A brief change in the weight distribution, a small mistake with a sheet or a line can cause the loss. There is no room for mistake in this race. Period.
The team flew in from around the country. Most were not professional sailors, all had different careers in business and health and marketing that they participated in. All were volunteering their time and focus.
Steffi would do pit. She weaved her magic with the tangle of halyards, adjustments of an inch more or less as called for by the trimmers. She assures me there are gremlins down below that like to play with the tails and tangle them back up each time she clears them.
Chris Menke, handsome as superman, quiet, reserved, would take instructions from everyone with a soft smile on his face and winch and winch and winch.
Steve Katz , initially doing mast, until he volunteered to take over for sewer after two injuries disabled sequential sewer volunteers These are the people that have to jump in and out of the forward hatch and pull in spinnakers and push out sails and help move things around that are swinging and dangerous without falling overboard or getting hit.
The first sewer person was Kristin. I had sailed with her in races previously on Sazerac, and she , slim as a cigarette and bronzed by the sun, would flit about the bow with the confidence of a mountain goat leaping crevices She would be injured on the first day of racing
day arrived with strong winds and six to eight foot seas.
I had a knot in my stomach. I had been sailing only two years, but thanks to my friend Barbara Neuman, I had volunteered on Sazerac one year ago, started doing the runners in the back and eventually Gordon and I fell in love. Which explains how I, a relatively new convert to sailing, was given a berth on one of the most competitive boats in Biscayne Bay. My learning has increased exponentially. But I still felt relatively raw at this and saw the approaching race against many professional boats as a huge climb.
We left the dock early. Ben called all of us together for a team conference as we donned our foul weather gear: farmer Johns, gloves, jackets, and our war paint , spf fifty. As he started to give us instructions, I raised my hand. Yes carmen, he said. We would take you seriously, Ben, if you raised your zipper. He smiled, a Humphrey Bogart smile, and with one hand raised his zipper, as he flicked away his cigarette butt with the other. He had our undivided attention. Zipper or not.
The start was almost perfect. Too perfect. We were OCS by about 1 foot, and had to restart. The committee boat, a motor yacht , was totally professional and efficient with its guns, flags and hailings.
The first race I spent with a knot in my stomach, and three Dramamine pills stuck somewhere in my esophagus. No matter how much water I drank, they stuck there.
We almost won the first race. Losing by six seconds, in spite of our delayed start. We had a chance.
The second race started to take a toll on us as winds started to build and the waves started to stack. Tacking , sometimes in the middle of a wave pounding us, became painful. And there was no room for delay as ten people tried to find a path between winches and winching elbows which were weapons with the strength that these guys were manning them with, and bodies .
I developed a pattern. As we started to tack, I would jump up, dive across the roof of the cabin to a handle on the other side, six feet away, grab it and swing my body over it, like jumping the hobby horse in gymnastics, I would put my feet together and slide into my slot, which was assigned the gate on the life lines, since my hips were probably the most narrow of the guys. The girls were lighter and farther forward. My hair kept getting wrapped around the life lines, and at least twice I had to rip my hair to get up in time for a tack.
Cart would be aft of me, and Chris forward. All hiking on the rail of the boat, which felt like daggers towards the end of the day, pounding our flesh with each large wave bounce.
Ben would snake in and out of the rail. Sometimes squeezing in between Chris and Myself, sometimes crouching, sometimes leaping across to the other side to look around the sail at the competition.
kept constantly calling our direction on the compass. Three twenty,
three twenty five three thirty..minus five, etc and between the
triumvarate of Ben, Anson and Ed, would adjust and tweak and burp
the sails. Yes burp.
A groan of wind releasing the sails and stretching the sheet lines.
Ed would constantly talk to Gordon. Press up, press down, hold it. Cart would call the waves. and puffs.
On the bow, the triumvarate of Gia, Steve and Kristen would tighten, snap on and off, place and release and prepare for the spinnaker to go up perfectly. Time after time the jib and spinnaker would be changed without error. No major wrap , or shrimping, or anything occurred with the sails. And all errors, halyards that were tangled, or broken parts were adjusted as we careened towards the marks.
day finished after three races. We did three, one three. We were
tied for second place boat but only 1 point from first. The competition
was tough... KalevalaII from Finland, manned by Doyle of Doyle
sails, The Primal Scream, from Miami, a relatively new boat with
an aggressive owner.
Blue Dog, which in spite of a broken top spreader, then later a jib halyard and missing two races was back in the thick of things for eight races and many others, from Argentina, Norway, Venezuela.
In the other classes, racing ahead of us or after us were other familiar boats some of which I had sailed on. Stu Hebb, on beautiful Thin Ice, with its stunning carbon mast, and Richard Cielo (?spelling) with whom we had spent last summer having fun in pick up races at Castle Harbor, on his boat Trip Tease .Eduardo, usually on Tiburon, which makes respectable showings on Bay races, was volunteering on another boat, with Andy, a majestic Canadian with many Mackinacks under his belt.
Kristen, during one of the last jumps in and out of the sewer strained her abdomen and stitches which were a reminder of her near death ruptured appendix in the Abacos last summer, with an incision that stretched from her epigastria area to her hip, were pulled at the top, causing a severe double her over pain. Sweat beaded on her upper lip. Her race was over . Soberly we all hugged her after the race, because she had performed expertly, and thanks to her contributions had managed a first and second in the last two races of Thursday.
We were disappointed at losing the first race by six seconds due to an early start, but by seven pm, were eagerly downing a grilled chicken dinner from zuper pollo, at Gordons apartment on Brickell, and barely tasted alcohol. We were all trying to stay sober, our carrot would be a wonderful carousal at the end of the race .
The tent area was stimulating as sailors mingled, many wearing team t shirts and colors. Friends recognized each other and hugged and caught up. Familiar faces smiled and nodded. An amazing bonhomie, given that we were all competing against each other, but put aside in the interest of brotherhood and the shared love for the sail and the sea.
The next day was the hardest. Not only was Friday two races, but the weather was just as grueling and we still had two more days of sailing after that. My knuckles were white with the strength of grabbing on to the life lines as we hurled over waves. I shifted my weight about from place to place in the back during the down wind legs. I barely spoke to Gordon. I did not want to distract him.
He concentrated fiercely on his job. Helmsman. The whole way.
On the down wind legs, Cart would call the degrees of change needed to keep the spinnaker full. It was always a three. Up three, now down three, up three. Up three more. Not sure why . Maybe he is a mason and three is a lucky Masonic number
Water would be tossed up by whoever went below. Ice cold. It was a blessing to chug it . Our lips were parched, and the sun beat down.
The days were glorious with sunshine. We were blessed with the absence of rain. Waves and wind were enough,. Perfect.
For the second day, we had recruited Galen, also relatively new to sailing, he was a agile pilot and accountant who had a pleasant demeanor, a disarming smile, and a dedication to whatever he did he did to his best. He replaced Kristen in the sewer. We did not have time to do a practice spinnaker run with him, because time was spent at the dock repairing a sail and adjusting a shroud up high. Gia and Steve went over with him what his responsibility would be.
The second day was a rugged as the first. On one of the quick tacks, my foot slipped in a puddle, and horribly, slipped again and I lost my foot hold. The boat shifted and I was left leeward. Cart was above me, winching and held a hand down. Finish your job, I said. Then I placed a foot on the cockpit rail and with his help pulled myself up the twelve foot mountain to the windward higher side. I slipped into my slot, sobered by my mishap. From then on I ensured I had a firm foothold and anticipated the tacks by seconds, enough time to ensure I would not be trapped leeward again.
As the day progressed we started tweaking the formula for success. We had after all lost by a few seconds the day before. We even found that leaving the board partially up as opposed to completely up on the down wind leg made the boat sway less on the waves and we were faster.
Towards the end of the last race, during a quick tack after a downwind leg, Galen slipped and fell, with his shoulder whacking against the forward open hatch lip. He was disabled and unable to raise his hand. He scrambled to the windward side, barely hanging on with his good left arm. Ben sent him below. From then on he shifted his weight as best he could below to windward, with each tack. Once we finished the race, I went below to check on him. He was unable to raise his arm. He could move his fingers . I was worried he had dislocated his shoulder or worse. I grabbed a frozen water bottle and gave it to him to place over the injury then helped him up to the deck.
We immobilized his arm against his side. Steffi called me with worry in her voice take a look at his leg he is bleeding too. I looked down and saw his sock and right shoe were bright red, soaked with blood and it was dripping down the side. I raised his storm gear to find a three inch gash, down to the muscle belly of his left leg. Bleeding profusely. I got the medical box, and we moved to the bow of the boat so I could attend to him without being disturbed by the lowering of sails. Within minutes I rinsed the wound removed his bloody shoe and sock and dressed the wound, putting pressure on it to stop the bleeding.
In Government cut, boats hailed us merrily with Good Race then their voices would quiet as they passed and saw us on the bow, with Galens bound foot and arm, and the blood on the deck.
I drove him to Doctors hospital as fast as I could and by four oclock we were signed in and he was getting sutured. I got him some hot chocolate. He was shivering and his teeth chattered. Wrapped in blankets, with his cap and sunglasses still on, he never lost the gentle smile on his lips.
By four thirty they were done suturing, antibiotics in, iv fluids in and I thought we would be ready to go, right after the shoulder x ray.
I was dressed in shorts, a team polo shirt and with ocean teased Orphan Annie hair. I did not look like a doctor, but luckily this is one of my favorite hospitals and every one knew me I slipped inside the radiology suite, just in time to see the radiologist, look at the film. He said, hi Carmen, the shoulder is broken. He broke the lateral tubercle of the humerus, clean off. Non displaced.
My plan to leave the hospital and join the team at the tent came to a screeching halt. We now sat to wait for the orthopedist to call back. He did but he was just the fellow on call. Wrong orthopedist. I got Galen some juice and a sandwich. I had eaten a tuna sandwich while he was getting sutured. He amazed at my ability to eat while watching suturing. I smiled and said that I was a doctor, and there was little that would take away my appetite I am not exactly thin you know and except for two pieces of toast at six thirty I had not eaten anything, and it was five pm.
with Gordon on the phone I learned that we had come in first and
second for the day, and were first overall
.I also learned
they had soaked in the Jacuzzi at the condo, then taken hot showers
and were going to meet us at Versailles whenever we got around
By the time we arrived at Versailles at seven pm, they were well into their mojitos and all were dressed and clean and brushed and combed and looked really good.
Galen sat there pale, and I with my Orphan Annie hair, reeking still of the sweaty day and salt. But I had a peaceful sense of satisfaction. I had helped a friend. And he was going to be alright. It could have been a worse day.
I got home, showered and fell dead asleep within minutes.
The next morning, Saturday, was complicated by having to wait for the arrival of Galen's replacement. Tak arrived promptly as always. The team conferred. They would use his talents at the mast and promote Steve to sewer. I stayed quiet. My nails were broken, my hair was a mess, I was sunburned and bruised on both my legs and both my elbows and my upper arms were bruised by swinging on the shrouds and the backstay as I jumped from side to side
We were off. We had purchased Cuban sandwiches at Versailles and their weight was comforting as we carried them to the boat I had eaten some cereal and by now was into my second bottle of Dramamine.
we would have three races. I cant remember each one right now,
but I know that we just dug in and did our jobs over and over
and over. It seems a blur. The waves on our faces. The wind still
at over twenty. The sun. The gentle conversations over the side.
Cart and I simultaneously heard dolphin sounds and he pointed out to the water were dolphins raced us. I really saw only one far away but thought how close they sounded .
We were all pretty quiet. Except for Anson Cart Ben and Ed who kept tweaking the sails, the direction of sail and hoping for VMG. The holy VMG, velocity made good towards the mark . They should make a car and call it the VMG.
By the end of the day, we were ready to party. We were still the best boat overall in our PHRF class and needed only a second place on Sunday to ensure our win. We had nothing below third place for the eight races thus far.
Gordon was beaming. A lady from the herald came to interview him. He beamed some more.
By Saturday night, we were ready to party.
We went dancing at Opa. Well table dancing. And everyone danced with belly dancing and ouzo Everything got hazy and at one point not only did Gordon dance with me and the belly dancer but he danced with Gia as well. And they danced a little too close for my comfort, but heck, I got up and danced with someone else too.
Everyone danced with everyone. Steffi could not take the loud music and bailed early. The ouzo numbed my ears, an all the guys had a great time. A bridal party next to us with lots of pretty girls also danced, as did the other table next to us, and the waiters
By the end of the evening, full and happy and shouting Opah, we left. We may have been shouting Oprah, I am not sure
Sunday was glorious. Gordon went to the bathroom with the Sunday paper. "Wow", he yelled loudly, "I am in the paper". I read it when he got out.
Ettie vows to win were the headlines and the article featured Gordon and Sazerac for five paragraphs Everything was there, how he had been coming in second for the last few years how the last time he got first place was ten years ago, how he described us as A quiet crew, with little talking. A quiet boat is a good boat he said. OPAH.
Then the five paragraphs were followed by ONE paragraph that described the rest of the billion dollar boats, international racers, transpac, the Patches that split its deck. The paragraph began with the word Meanwhile .
We were famous. And in first place going into Sunday.
Sunday was a dream.. The two races went by too quickly. I no longer feared them. I relished them, the sounds the adjustments the quiet efficiency of the crew as we did our work. The appreciative smiles. The quiet jokes, the shared laughs. It turned out that the day before the sounds that we heard of the dolphin had actually come from Gia who does a perfect dolphin imitation that I was not quite able to master. Yet.
the first race ended. We were either first or second.
We had won. We raced the last race with the flow of perfection of knowing that you are the best gives you We smiled at the competition. The last day we had not had time for sandwiches, so I purchased thirty dollars worth of power bars and candy bars. Every one enjoyed them as if they were eating caviar .
The awards were thrilling. Gordon went up to claim the big Crystal trophy. The Golden Fleece, in his arms at last. We poured ouzo in it and we all took turns sipping it from the vase. My turn I turned it up too fast and it flowed down my cheeks and on my top. It dried quickly.
At lunch we toasted Galen and Kristen, our wounded comrades. We had an early dinner at Smith and Wolensky and the sun gleamed on the water. A perfect ending.
will remember these days to the ends of my life. I will tell the
stories to my children, grand, great grandchildren and repeat
with glee all the fun things that occurred. How Ben Lit a cigarette
after every race, just like after sex. How Cart lost a contact
lens and had to put it on against my back with me making a tent
with my back and my side and my hat so that it would not blow
away. How Tacs girlfriend Yvonne had been gallant enough
to be the designated driver so that we could drink Ouzo. How she
tolerated the noise and music of Opa, the whirling belly dancers
enticing the men, the food smells. I felt sorry for her in this
place full of spices and food smells and sweat and dancing and
loud noise. She has so many allergies that she has to carry a
business card that lists all her dangerous allergies so that we
would not be served something that could trigger angioedema. The
list was long
. Shellfish, shrimp, lobster
In essence were were served Meat, Lamb, and salad. Luckily she did ok. And was able to drive home. We took a cab
I remember Ansen, the sail repair expert, getting the sailing repair fairies to repair our number two overnight.
I remember Gia, up in the trapeze, tweaking the shrouds.
And I never did get to go up into the mast. But I will Someday
And Gordon. And the Argonauts .And the Golden Fleece.