ILCA-NA Laser District 3

"Aww. Sucky baby wanna' baba?"

Is anything more cruel than time passing? Its ravages litter our faces with liver spots and lines. Its relentless advance destroys the icons and monuments that buttress our tender memories. Its knell sounds a herald of our diminished futures. It has no tears for us, no eulogy, no sweet words of comfort.

Thankfully, there is in all of us, a hidden corner that time cannot touch. It has no face and no age, and its capacities are not diminished through time. It, in fact, can reverse time, and bring to us those feelings of timelessness that time so cruelly means to destroy.

I went to that corner this weekend three times during the Ontario (D3) Masters Championship being held at Guelph Lake near Guelph, Ontario. Unfortunately, during all three, I think I bumped the machine and the dial jumped a little too far into the past. Instead of ending up in the heaven of youth, I burst through to the pouty purgatory of infancy.

Fortunately, I was surrounded by 18 more mature minds and reminded by a few that 1: It is only money 2: It is only a sailboat race and 3: Bigger men are gracious and will succor silly babies.

In the first instance, I was pushing my boat along the dock in preparation for hauling out for Saturday's on-land lunch. The morning of races was exceptional fun, even if the wind was a messy confusion. As I did, my hiking stick-beloved, expensive, and fragile-bounced, then landed neatly in between the boards of the dock and immediately broke in two with the characteristic simultaneous pop and snap that hollow carbon likes so much.

I really loved that hiking stick. I bought it in May at Wrightsville Beach after my previous carbon hiking stick burst, and believed with all my heart that I would never, never, never allow anything to happen to it.


It would not have been so bad had I broke it actually sailing, but this unhappy accident was so pathetically quotidian that my emotional skillset had no mature response. I wailed, I pounded my deck (common among children), I lamented my fate. It was so bad, Joe Van had to calm me down by reminding me of point number one (see above.) He even, in his kindness, offered to fix it for me (an offer I accepted, as I know him to be incredibly adept at boat work of all kinds).

The second instance was only slightly more pathetic. Nigel Heath, eventual winner, was being his quiet, consistent self and scoring well enough on the second day to hang on to his lead. In my madness, I believed I still had a chance to beat him (I didn't) and rounded the bottom mark a very satisfying four places ahead of him in the third race. I knew the boat end of the finish was favoured, but had to tack to starboard after rounding to clear air. Not a problem, I thought. I will take the short hitch, come back to the right side of the course (where Nigel was now headed) and consolidate my position. The only problem was Harold Briggs. He was sailing on starboard above and behind me. I tacked to go to the boat end, but then had to tack back for Harold. I tried to lee bow him to convince him he needed to tack, but to no avail. I was held to the left side of the line, and melted with utter frustration as I watched Nigel cross the line, at the boat, just ahead of me. I reduced the resale value of my boat again with much deck pounding and added noisy lamentation for good measure, which eventually brought on Mature Lesson Number Two (again, see above). I can't remember at whose hand it was delivered.

Lesson three was courtesy of my inner voice inspired by Steve Carroll. I won a race by a mile on the second day, and Steve came up to me afterward to ask how I had done it. "I'll tell you later," I said, full of my accomplishment and trusting for more bullets. He was not amused, but did not show it. When he won the next race, I called out to him, "I guess you won't tell me how you did that!" He replied pointedly, "Of course I will," and proceeded to outline his successful strategy. I heard none of it for the sound of my own inner voice, telling me in its own familiar way Mature Lesson Number Three. It went something like. "See, Rob? That's how grown up behave. Now, sucky baby wanna baba?"

When I was not regressing over the weekend, I was noticing the aforementioned Time passing. I heard its consequence in the voice of Joe Van when we drove home together on Saturday night. He turned 70 that day. "70!!," he said. "I can't believe it." He asked me how old I was and I told him I was turning 55 on the following Monday, July 13th. "55!" he exclaimed again, thinking, no doubt, how wonderful it would be to be 55. He returned to his silent ruminations and I watched farmer's fields rush by.

We Master Laser sailors know the ravages of time, but those of us with better dials enjoyed our childly fruits at this regatta without unearthing their correspondent precocities. They saw delicious wind, sun bright and clouds so lively they burst the heart with delight. They know that broken sticks and lost places, and coveted secrets are far less than the vibrancy of our blessings.

We compete, because we must-because it is our railing against the dark night-and it is a healthy thing. Even our spouses (our wonderful, durable spouses) see us and count themselves blessed to be bound to men they can admire for their childish predilections. "How was your day, sweetheart," they say, with love and glowing. We grumble about bad starts and untimely fouls and bad results, while they, knowing also the weaknesses we live and the death that hovers, live a little more through us without a care for results, but eating our passion for life as greedily and, I dare say, as worthily while we are riven and yet made whole by it. Aside from my lovely girlfriend, there was another spouse there. I remember her especially for her clapping and cheering when her husband collected his prize (for a place among the Grand Master winners, I think.) She was the signature that we all look for at the bottom of our stories. The one clearly written, saying "Well done, my hero" for fighting a good fight against hellish Time.

Racing, yes. Racing. Sorry.

There were 12 races, all about 15 minutes long. It was a bit like our Rat racing, with more boats and sunnier climes. On Sunday, once you learned that going right was right, you could chase Nigel's first day heroics successfully. Steve Carroll and Rick Goldt did, and were best at getting closer to Nigel as the day wore on and both came within mere points of besting him.

I, on the other hand, was so stuck on getting the lee end of the line and the left side of the course right, that I never faced the truth that it was going to be wrong all day. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result, then I was not only infantile on Sunday, I was insane as well. If there was a lesson, it was that you need to look to see what the leaders are doing and imitate them, not try to find your own solution. That is just stubbornness.

My reign as Ontario Champion is over, the sorrow of my loss palliated by the excellent sailing necessary to end it. Nigel is a true champion and a wonderfully intuitive sailor. He seems to be to be in the English tradition, someone who is more comfortable at sea than in his own bed, and somehow knows its nuanced characteristics. Where others fight and argue with wind and water, I think his assignations are more collegial and he responds better to their predilections. In short, I admire him and it bugs the shit out of me that I have to work so hard at what he makes look easy. I'll make sure he is looking over his shoulder next year.

Rob KociRob Koci races in both the Laser Full-Rig and Laser Radial fleets around District 3. Currently, Rob is the District 3 secretary and maintains a frequently updated race diary on Rob's home port is St. James Town Sailing Club in Toronto, Ontario.

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