Every comic that WindCheck cartoonist Dave Foster produces takes me back to a certain time in my sailing past, and he frequently delivers one about traveling to regattas. A marathon drive to a distant venue to launch the boat and go racing can be a difficult undertaking, often filled with comedic occurrences…comedic in hindsight, anyway. An away regatta is something that every sailor should attempt at least once. It will become readily apparent whether it is – or isn’t – for you.
I recall one winter, back in the nineties, traveling from Connecticut to Tampa, Florida for the J/24 Midwinters. Three of us packed into our cargo van with boat in tow and headed down Interstate 95 with a snowstorm hot on our heels. With an early evening departure, we figured on an easy 30-hour drive with minimal stops and frequent driver rotations. To be on the safe side, we factored a full spare day for travel into our schedule.
Situated with a laptop, some movies on CD and a futon swiped from one of our parents’ basements, the back of the van was too comfortable to relinquish and one of us ended up driving for about 22 hours. Stopping at South of the Border, we snapped a commemorative shot of our rig and moved on. Our Chevy V-8 and brand new tires allowed for an uneventful trip. We even had time for a detour to Cocoa Beach to check out the surfing action. Later, the only complaint we could muster was that slush and snow slowed the first four hours of the trip. Oh, and the boat was filthy when we arrived.
Although we’d had a trouble-free transit, Mother Nature treated us with cold, rainy weather and often fickle breeze for most of the regatta. During a no-wind lay day, it was no surprise to any of us that the idea of doing this sort of trip several times a year was not met with much collective fanfare, so from then on we mostly stuck to regattas in the Long Island Sound and Narragansett Bay region. Yes, we discovered that we were a bunch of prima donnas, and given the option to not travel for competitive racing, we took the easy road. Not everyone has that luxury. For some, over-the-road travel is literally the only way to go.
I remember, as we waited to launch our boat, watching the ease with which another team from Connecticut arrived, rigged and readied their boat, then tuned, practiced and sailed a successful regatta. As they departed the scene with equal élan, I recalled that a few days earlier we were looking for boat parts that were somehow buried in the van (under the futon), forgetting and having to search out simple fix-it items and having other small headaches while trying to get our boat unpacked and competitive. It occurred to me that as with anything, practice makes perfect, both on the water and off. When I inquired about that other Connecticut team, my hypothesis was confirmed. That other boat was sailed by the Zaleski brothers, of Z Sails notoriety, and it was obvious that they’d been down this road before.
When I read the On Watch article in this month’s issue (page 78), I realized why an interstate tow of a J/24 was so simple and enjoyable for Waldek and Chris Zaleski and their crew. No doubt, towing a Quarter Tonner across Europe with a hopelessly underpowered vehicle in 1986 was even more of an adventure than could be recounted in a thousand words.
See you on the water…but definitely not on the interstate.