Sailing is indeed an abundant provider of great things. I recently had a reminder of this while competing in the inaugural Miami to Havana Race. As often happens in the early morning hours offshore, I reflected on how I’d gotten there. No matter what the conditions, it seems that toward the end of watch I seem to settle into a calm, contemplative mode (likely just exhaustion). As first light approached on a churning and active sea, with flying fish sputtering above the waves and the eerie Portuguese Man-o-War sailing along, I thought about my family.

With two young sons, my wife and I have found ourselves awake for many sunrises, but they’re not like the ones at sea. I thought how excited and amazed my 3-year old would be at watching flying fish scatter frantically, then glide gracefully, having only seen them on his favorite TV shows Octonauts and Wild Kratts. Then I thought how lucky – and selfish must I be, to be out here with my friends. But then again, my boys will get to see this stuff in time. I am just experiencing it now and it’s been a while, so why not enjoy it? I also thought I should probably be steering better than I was…this was a race, after all.

I’d decided to take a year off from racing, as my wife and I welcomed our new son Grayden last October. But when I received a call to jump aboard F.K. Day’s innovative new Class40 Longbow, I simply couldn’t resist. It was one of those opportunities that pushes you to shelve your conservative plans, delay ongoing projects, and belay just about anything else in order to pack a bag and head to the airport.

My wife Holly is a huge supporter of my sailing, and she realized that an opportunity of this nature was not one to let pass by. With assurance that my duties as dad would be covered, a go-ahead was issued. From that moment forward, I couldn’t stop thinking about what lay ahead, but also about the people with whom I’d be sailing. And really, the majority of why I go racing is the people – not necessarily the competition itself.  Through racing, I have met some of the most interesting, intelligent and engaging people of my life.

This trip would get me offshore (while it was -17 degrees here at home), sailing aboard an exciting boat, headed to a place I’d dreamt of visiting and doing so with some of the finest people I know. I met F.K. and his brothers Stan and Linc about eight years ago through my longtime friend Matt Baldwin, with whom I’ve logged thousands of miles of fun and successful racing. The Day brothers are seasoned sailors, and they’ve ventured out to experience all that can be discovered on a boat, but not necessarily the racing aspects of sailing. When they discovered that their previous boat didn’t have enough get-up-n-go to arrive in time for the rum party at the Chicago Mac finish, they found a reason to go faster. Their motivation was my opportunity. What I didn’t know was how much I would enjoy sailing with these guys, but more importantly, how we’d form friendships and build trust and respect for one another.

The Miami to Havana Race was like many I’ve done. We had our competitive ups and downs, and finished behind the competition – but at the end of the day, a group of friends, old and new, were together in a place we’d only heard about and we had a lot of fun getting there, too. Cuba is much the same as what you’ve likely seen in the movies, and it’s much, much more, but that’s for another article. For me, the journey taken and the people with whom I had the opportunity to venture out with are the important parts.

Each of the feature stories in this month’s issue illustrates the value of seizing opportunities, whether it’s joining a time share club, earning bareboat certification, signing on for  a multi-day ocean race, or just spending an afternoon frostbiting. I am sure you’ll agree;  sailing allows us to explore new places, meet or reconnect with great people, take time to think about the special things in life, test oneself and, even though still bleary-eyed, enjoy star-filled skies bound only by the horizons, breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, and if we’re lucky enough, savor a fine cigar in Cuba after a fun and successful passage. I hope you’ll get there soon.

See you on the water.

Chris Gill

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