it’s a whole new ballgame out there



One thing I don’t like about owning a race boat is: it sorta limits my opportunities to sail on other people’s vessels.

Nonetheless, last year I was lucky and got to sail on 7 or 8 other boats during the course of the season. I like sailing on other people’s boats a lot. And apparently, they must like having me…I mean, what’s not to like about inviting a guy aboard who screws up constantly, drinks too much, uses the wrong side of the boat as a bathroom and occasionally falls overboard?

Anyway, I was disappointed when my friend Eddie didn’t call me for the NOODs last spring. I knew he had upped his program significantly and figured he didn’t want me on board because he’d gotten a bunch of Group Three thugs as ringers. Finally, I got a call in late September about a Bay race he was doing.

I got to the marina that morning and was surprised to see his Usual Crew there, a bunch of slackers whom I remembered as being lazy, weak and uncoordinated. They looked even more bizarre than usual, with a lot of gold jewelry on. One guy even wore a big diamond ear stud.

“This is the bunch who’ve gotten Eddie a dead cert for High Point?” I asked myself silently.

And I was sure I knew why Eddie was sailing this race. I’d seen his finishes in the sailing ink all summer. He’d already aced the fleet for his region. He was going for his 73rd bullet, a figure that would set a new USSailing record for wins in one season....that was the only reason he’d entered this race.

We headed out and as the sun rose, the crew began to shed fleece and Capilene. “Holy Cripes!” I said to myself, “These guys are ripped! These guys make Barry Bonds look flaccid!”

Yeah, once the shirts came off, I could see these guys had been doing more than 12 ounce curls all season. I asked Eddie what the deal was and he just smiled and said, “Oh, we've been workin’ out a little,” and under his breath he added, “workin’ with a little help from our friends…”

“Huh?” I thought to myself, “wait…these guys couldn’t be using steroids…could they?”

So, at 30 seconds we are coming in a little fat on starboard at the favored end. I can see the RC is looking at us smugly like, “okay gang, you’re DEFINATELY barging, so bail, regroup and try again.” A large Swan is close-hauled on our leeward hip and it's dialed in to shut the door on us BIG TIME. We’ll never foot off to clear the Swan, and I’m thinking, “if we don’t bail on this soon, it's going to be some kinda ugly at the stern end of that RC boat,” which, it just so happened, was a big, gnarly Nordhavn Trawl that looked like it had maybe done some serious sea duty as an ocean rescue tug.

“Eddie!” I go. “Uh…ED-MAN…what are you DOING??”

“Watch this,” says Eddie. And, I can’t believe it, as we come down on the Swan, Eddie says calmly, “Hit it, Lads.”

And, as our boys all slink to leeward, the boat goes on its ear and, unseen by the RC boat, their view blocked by the enormous heel we’ve induced, the lads bend over the lifelines, bolster themselves against the cabin roof and give the Swan a huge push-off to leeward. It clears just enough of a hole for us to blast by the RC boat and all of a sudden we’ve won the g.d. start!

The Swan pops a red flag the size of Fort McHenry’s and Eddie laughs and screams, “See you in the Protest Room, a-holes!”

“Holy sheeeeee-IT!” I’m thinking. “Something ain’t right here! Not at all.”

So, up the weather leg we have altitude and boatspeed like I’ve never seen before. The lads are hiked out barely within the permitted limits and they react to every little shift and nuance in pressure like Nureyev to a string section. “This is incredible, I say to myself, “these guys couldn’t find a rhythm in a conga line last season.” Our tacks are like lightning and the headsail trimmer shifts gears like Earnhardt at Watkins Glen.

At the weather mark we are TEN boatlengths ahead.

The chute goes up and we have to jibe a few times to clear ourselves from the pack that’s still on the wind. By this time the breeze has built to a solid 25 and yet the dude on the foredeck is whipping thru jibes like he’s possessed. The pole is a knitting needle in his hands and we surf into new lanes like Laird Hamilton at Mavericks.

It was like that all day. The big breeze was clearly taking a toll on the other boats and we’d see their fatigued crews go shrimping and wrap headstays all the time. Meanwhile, our guys never let up an inch and seemed to be gaining strength and agility as the afternoon wore on. We cruised thru spinn peels and bounced down breaking swells until the speedo gave up the ghost in a shower of sparks during one of the larger puffs of the day.

We were still carrying the Code 3 downwind, even though the puffs were into the 30’s. I was telling one of the lads that I’d have switched to the Bulletproof by now, when a blast in the low 40's hit us and we started a death roll. As we rounded up hard, the skipper yanked the tiller to weather in a last ditch effort to get the boat back under the rig, and lo’ and behold, the tiller exploded!

“CORK? There’s CORK all over the cockpit fer cryin’ out loud!” I screamed at Eddie. “You CORKED your tiller?”

Eddie looked a little ashamed, but quickly regained his icy demeanor and shouted out commands. The boat had completely spun out and was lying with the masthead in the water and both foils in the air. While a new tiller was being jury-rigged, his two biggest apes (these guys had forearms like RoRo hawsers) climbed out and stood on the keel and, as if the boat were a Sunfish on Deep Creek Lake, they honked the boat back up on to its feet and jumped aboard. Away we went.

“This is a freak show,” I was thinking.

At the Awards party, I sort of kept to myself, but I bumped into Eddie in the loo. I said, “So, how’d the protest go?”

Eddie goes, “Frickin' punk didn’t file properly…he didn't hail us and never contacted the RC boat. Plus, they had no witnesses. The RC saw nothing.”

“So, it’s number 72, huh? You got the record. You must feel great!”

“Well, you gotta put it all in perspective,” says Eddie. “I mean, all this comes at a price, you might say.”

“Hey, no one ever said sailing is a cheap way to spend an afternoon, man.” I knew first hand.

“It ain’t that. I feel like I’ve aged 15 years this season. My ‘nads have shrunk to the size of BB’s and now the PRO wants me to piss in this cup….can you do me a favor and substitute for me?"

I looked old Ed straight in the eye and told him, “for the good of the sport, I decline.”

Eddie’s record did show up in the Yearbook this winter, but there’s an asterisk next to it. “Inquiry Pending,” it says. I heard from a friend who’s a Racing Assoc. insider that the record will be struck…he says they’ve found traces of anabolic steroids, beta-blockers, MOA Inhibiters, STP and Metamucil in Eddie’s and his crew’s urine and blood samples. He said, “On the surface, it looks bad. But realistically? That’s what it takes to win these days.”

I said, “Jeez, what’s our natural pastime coming to? And...and... what about the children…? I'm not sure I'm on board with this stuff. Let me think about it...I'll see ya at Spring Training."

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- copyright 2004 nbayraing.com---------------------

--------------------------------------------------------this account is entirely fictitious, and intended strictly as parody ----------------------------------------------------performance enhancing drugs are illegal under Rule 5 of The Racing Rules of Sailing for 2001-2004 (besides being unethical and dangerous) and should not be included in anyone's performance sailing program-------------------------------------------------------nbayracing.com does not support the use of performance enhancing drugs---------------------------------------------------------