Saturday, 16 July 2011

A First Over all for Mariquita Today!

It’s not easy to put into words how it can make you feel when you’re lolling about in an area of sea barely off the coast, lined with glittering skyscrapers, amongst many other beautiful classic yachts, waiting for the start sequence to your race. It’s a moment of clarity following a busy, sometimes stressful morning doing breakfast, making sandwiches, stowing the boat, sorting crew’s uniform, planning dinner; and then there you are, quite possibly the luckiest person in the world. I always have an inward little bubble of pride that in my life I have managed to get myself into the position where I can be a part of this scene. Adrenaline pumping; in pre-start positions on the staysail sheet with my staysail team, watching the most beautiful yachts in the world sail by, ready to seriously vie with you for that perfect position on the start line.

As you can see, I struggle to do it any justice at all with words and will never be able to come close with my hastily taken photos either. And I hope you don’t think that I’m gloating, it’s just that so much passion and skill goes into preparing for exactly these moments. The  leather work, led by our leather guru and bosun Nikki, that covers the wooden blocks, the perfectly administered varnish, the splicing of lines, stitching of sails, the heartfelt dedication to skills that have kept these boats sailing as they were one hundred years ago. Not to mention the team work.

Jim at the helm

The bow 'talks' to the helm constantly about sail trim.

And it’s great team work that gave us our first place today! We fought hard, like Trojans and as the race progressed the wind strength grew and it was our day. First place for Mariquita! You should have heard us cheer as we crossed the finish. To be honest it was all getting a bit much for the boat with the Jack Yard up. My team and I were up to our waists in gushing sea water on the leeward side trimming the staysail in on the jigger, harnessed on and loving every minute of it.

My photos will never capture the power or the speed or the effort involved in sailing a classic yacht the way we do; with no modern-day power winches, simply as it was back then. We pull on everything by hand, grit and sheer determination and the odd shanty. We love it. We live for it.

Thats me tailing the topping lift

 I will leave you with the words of someone more qualified then me to speak on our behalf. Our Captain Jim Thom, loves to read this to us, the crew, every now and then; and usually at the beginning of the season. I think he has good reason. This piece really says it all. Ladies and Gentlemen, the words of Joseph Conrad;

Of course, yacht racing is an organised pastime,…but for a great number of people it is a means of livelihood that is, an industry. Now, the moral side of an industry, productive or unproductive, the redeeming and ideal aspect of this bread winning, is the attainment and preservation of the highest possible skill on the part of the craftsmen. Such skill, the skill of technique, is more than honesty; it is something wider, embracing honesty and grace and rule in an elevated and clear sentiment, not altogether utilitarian, which may be called the honour of labour. It is made up of accumulated tradition, kept alive by individual pride, rendered exact by professional opinion and, like the higher art, it is spurred on and sustained by discriminating praise.

That is why the attainment of proficiency, the pushing of your skill with attention to the most delicate shades of excellence, is a matter of vital concern. Efficiency of a practically flawless kind may be reached naturally in the struggle for bread. But there is something beyond – a higher point, a subtle and unmistakable touch of love and pride beyond mere skill; almost an inspiration which gives to all work that finish which is almost art – which is art.

It is the striving for victory that has elevated the sailing of pleasure craft to the dignity of a fine art in that special sense”
                                                                                   Joseph Conrad,
                                                                 The Mirror of the Sea

Thanks Joseph. Nice one. I’m in my bunk now waiting for sleep to come. It’ll be another early morning, another day of adrenaline, good strong wind (or so I’ve heard on the grapevine) and we are determined to get another first place. On Sunday I shall probably sleep a lot so I hope to see you again on Monday for another little catch up.

Thank you for reading my excited little blog today. It feels good to work so hard and get an official first place. How often does that happen in life really?...

Wish us luck, Cheers!

Believe it or not, my bunk is behind the lashed up wooden hatch at the back there. Home Sweet Home.

Tidying lines after a great day out racing.