How quickly can you jump from one side of a boat to the other? How about transferring water using a bucket-like tool? How hard can you pull a rope? And how is your balance?
As a crew member of the New South Wales Open Team Regatta, those exact skills of mine were tested in the past two days.
My sailing partner Jeronimo says I did 8/10. Though he might have said that to be nice...
I spent the last two days racing with Sydney University's sailing team.
It was awesome.
It was also my first ever regatta.
We placed second overall in the open category with 19 teams racing, but that was only the icing on the cake.
The whole experience this weekend has been phenomenal.
I woke up bright and early Saturday morning at 6 am and headed down to the Woollahra Sailing Club.
It was a pretty relaxing day.
I met my skipper, Jeronimo, who thankfully was 1. knowledgable in sailing and 2. a nice person.
Really that's all you need in a sailing partner.
It was our first time meeting and we had never trained together so I was pretty anxious about sailing with him.
I thought since it was a competition atmosphere, my sailing partner would be uptight and would get tense if I screwed up. He was super encouraging though. And an extremely good sailor who had been sailing since the age of five. He knew all the rules and was on top of everything. So really things could not have been set up better for me.
Here is a photo of us racing with our team:
We are the boat in the foreground and Jeronimo has a neon yellow hood. I would be the one sitting beside him. The two boats in the background are other members of our team.
Here is how teams racing works:
Six boats are racing at the same time through a course set with buoys. As long as more of your team members' boats place in better than the other team, it means you won that race.
For example, if you placed first and your other team members placed fifth and six, that would still mean that you lost.
But if you place second, third and fourth, that would mean that you won.
It is this element that makes for an extremely fun time on the water. Especially if it is a windy day.
At the start line, you've got six different boats fighting for a place, but sometimes two boats will sandwich or force another boat to move to a different position.
It's dangerous (I thought we would crash into another boat), but so much fun.
The closest thing I can compare it to is playing Quidditch in a Harry Potter movie with broomsticks flying all over the place. You know how the camera follows the action and all the players zip by real fast? That is pretty much what sailing in windy weather is like with everyone trying to cut each other off at the starting line.
Sometimes there would be foul play from the other boats not following the rules and Jeronimo would yell "protest" and raise up a red flag for the umpires to decide whether or not the other boat deserved to do penalties. It got pretty intense.
Yesterday we had calm wind, but today we had over 20 knots of wind.
This is a photo of yesterday:
And this is a photo of today:
You can tell the differences in how choppy the water looks.
In the first fifteen minutes when everyone got out to the water this morning, there were five boats that capsized. And this is with experienced sailors.
Also, a couple of booms fell off.
The boom is the part of the boat that holds up the sail. It's kind of important to sailing.
Here is a photo of a guy who is holding on to his boom because it broke.
Luckily that didn't happen to Jeronimo and I while we were racing.
It was extremely cold however. For once, I appreciated bringing my wetsuit all the way over from Canada.
I bought it right after sailing through cold 11 degree rain on a fall day in Toronto. Shivering in a boat was not a pleasurable experience.
Sailing that day ended at around 7 pm (this was after we finished de-rigging), right after, my Toronto sailing partner Yusuf and I ran to the nearest Mountain Equipment Co-op store and I bought a wet suit and he bought some sailing gloves.
I initially had doubts about whether my wet suit was the right choice for me to pack it in my luggage since it took up about 1/4 of my entire luggage space. When I first sailed in Sydney in March, it was hot and sunny weather where shorts and a t-shirt were all that was needed for sailing.
Today however, was hypothermia weather. There were strong winds and add to that getting sprayed with water with every wave we passed through.
Though we didn't capsize or fall into the water, we were soaked just from splashes of water from the side.
I now understand why some sailors will wear sunglasses even in weather that isn't sunny. The glasses keeps salt water out of eyes, which is why they're really handy.
It was my first time sailing in salt water in such high wind as well. I definitely wasn't used to the spray of salt water in my face. After a while, everything just tasted like salt.
In Toronto, we sailed in Lake Ontario, which is fresh water. Occasionally if water dripped off of my face into my mouth, I would think nothing of it because it tasted like regular water.
Here, the salt water taste was prominent!
It also stung my eyes.
When we went back to shore and the water dried, I could see little salt particles on my skin.
It wasn't that bad though.
Some photos from behind the scenes:
Here is the ferry we stayed on. This is so that we didn't have to go from the shore every time there needed to be a boat change.
This is how we got to the ferry: through a smaller boat. That's not a photo of us, just some random team I snapped a photo of.
There was some downtime between races on the first day so I went up to the roof of the ferry with my friend Lovelle and we just chilled and watched other races.
It was beautiful as well. (See the harbour bridge in the background?)
Some Australian pride:
Question for the readers: Your thoughts on sailing?