John Burnham writes about crewing aboard Dorade in the New York Yacht Club’s 175th Anniversary Regatta.
Normally my job as part of Team Dorade is that of the website editor, but this week Matt Brooks and Pam Levy invited me to join the racing crew for the New York Yacht Club 175th Anniversary Regatta. We sailed opening day on Rhode Island Sound today, and it was a treat, with two races in a sea breeze that built to 15 knots.
We competed well, with front-row starts in both races and second place finishes in each. We couldn’t quite take the measure of Santana, a beautifully sailed Olin Stephens yawl, similar to Dorade but designed five years later (1935). Overall, it was a good day for the team, and there’s room for improvement.
I have sailed a few miles on Dorade in the past, but my last time aboard was seven years ago, and all of the strings in the mid-deck of an 89-year-old yawl rigged for flat-out racing take some figuring out. I went out for a light-air practice session on Sunday and got a good orientation in our maneuvers from Dorade regulars—Kevin, Greg, Hazey, Mike, and Patrick.
I also learned to do Matt’s job in the practice session, trimming the main. Fortunately, Matt was back aboard today so I could concentrate on the rest of the lines. Even so, I fumbled my first attempt to tack down the mizzen spinnaker on our first downwind leg and other times felt a bit slow to catch on. Tomorrow, I’ll be a bit quicker!
I wasn’t alone in feeling the need to improve. Kevin, our sailing master, led a dockside debrief after racing in which the whole crew suggested ways we could save seconds in our maneuvers and improve our speed modes. The newest aboard naturally had the most to learn—Nate, an experienced sailor backing up Patrick on the foredeck, and Malcolm, John H., and me, scrambling through the mid-deck maneuvers. I was glad to have Malcolm nearby, providing extra muscle on the winches and back-up to the foredeck, and John, who was game to gather the spinnakers on takedowns and repacked them all with Mike.
The forecast for tomorrow is for a southerly breeze, maybe a little lighter. We’ll be ready!