posted on July 14, 2014 10:21
Sailors have a stubborn streak and none more so than those competing in the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. Made of stern stuff, tough or just plain crazy, I can never work it out. Yacht racing puts tremendous strain on a boat and its fittings, and makes huge demands on the human body. Let’s look first at the body which, while sailing, never stops moving. Add the constant motion to the sudden explosive muscle action needed to winch and haul and you see why so many sailors hobble to the nearest chiropractor or guzzle copious amounts of beer at the end of each race day.
To experience the boat’s full potential means pushing it to the limit. When pushed too hard, things break. Be it boat or bod, the tired old adage ‘only as strong as the weakest link’ was never truer than in yacht racing.
It struck me, as I followed the racing from the press boat, just how resilient people are when it comes to keeping the boat, the body and the mind together during the Heineken Regatta, and how some people simply refused to quit.
It would be interesting to see what a psychologist made of it all.
On day one, the Melges 24, Amcon Sailing Team, racing in CSA five, lead at the first mark. They were up against formidable competition and doing really well when a fitting on the spinnaker pole broke, which not only put them out of that race but out of racing for the rest of the day. Yet on Saturday they were back on the course; the boat repaired and racing hard, knowing almost for certain that other than catastrophic breakages at the head of the fleet their chances of a podium place were gone.
In past regattas, I have seen mangled fingers, broken noses and black eyes and not one of the recipients gave a thought to quitting racing. Indeed, most were on the start line the next day.
This year, a Dutchman blew out his knee while sailing in the Anguilla Channel. Unwilling to ruin the day for his crewmates, he dove over the stern and swam to our press boat, where he was hauled aboard and taken ashore for medical treatment. I heard later he was back crewing the next day in the form of human ballast, leg splints and all.
Over the years, some of the media haven’t proved as resilient as the sailors and have succumbed to seasickness on the press boat. For some reason, those who make a living photographing other people hate having their own photo taken as they vomit last night’s Heineken over the rail or, in one case, over themselves. In order to cheer them up, pleas not to post said photos on Facebook are always ignored.
In the words of Forest Gump: “Tough is as tough does!”
In the words of John Leone, managing director of Heineken St. Maarten: “Serious Fun, baby!”