A Dark & Stormy Afternoon

A Seawind regatta turns on it's side after a few local beverages get in the mix. From "Herb's Watch" for October 23, 2008

dark and stormy day 368

Seeing double: A pair of Seawind catamarans line up during the ninth Seawind Regatta on Australia's beautiful Pittwater.Herb Mccormick

From the outset, the entire matter was rife with confusion. Our skipper, Liz deSoyres, was easy to remember. Liz. L-I-Z. Three simple letters. No problem. But the other three guys onboard were all named Mike (in no particular order: Edwards, Blair, and Egan, respectively). And though Liz and I tried addressing this conundrum in multiple iterations--Portside Mike, Starboard Mike, Mainsheet Mike, etc.--in truth, we never got a system down. Maybe that's why it all turned out the way it did.

What had brought us together was the ninth annual Seawind Regatta that took place from October 26-28 on a premier inland Australian waterway known as Pittwater, a short hop up the coast from the Sydney headlands. The folks at Seawind, who were also celebrating their 25th year in business, had invited me to the event, and seeing that it kicked off from the fancy suburb of Newport, New South Wales--and that I hail from Newport, Rhode Island--I was doubly excited to participate. The evening before, at the welcoming cocktail party, I'd met the three Mikes, who all work in various capacities for the Aussie division of Yanmar. They were looking to get an accomplished racer aboard to help with trim and tactics, but since none were available, they invited me along. I couldn't have been happier.

They'd chartered for the day a Seawind 1000 called Tekin from local Pittwater Yacht Charters, and luckily, Liz came as part of the package. She knew the local waters like the back of her hand and had done more than her fair share of boat racing. Seawind had split the 34-boat fleet in two, one half comprising 33-foot 1000s, the other consisting of all the other Seawind models, which over time have ranged in size from 24- to 39-feet. Truth be told, Tekin had worked hard through the years and was a bit, shall we say, challenged when compared to some of the newer 1000s. I say this for no other reason beyond making excuses. More are coming.

The wind was light and fluky out of the north for the first of our two races. Actually, we managed a pretty fair start, with clear air and a bit of boat speed. But the breeze became patchier and patchier as we worked our way towards the first weather mark, and before long it was really a crapshoot. Liz handed the helm to Mike (Edwards) about halfway through the race, and though he'd advertised himself as something less than a capable sailor, in truth he was a very good helmsman. Under his guidance, and Liz's, we managed a very respectable mid-fleet finish in race one.

Afterward, we adjourned to a very snug little anchorage for lunch and a break before the second race. And here's where things on Tekin began to come undone. Now, like many sailors, I've voyaged to Bermuda and, like many sailors, once there I've enjoyed the island's signature cocktail, the Dark 'n' Stormy, an intriguing concoction of Gosling's rum and ginger beer. As it turns out, the Aussies have their own version and, being Aussies, they've taken it one step further. Theirs is mixed with the local Bundaberg rum and, lo and behold, it comes in a can. As they say in that Guinness commercial: "Brilliant!"

I had one, then another, and the world was suddenly tilted on its axis. I decided to take a head-clearing dip before race two, which is when the comedic stylings of Mike Cubed came into play.

As I was about to dive in, one Mike said to another, "Mate, aren't there stingrays around here?"

And Mike replied, "No worries, the crocs have eaten all of them."

Ba-dump. They'll be here all week.

It was the rum, or the swim, or a combination of the two, that led to us being terribly late for the second start. From our third-row vantage point, we struggled mightily to get off the line and to ultimately round the mark at Lion's Island, a sail that might take an hour or two on a windy day, but which took us literally all afternoon. I was more than ready to call it a day, switch on the engine and head for the party, but the Mikes would have none of it.

"Australians don't just throw in the towel," said Mike, after which there was a long silence. Then another Mike spoke up: "Well, perhaps after due consideration..."

But let the record show, we persevered. We were the fourth-to-last boat to round the island, and by the time we crossed what had once been the finish line, the committee boat had long since vamoosed. However, I must say we felt inordinately pleased with ourselves about the whole thing. Then again, it might've been the rum.

The party went on well into the night, and a swell one it was. The Seawind folks have great boats and certainly know how to enjoy them. At one point someone asked how we did, and I must say I scratched my head for a minute over that one. I finally came clean, but I had one final excuse, and I wasn't afraid to use it.

"It was all Mikes' fault," I said, and that was that.

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