Monday, May 17, 2010

Still Got It

This past weekend I headed south to the border between Oregon and Washington, also known as the Columbia River Gorge. It is one of my favorite places, for many reasons. It is gorgeous (ha, get it?) no really, it is, as well as an incredible place for all sorts of outdoor activities. Hiking, camping, biking, and most notably to myself and my friends, windsports (sailing, windsurfing, kiteboarding).

I have known how to sail more years of my life than I have not. Pretty much from my junior year in high school until my senior year in college my life revolved around sailing, and all the social activities that went along with it. The majority of my friends were sailors. I received sailing magazines, read sailing books, wore sailing t-shirts. I knew a whole other language that was shared with this group and easily bored and repelled anyone who did not speak the language.

In college, sailing became a lot about weight (sailing is, and always has been about weight, but it's magnified in the competitive college arena). The ideal weight for these boats that we sail is 240-280 lbs. For two people. In order to be competitive, that ideal weight range means: 1) The two people in the boat must be in a "normal" weight range. 2) There isn't much leeway to find a partner of the right size if you are taking up the majority of the combined weight (example, if you weigh 180lbs, you need to have a crew that is less then 100lbs to be competitive, AND that is on the heavy side).

I spent my freshman year on the team being on the heavy side. I would do ok at Regattas because I had a lot of experience, but anytime I didn't do well, I made a lot of excuses. None of which were related to my weight, because that couldn't be it...

Well, after I lost about 40 pounds over my sophomore year, my sailing really started to improve. I was consistently competitive. Part of my success I'm sure came with the confidence that losing 40 pounds gave me. Also, I had a consistent sailing partner (a perfect 105 lb crew). At the time I was one of few girls that would "skipper" meaning, I would be steering the boat, along with other various skills.

Sailing is one of the few sports where men and women directly compete against one another. The theory is that the boat is the "equalizer." I was fine doing the job that was typically held by the boys on the team, and I was able to gain their respect by being competitive. However, I was always so envious of the female crews. In a sense, they were just along for the ride, looking cute in their boardshorts and braids. They never had to worry about where to set up on a starting line. They never had to make any of the hard tactical racing decisions. They never had to worry about being accepted into the "good sailor" category. All the pressure was on the skipper to make it look easy. That being said, I'm sure a female crew never got to feel how good I did every time I pulled off an incredible race, and that's what kept my jealousy at bay.

I took a long break from sailing for a number of reasons, and in the process gained a lot of weight. So much weight that I kept thinking it impossible to be able to get back into the sport where SO much depends on being a weight I haven't seen since 2001. But I missed sailing incredibly. I had reconnected with all of my sailing friends that I sort of abandoned during my hiatus, and I saw how sailing was really the glue holding all of us together. I decided I would just do it. I would start taking every reasonable opportunity offered to me to go sailing, and perhaps that would aid in my motivation to lose weight, since I like to be competitive, and have seen what I can do.

This past weekend was a reasonable opportunity. It was a college regatta with an alumni division. I knew there was a good chance I could rotate in and do some sailing. This stressed me out to no end, seeing as it had been 9 years since I attempted to sail these particular boats, in this particular format. My opportunity came quicker than expected. It was a little bit windier then I was hoping for, but that means I could be competitive since I'm way heavier now then I was in college. My first race was ok. It was an adjustment for sure. There were 22 boats, so I was overly cautious, but quickly remembered how to do most things. My second race, I got an incredible start, had nice clean air, and decided to head over towards the first mark. As we were coming in to the mark, I didn't see any boats rounding it, or around me for that matter. I asked my crew "are we coming into this mark in first place?" We were. Holy shit. I rounded, panicked, and then 3 boats snuck past me. The wind had picked up even more, and I was way out of practice for safe down-wind sailing. We capsized. I did not finish the second race.

When I got back to the dock to rotate, my team member was SO excited and asked how I finished that second race. I was dripping wet, and was like...uh...then it dawned on me. All the people on shore had seen me round in first, but they didn't see me capsize! An ideal situation! I was honest and told him, but it didn't matter. For the rest of the day I had people commenting on me getting to the mark first. It felt good.

I STILL GOT IT. Somewhere.


  1. you KNOW i have to comment on this lol! as a crew i just have to say that i felt a lot of pressure to do well and to help make those hard decisions, mostly self-imposed b/c my skipper was so laid back and b/c of my own competitive nature. but interesting to hear your impression. may be a experience thing.

    good for you for the rounding, that's so awesome!! who crewed for you? did you sail all the races?

  2. Dude- I have to defend Crews. Not 'good sailors' my ass! At UW, we were expected (obviously not now) to sight the line, decide where to setup, relay coming puffs headers/footers--basically make half the 'hard tactical racing decisions.' AND if we did poorly--blamed for it while not getting credit for a win. Definitly not just along for the ride. Wasn't the only All-college sailor named from the NW in recent years a crew? Sorry- just wanted to point out that crews can be good sailors too!

  3. This post took longer for me to write than ANY of my other posts. I knew I was going to get this feedback from both of you, and its clear that I didn't do a good job of getting my feelings/point across. I am in NO way saying that a crew doesn't matter. I'm not saying there are not good crews. And, Lea, I'm not sure where I said crews weren't good sailors?

    I'm just saying that there are so many times I wish I could have been able to be in that role (but my body size always prevented that) and I had to rise above those feelings of jealousy and do my own thing.

    I do want to point out one thing though...a crew on their very first day (with no experience) can hop into a boat with an experienced skipper, and they will still win the race. If you flip that around, a person on their very first day jumping into the skipper spot with a very experienced crew would have a near impossible time winning a race.

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  6. at least she said we were cute, lea!! :)

    there must've been different standards for UO crew - BURN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  9. Dude.. you've always had it.. heart you!