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A Race to Remember by Becky Sylvester

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

It was race day, ten o’clock and the wind was already coming out of the west. With the wind up this early any true sailor knew it was going to blow by 3:00 when the horn for the beginning of the race would sound. Time to get ready and find a willing crew to partake in a sailing adventure. Learning that Mason was sailing with Taddy Dann meant that Ron Neal was available but was he willing? After some persuasion saying “Of course we won’t tip over and you’ll be fine” I had my crew.

Looking out onto the river from the Blockhouse I could see the wind was beginning to get even stronger. I needed another volunteer (Guinea pig). Drausin Wulsin a mere fourteen-year-old, had been taking sailing lessons from me as I had just begun offering lessons to the kids in the community. Being a trusting lad, he enthusiastically became a willing second crew.

As two forty-five arrived, the rig preparation finished, crew collected and on board, we began sailing to the starting line. The wind was really starting to howl, white caps abound, and water came spraying over the deck. Being skipper in these cases is the best as the water hits the first then second crew before the skipper or helmsman. (There were so few women skippers at that time that helmsperson was not even a concept).  Eight boats crossed the start after the final gun was fired and the race was on. The course was Walker, Trap, Agate, Home. Agate was an old buoy by Agate island, Vail camp, off Campment D’ours.

We had a fair start and headed windward to Walker, my crew leaning back hard as I continuously played with the main sheet. We managed to keep upright and come around Walker in second place behind the Gawthrop boat. Following them downwind to Trap we noticed how much their boom would yaw up and down as the winds would catch the sails speeding them across the white caps. Creating a continuous dialogue of “Did you see that, and OMG!”. Rounding Trap rock was a jib situation and, in this wind, an exceedingly difficult and scary situation. We watched the Gawthrops begin their jib when the wind caught their mainsail, slamming it from one side to the other. We watched the mast break with a huge crack flipping the boat over in seconds. Then We were upon the buoy, lines flew, the sail flung from starboard to port, dodging around the Gawthrop boat, OMG we made it. We relaxed for a minute when a giant gust came and FLIP, we were over. Two boats are over, bodies are in the water, boats are sailing past.             I right the sailboat as my crew begins to swim for the committee boat. Instantly I yell “No you Don’t, get back on this boat, we are finishing this race!!!!!” They look at me like I am crazy which in hinds' sight I agree. Unbelievably they listen and crawl back on the boat.

            The boat is half full of water, the bailors are open, and we are on a reach heading for Agate. Incredibly by the time we round Agate all the water has gone and we are off again. Up ahead is Mason and Taddy holding down their boat for dear life. We are really cruising now! We catch up to Mason’s boat and as they look to watch us pass, a gust comes and Flip, they are over!            Miraculously we manage to pass one more boat and finish in a Glorious Third Place!!              Please Note: This race results in ending the racing sailing career of Mason Phelps, Ron Neal, and Taddy Dann (who could blame them) and beginning the magnificent sailing and racing career of Drausin Wulsin who goes on to sail for the Yale sailing team, becoming one of the best sailors on the lake and is our present NCYC Commodore.


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