This weekend I arrived at the US Sailing Center in Martin County for the 2014 C420 Midwinter Championships and as I began to get my 420 ready for the weekend I was barraged by friends from all over the country coming up to me to say hi and see how things are going. Sailing really does make friends for life!
For more than 1/2 of my life I have been sailing. I began sailing at the learn to sail program or Sail Camp at my home club of The Cleveland Yachting Club in Rocky River, Ohio, making friends at the club and learning to love the sport. My sister was racing Lasers at the time and so on weekends my dad would load us into the Suburban and take us to clubs around Lake Erie for her to compete in the Travelers Series regattas in I-LYA.
Since I was just learning to sail, I would get to the venues and walk around to see the boats and watch the kids rigging and getting ready to sail. I quickly met a large group of kids my age and they were all sailing the Optimist Dinghy, the boat that I was learning to sail. They befriended me and asked me to help them rig and get ready to go racing. After they got off the water, the Opti kids (mostly from Hoover Sailing Club and Sandusky Sailing Club at the time) all came over to hang out with me. By the middle of the summer, the kids were all asking me when I was going to start racing and telling me how much fun it would be. By the end of the summer, I had sailed in my first regatta with all my new sailing friends, friends that I would quickly learn would be friends for life.
Progressing into the regional and then national stage of sailing in the Optimist, I continually met new sailors and made more friends. Friends from all over the country that loved to do exactly what I loved…to race Opti’s. I made friends from Detroit and Erie, PA, from New England and New York and even from across the lake in Canada! Each time I went to a regatta I met new friends, learned more about racing and had even more reasons to go to another regatta.
By the time I sized out of the Optimist, I was sailing at USODA regattas almost every month of the year. I loved the competition but also loved to see my friends and to talk to them about where they had been, what they were doing and to explore their clubs and their area of the country! Most of the time when we went to a regatta, my dad and I would stay an extra day or two to explore and learn about the city or see some of their attractions, so that was a great experience and I would always ask my local friends what we should do or see after the regatta.
Making the decision to move into a small but highly competitive multihull class was a great choice for me. The boats are amazing and more fun than I have ever had on the water. The down side is that the regattas are relatively small and are mostly comprised of only a few teenagers and some adults that are sailing catamarans. I love it and would not give it up for the world, but coming to Jensen Beach this weekend has reminded me how important my sailing friends for life are to me and how great it is to see everyone at a regatta and catch up on what is going on in everyone’s lives.
No, the boatpark is not this empty with a 100 boat 420 regatta going on. There are boats and people everywhere you look. The excitement, the laughter and the anticipation of the competition are all familiar signs of a good time with great friends for life. I guess that I am not shocked that almost everyone here at the regatta I know from my Opti days, but I just had forgotten how great it is to see everyone and how amazing the friendships that I had fostered so early in my sailing career truly stick and last through the changes in our lives. Even better are the new friends that I can make with sailors that I didn’t know before, some of them only starting sailing when they got to highschool. It is great to know that I will continually meet new people and make new friends through this sport.
I don’t sail 420’s much. I haven’t been on one in over a year and that was only the third time I had sailed one in my life. I am not at this regatta looking to be at the top of the fleet. I am sailing with a good friend from New England and we are here to sail our best but to have fun the entire weekend as we get to hang out with all our friends. The racing is important, it is like the social glue that bonds all sailors together, but the time off the water…both before and after racing that makes being in Jensen Beach so great this weekend. We can talk, hang out and since we are all older and driving now, we can go do things in the evening and just have fun away from the boatpark. Kind of like adding a new dimension to these relationships that will further bond us as friends for life.