A funny thing happened courtesy of FaceBook.
A person I had not heard from in about 19 years contacted me about four or five days ago. He had been one of those people raised privileged and unconscious of it -- his father owned a cruising sailboat, was a member of a yacht club, and though the same unconscious opportunities offered by being raised in that environment that Malcolm Gladwell covers in his recent book "Outliers" -- by the time Chris was 19, he probably had close to 10,000 hours aboard ships.
In the time since I last say him, in between earning and losing a couple of fortunes (right now is a low point) he was also on the Courageous in 2005 for reclaiming the America's cup with what is now the "old lady" of 12-meter sailing.
He now is the Captain of America 2, another America's cup veteran, as one of the staff of The 12 Meter Yacht Development Foundation
. In essences, it is a non-profit that is still standing up as a way to fund the preservation of racing 12-meters that might otherwise go to a boneyard.
The basic "business model" that supports this ship, an older trawler, and soon the sister-ship #46 is that the foundation offers a day-sail on the ship to a non-profit that is doing a fund raising auction. There is a reserve set which is the amount that is expected to come back to the foundation -- anything over that is retained by the other non-profit. The foundation auctions netted about $250K for other non-profits last year, something less for themselves. This is important as the maintenance & mooring expenses are not insignificant for this type of ship.
The ship herself was worth the 5 hour round trip driving time. All aluminum, with even 1980's technology an amazing sight to behold for me. I was raised in a poor-man's sailing family -- my family spent years at the Rhode Island shore in a small boat yard in Avondale Rhode Island spending half the summer working on the hull of an old wood schooner, the other half sailing out to Block Island and back, or along other parts of Narragansett bay. All of the "trims" or adjustments to the ship had hydraulic assist or enough run of lines to out-of-sight blocks to give a huge, and necessary, mechanical advantage. There were adjustments even for the shape of the hull.
I arrived at the Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters in Greenwich, CT at about 2:30 in the afternoon. There is a small private dock there where the America 2 can take on guests and crew. First, one of the high-school aged volunteers arrived, a young man by the name of Sandy who goes to private school and was already "free" for the summer. He and I amused ourselves a bit with our personal observations of the Captain (he has not changed much :)) and bonded a bit waiting for his arrival.
The first part of the afternoon consisted largely of pulling all the "working materials" off of the boat to present a clean appearance for the expected
As for the trip, after week of iffy and miserable weather, the stars aligned and we got a sunny and beautiful afternoon. There were a total of 4 crew -- the Captain, myself and two high school sailors of decent sail experience. I a truly a novice on this sort of ship and was along strictly as muscle (though I found out how soft I had gotten over the last couple years -- more workout time for me going forward) and two guests. Unlike the usually company, the wife of this husband and wife team had contacted the foundation privately and paid some unknown sum for a private outing for his birthday. They are both professionals in the financial field that appear to have weathered the recent economic downturn well, largely from coming form the layer of management below those truly responsible for our economic ills.
Fortunately, the guests wanted to be in charge as really the minimum number of hands necessary for running that ship is 5. Between the two they counted as one. We headed out in very fickle winds, having a hard time catching a decent enough breeze to get much more than 4 knots. However, the quiet, the sea breeze and the green gray of the water was enough for me to be happy. However, as the sun started to fade a little, the shifty winds picked up and with some active tacking we caught some good winds and picked up to about 8 knots -- while 9 MPH might not seem a lot, it is plenty on a ship with that displacement.
The trip in yielded the perfect Long Island Sound sunset. Our guests were pleased on many different levels -- the mid-ride winds satisfied the husbands desire for speed, and our chatty-Kathy Captain shared everything from the boats history to 12-meter politics, connecting this short cruise to the history, tradition and excitement of 12 meter racing.
One of the amusing factoids that I learned is that the design restrictions on 12-meters currently INTENTIONALLY keep these from being faster then they are. The intent is that 12-m racing is supposed to be a tactician knife fight, where one error can lose a lead and engineering cannot save you from yourself.
The wind grew a bit chill on the way back in, but nothing bad enough to ruin an afternoon on the sound.
As a footnote, if netcurmudgeon
wants to get in touch, Chris would love to hear from the two of you -- I can provide contact info.