Life can be a search for identity. Who am I? What can I accomplish? How will I be remembered? I came to the Newport-Bermuda Race the hard way- by doing other things first and discovering later where I really belong. My pursuit before competitive sailing was motorsports and I went about as far as you can go before turning pro only to discover that something was missing. Where was the esprit de corps in a solo, dog eat dog sport? Where was the beauty of blue sky and really blue water? Not around asphalt. Where was the fresh breeze? Not at a race track. Those are things an ocean racer yearns for from within himself- or so I found out. I started sailing, competing, and ocean passage making and found that inner desire for the sea that isn't explainable unless you have it.
Then, there's the personal side. There were great men that I had the good fortune to meet, some ever so briefly, who were veterans of this race- Rich Schulman, Howard Eisenberg, Walt Alder - they each tried to tell me something about themselves and what they do and why. And then it clicked. I belong there- out there, with others of similiar mind and competitive spirit. So began the process of entering my first Bermuda Race and the centennial event seemed like a good one to shoot for. My theme became- "Why not?"
I started with X-Yachts, a proven winner and a beautiful machine, went to the factory and did the deligence of a responsible skipper who is ultimately responsible for both safety and performance. Next began crew selection- finding good people who bring various talents that sometimes they don't even know they have, and then get them to work together as a unit. Sometimes push, sometimes pull- but always with a target that they give all they are capable of and have fun doing it. I sought advice from experts, weighed equipment choices and navigational options, got all our measuring done (twice!), read a lot, made long lists, lost sleep on the details, and had a blast doing it all.
Finally came the race with the excitement of first timers. No one on the boat had done this race before and I think the only reason the organizers let us in was a very long letter I wrote detailing all the work that had gone into this endeavor before the application was even available. That work paid off handsomely. "American Girl" performed well- her 8 crew never stopped racing, survived the close quarters of a 37 foot boat, and had an experience they will never forget. You know you picked the right men when they roll tack 400 miles offshore in a 5 day race to save, maybe, 2 seconds. It was a beautiful sail too, with gentle rollers and soft winds- much appreciated by those of us in small boats. We finished respectfully for rookies- top 25% of the Lighthouse fleet and beat a lot of big boats with much more experienced crews.
It's not just pride over successful participation in this historic race that I treasure. For me,and I suspect for a lot of other captains and crew, it's about fulfilling some kind of destiny. It's about who we are. And if you really know who we are, you know we'll be back.