It has been quite some time since I have posted here which is a shame but since the spring I have stumbled upon quite a few sailing scenarios that really are upfront in all our consciousness these days. There have been two notable fatalities in our sport already, mirroring 2012, one inshore with the America’s Cup and the unfortunate loss of the wonderful sailor Bart Simpson, then the loss of another family man during the LA-San Diego Islands Race.

I am starting this post off this way to place in juxtaposition to the other highlights of my reporting thus far in 2013. Today, the article I wrote about the 1930 S&S yawl Dorade winning the Transpac Race after more than a 70-year absence lead the sports section of The New York Times. What a fantastic story this has been. Dorade literally launched Olin Stephens’ career into the stratosphere, and this year, with an exceptional crew, driven owner and a good bit of luck, they won the whole shootin’ match. These are the happy stories in our sport and there are many.

To maintain perspective in sailing, I try and remember the idea that Bernard Moitessier, the great French circumnavigator, spoke of which was that the ocean has remained the same for thousands of years (save the trash and containers floating around). We are small and appreciating the massiveness and agelessness of the ocean, and the fact that we can physically interact with this fascinating environment, is one of the more special experiences a human can have.

Loss of life and ecstasy on the ocean are so closely associated, and it is important to be honest with the allure of risk that many sailing experiences offer. I was reminded of this clearly rounding both Catalina and San Clemente after sunset in the fateful Islands Race this spring aboard Dorade. I mentioned to my crew mate as we changed sails in a heaving westerly wind and swell with the rocky shore of Catalina as our lee shore, “It wouldn’t take much to go wrong for us to end up on the rocks right now.” Shortly after I said that, I leaned forward over a sail on the foredeck to secure a sail tie and when I stood up and began walking back, I saw on the deck my harness tether lying there, still attached to the jack line, laid out perfectly without being attached to my person. I pointed it out to someone and they just said, “wow.”

Along that bumpy, treacherous stretch of shore a lightweight Columbia 32 was near our track working hard to keep from broaching as we all were. Over the next few hours, Dorade’s crew was on call to lend assistance to what turned out to be the exact scenario that was playing in my head during our sail change: one small mistake, one slip and things go from exhilarating to deadly.

The balance of Dorade‘s absolutely spectacular and significant win this week in the same piece of ocean (can you think of another boat who has that much history to recreate? Let me know!) with what could happen is partially why we take on these crazy, exciting adventures. My take away, certainly, after seeing how much fun the Dorade crew had fishing and drinking wine all the way to Hawaii, is that we shouldn’t let fear overcome our enjoyment of the sport. Yes, it’s a fine line. But where would we be without it?

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