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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

February 15, 2009 - Letter to Our Crew

phang nga bay regatta image
Standing Out

Reflecting on Phang Nga Bay Regatta

Dear Crew,

Two weeks ago we completed a week of competition in the Phang Nga Bay Regatta.

We placed third in a class of 5 yachts; squarely in the middle, mediocre some would say.

I don’t.

No, we didn’t win and we only beat two boats. As each of you saw with your own eyes and ears, and know, I was deeply disappointed. That is putting is lightly. I wanted badly to win in this regatta as I always do in any regatta. I know each of you wanted to as well otherwise you could find other, more pleasant, ways of sailing than spending a week on a hard deck in light to non-existent winds and blistering heat taking orders from me.

But we swallow our disappointment after time, we let it go, and then we can look back and assess our actual achievement.

wingssail image-shannon
On The Podium

Each of you can be proud of your performance; you are a team and a good one. There were no crew failures or mistakes the whole week. You were excellent. There is nothing more a captain can ask than that the crew is ready and prepared to execute any order. There was nothing I asked that you didn’t do with flair. Of all the images from this regatta which stick in my mind the one I most, and will always, remember is the short leg on day three when they had moved a yellow leeward mark to about ½ mile from the black windward mark and in about six minutes you got the kite up, dropped the jib, jibed the kite twice, got the jib re-rigged and back up and got the kite down and rounded the leeward mark with speed on and in good trim. That was top notch, you’re great. Probably nobody else saw it, but I did. Superb!

wingssail image-fredrick roswold
Crew Work

So the crew was not the problem.

Nor was the boat speed. All week we had excellent boat speed. I don’t mean that we were able to keep up with Yo!2 or Katsu; they are faster boats and they owe us time, heaps of it, so we shouldn’t. No, I mean that we felt fast through the water at all times. I never felt like we were bogged down and unable to move. For a 30 year old liveaboard boat which, even after all the weight reduction we went through, still weighed 2-3 times as much as the boats we were sailing against, this too was excellent. So the sails and the bottom and the trimming were all fine.

The boat speed was not the problem.

Nor was preparation. I took a big chance by leaving all of our spare parts and most of our tools back at Yacht Haven and any number of failures could have ended our regatta. But they didn’t. The whole week we had no failures, not even any minor ones. All of the sails were perfect the whole week. This, itself ranks as an achievement; preparation was flawless. Judy and I will take credit for that, with some help from some of you.

Navigation was also excellent. Even before the first start, in the chaos of the whole fleet heading out to go racing, Judy’s cool head and care to watch the chart kept us from a repeat of last year when we hit the bank right outside of the marina before the first race. Two other boats did hit it this year but we didn’t. Nor did we make any other navigational errors. Again, top notch.

It is tempting to blame the weather conditions, and in fact these were contributing factors on the last day certainly and probably on a couple of other days as well. But even with the last day, there were other boats which managed to do well in the dying breeze so I don’t blame the weather.

No, in the end it comes down to one thing: We just didn’t get it done. Or I just didn’t get it done. Whatever. You go out, you try, and you either succeed or you fail. There is no middle ground and there is no doubt that I would be happy to take the credit if we won, so by rights I need to accept the responsibility when we lose.

I do.

But do I feel bad about it? Should you?

No. Not at all. I can take losing and we can all have pride in the fact that we did our best and we lost honourably. I feel fine about it.

And in fact we should remember the words of one American President, Theodore Roosevelt:

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

So, we’ll take credit for going there and striving and make no apologies for losing. We chose a tough class and we stood up well and have nothing to be ashamed of. You can be sure that Yo!2 and Katsu were counting the minutes after they finished wondering if we would take them.

And even if we got no recognition from anyone, which we didn’t, we ourselves know how well we did and no one can take away that accomplishment.

image-matt c larsen
Our Crew


Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. I know there is room for improvement and I would love another chance, or five more chances, to do better. There is a saying in racing: “There is always next year.” Well, in our case next year’s Phang Nga is probably not in the cards. Logistics just might be too much. But if I had the chance to race with you all again, against the same competition, I’d do it. Judy agrees.

Click here to see all the images.

Thank You again,

Fred & Judy, SV Wings

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