Anarchist Mike Robinson shares his experiences at the Robbie Pierce One Design Regatta, a terrific able and disabled event..
I was sailing with Matt Chao, a sightless sailor and his guide, Richard Kaseler. It turns out that Richard
and I grew up sailing in Western Long Island Sound and sailed in the same races, competing against
each other without knowing it. Shared lots of good sea tales over the weekend.
Friday dawned clear and typically Long Island Summer windless. We had a series of practice starts and
one practice race in which we finished third so we were feeling pretty good about our chances.
A word here about Matt and Richard. They have been sailing together for many years and have
developed a level of communication and trust that is truly inspiring to watch. Richard functions as
Matt’s eyes and Matt has developed a marvelous sense of how to sail the boat without seeing anything.
He explains that it’s due to his other senses being better developed over the years and, in addition, not
being distracted by any visual intrusions.
The result is that he can sail the boat upwind in a totally
amazing way, just by the feel of the wind on his face and the angle of heel. Richard calls tactics and
helps Matt steer up to, and around marks. (More about that later)
We were expecting relatively windy conditions on Saturday, with more on Sunday as a cold front
passed through, so when we met on Saturday, and were greeted with this,
We were a bit bummed. However by race time, a southwesterly had begun to fill and we were off
racing. The wind increased during the day and by the end of racing we were under flag Juliet (reefed
main, no jib upwind, jib OK downwind), with gusts in the high teens.
At the end of the day, we had an 8, 2, 13 and 4th.
Not exactly consistent but we showed good speed and
Matt could really handle the chop that was building. So, we were satisfied with the day, enjoyed a dark and stormy on the porch and I went home to care for some other tasks.
Sunday show prospect for some real wind with predictions of low 20s level with low 30s in gusts, so
we fouled up and headed out, under reefed main at the instructions of the committee. We were greeted
with mid to high teens that morning and the RC set relatively short 4 leg courses in the interest of
getting several races in. The current was setting East and, at close to .5 kts was a big factor in rounding
the weather mark. You would tack on the layline and be overstanding. By the time you reached the
mark, there were two more tacks necessary and you had to squeeze into the procession of starboard
tackers. We hit the weather mark in three of the four races and the offset in one of them, so our good
position was quickly falling apart.
Those circles really lose boats when they’re packed this closely
together. Our fifth place tie on Saturday quickly became an 11th with Sunday finishes of 15,7,15 and 11.
We were bummed because Matt had shown that he could really handle the chop that had developed and
when I miscalled us being able to clear a starboard tacker, that cost also.
The really good news for me is that I was able to make two new mates in Richard and Matt and even
though soaked by the time we came in, had an absolute blast. The intensity with which these disabled
sailors attack races make even the most aggressive of us look like shrinking violets. If you think that
you have it hard, you need to sail with and against these guys. I’m absolutely in awe of them. If you
ever have the opportunity to sail in one of these regattas, jump at the chance. You’ll come away a
Props to to all the folk at Larchmont and American Yacht Clubs for organizing and running an absolutely top notch event. The committee work was flawless with square lines and great
communication, shorside activities terrific and Buttons was everywhere organizing and keeping
everything running smoothly.