Originally posted by Jane Fossett at slsailing.com on March 17, 2009
I have quite a bit to tell you about what went on, so I decided to break this article into two pieces. Today I’ll tell you about the buildup prior to race day, and then In Part II of this story I’ll tell you what happened on the water. I’ve also posted the Race Results and an Awards Ceremony transcript here.
Mowry Scores with Spring Sprint (Part I)
I mentioned a few weeks ago that Mowry Sprints was more than ”just another boat race.” It was actually the first inter-club SL Sailing challenge in over two years. There was concern whether aggressive competition between the clubs would be the best format to promote SL Sailing.
Saxxon Domela, Resident Janitor of MBYC, wasn’t concerned. He felt a friendly rivalry between the clubs could add to the fun of a regatta, and that energy might fuel more sailing events for the remainder of the racing season. According to the rules he established for the competition, each club could sponsor one Tako Challenge Team in both Male and Female divisions. A series of racing heats would decide the best male and female team, and those two teams would then compete against each other in a final match for the Regatta championship.
Commodore Domela’s interclub race announcement sparked a good deal of discussion and enthusiasm in the clubs, and probably a little confusion and anxiety as well. Nearly all the seasoned sailors interested in racing were members of multiple clubs; the Sprints’ format made these skippers declare allegiance to one home team over another. Commodore Domela did not see this as a problem, since in his view most sailors had a particular affinity for one club or another, and the skippers could make their own decisions in order to fill up the slots on their racing dance card. Besides, the ability to mix up sides in a competition and even switch teams is usually considered an important element of good sportsmanship. Mowry Sprints was intended to be a celebration of club sailing, not a showdown.
Be that as it may, the Mowry Sprints’ call for each club to certify two challenge boats proved a great excuse to get winter-weary skippers out of the bar and out on the water again. They dusted off their venerable dinghies and dug deep in Inventory, upgrading their old Tako gestures to the “active” Inventory roster. Several clubs then organized practice sessions and qualifying races in an effort to whittle down their fleet to male and female teams that would fly the club pendant on March 7.
The qualifying rounds turned out to hold a surprising surfeit of fun and good humor, where flashes of sailing pyrotechnics alternated with good-natured goof ups. Nantucket Yacht Club actually looked pretty good for a few minutes as the fleet of contenders met the first night for a practice round. A large number of boats converged on the start line to vie for a spot on the NYC team. However, as soon as the start gun fired any lofty expectations NYC’s Race Directors may have had were brought back to reality. The fleet raised sail, charged fearlessly across the line… and never came back. Every one of the skippers that evening apparently got lost on the practice course and ended up wandering around Blake Sea.
To their credit, Starboards Yacht Club projected a more organized public image. Chad Sawson built enthusiasm and recruited sailors, announcing a series of qualifying heats on the same Mowry race course that would be used for the Sprints competition.
That seemed like an exceptionally wise approach, particularly for a Texan. Sadly, however, uncontrollable forces of nature conspired to trip-up the SYC team too. During one critical qualifying session each and every SYC contender on the course crashed headlong into the linear abyss euphemistically called a ‘sim-crossing’ while their frail boats tried to make it around the notoriously lag-enriched Hepurn waterways. Eventually things worked out however. The competition fleet began to take shape, with Co-Commodore Aislan Keynes leading Hollywood’s SYC squad, while Chad assumed responsibility as the top Race Official for the event.
Other clubs took a somewhat more relaxed approach. As the final race day neared, I called up Commodore Epicurus Emmons asking who Fisher’s Island Yacht Club had selected to represent them. Without skipping a beat, Epi brightly replied ” Mowry Sprints… What’s that? … Sure we’ll race! You have a landmark? ”
A couple weeks before the regatta, Saxxon Domela made a surprise announcement: Jamey Sismondi would represent Mowry in the Men’s Tako competition. I’ve mentioned Jamey before, noting he was a sailing legend of Homeric proportions. Given the history and tradition of Mowry sailing, given Jamey’s standing in interclub competitions from the dark past, and given the fact the Tako hadn’t had an upgrade since Jamey sailed for Greece in the Great Trojan Regatta 2,300 Linden-years ago, Saxx’s news was a real eye-opener.
The NYC Steering Committee quickly called an emergency meeting to consider how to respond to this potentially catastrophic development. Exactly what was discussed in that session must remain a secret between the NYC steering committee, The Illuminati, and the Yale Skull and Bones Club. However, when the meeting ended the six members of Steerage descended down the long passageway to the caverns beneath the club, where digital permafrost keeps club treasures in suspended animation. Each member pulled a secret key from the gold chain around their neck and inserted it into the giant freezer chest contained therein, and while saying the Lord’s Prayer backwards, they released the locks and threw open the massive door that sealed the frigid crypt below.
Cynthia Centaur went into action next, throwing a switch to overclock her laptop’s cpu, producing enough heat to melt years of ice and reanimate NYC’s secret weapon: Cory Copeland, the antidote to Jamey Sismondi. The annals of the Second Life Sailing Association were replete with tales of their epic confrontations, and like a chapter out of the comic book version of Rashomon, Mowry Sprints seemed on a course to unleash primordial forces from a dark past to do battle one more time.
To ease the transition from icy blackness to the warm breezes of SL Spring sailing, Cory chose an old friend, Chaos Mandelbrot as tactician, for Chaos had a deep intuitive understanding of not only of the Flying Tako but also the Antarctic clime.
With some gravity I must repeat that the details of these events shall remain secret for all time.
I can’t say what other clubs did, but I assume it was fairly similar to NYC’s approach.
My comments above might suggest that the buildup to the sprints increased partisanship in the clubs and magnified the differences across sailing groups, but nope! That did not happen. In fact, during the last two or three days before the Sprints Regatta sailors convened on the water for the ultimate battle, the actions of many sailors gave striking evidence that, above and beyond all else, they considered themselves united together as the community. The clubs were just one aspect of that bigger meaning.
Julia Ceres was one such example. Julia’s has been a major presence at MBYC and one of their key Race Directors. She is also widely known and respected by sailors at clubs scattered all across the grid. As the Sprints Regatta approached, she offered to come to NYC and assist Head Race Director Gemma Vuckovic and Commodore François Jacques put together a Challenge team. Julia did a pretty great job running the series of practice sessions and qualifying rounds. Shortly before the Regatta, however she gave the NYC staff a big smile, switch T-shirts and raised the Mowry pennant high. The Race Director who helped get NYC up to speed was now going home to sail for Mowry. It was a great image and a remarkable demonstration of style and substance.
But hey, Julia wasn’t the only one who reached out across the clubs. In fact she was just one example of the community spirit that seemed to emanate from all the clubs and the sailors representing them. Glorfindel Arrow somewhat humorously push this to a far limit in the Mowry Sprints: on the day of the Regatta, his name appeared twice on the challenger list. Glorfindel had qualified to sail in the Men’s Tako division as a Challenge boat not only for Tradewinds Yacht Club, but for NYC as well!
This didn’t bother Glorf… he is a sailor, and a good one. He was proud to fly as many pennants as would fit on that little dinghy.
To his credit, it didn’t bother Saxon Domela one bit either. From Saxx’s vantage point, the important thing was to unite sailors in a celebration of pride, spirit and competition. The messy rules stuff could be figured out later.
Tasha Kostolany would not to be outdone by Glorfindal’s show of communal sailing spirit. If Glorf could sail for two clubs, then Tasha could transcend the arbitrary gender distinctions that split up the divisions in the race. Tasha decided to sail in the Men’s Division. Saxx just shrugged and smiled.
Finally, you remember that frostbite sailor Cory Copeland? The cofounder and first Commodore of the new Nantucket Yacht Club? Well, after many late nights spent in a self-imposed intense crash-course to reactivate those neural circuits wired for SL racing, Cory got the news that Jamey Sismondi was not going to be able to make the race. So what did Cory do? How did he repay the elders of the NYC Coven for graciously releasing him from cold storage? He paid NYC back in the best possible way. He handed the tiller to Chaos and Glorf, and adroitly jumped into the slot reserved for Jamey. That day Cory sailed for Mowry, for Saxx, for Jamey, and for all SL Sailing.
I told you a couple weeks ago that Jamey and Cory were among that rare breed of SL Sailing Giants. On Saturday Cory proved it once again. His simple selfless gesture showed us what it’s all about, and how it’s done.
It almost made thawing him out worthwhile…
[— to be continued—]