October 1, 2008
“I wanna see you guys capsizing.”
I was at a sailing clinic in the Columbia River Gorge. The Gorge is one of the windiest places in North America. There is often twenty-five knots of wind. That is a lot of wind to sail in.

The clinic I was at was called the Ripple Clinic. It was a clinic with one of the world’s best coaches for the kind of boat I sail. His nickname is Argy, (I never learned his real name) and he is from Argentina but coaches a U.S.VI. sailing team. When he sailed this kind of boat, called an Optimist or Opti, he went to the World Championships and got first or second. The team he coaches goes to the World Championships every year I think.

Anyway, back to the story. We were at lunch in the middle of the first day of sailing, we had just come in from sailing in tons of wind and only a few of us had capsized, (including me). He was just telling us that the wind was picking up, which made me very nervous. Once we finished lunch we walked back to our race boats and pushed them into the cold water through the gravel on the beach. We could tell by now that the wind was tons stronger, the waves were huge and the trees on shore were bent over.

We then climbed into our boats and pushed off. Once we were out there we were having the time of our lives. The wind was at twenty-five knots and the waves were five feet tall. We were just going back and forth for a while. Then we went downwind. As soon as my boat was pointed downwind I was flying off the waves. Then I caught a wave and the front of my boat went underwater. I was launched ten feet because the back of the boat was not underwater and I was in the back of the boat. I was very annoyed by pitch-poling that violently. I then had to bail out my boat, which was hard to do because the front of my boat was full of water but not the back end. That made it very awkward to bail. As soon as I finished bailing my boat I decided to follow the group and go downwind again. I later found out that that was a bad mistake.

A few minutes later I capsized it was very aggravating because I was on the side of the boat that went into the water first, therefore the boat and the sail fell on me and I had to swim out from under them. The water was freezing cold and all I was wearing was a swimsuit, shirt, and life jacket.

While I was bailing my boat for the second time, the rest of the group sailed past me going upwind. I then finished bailing and followed them. Since the wind was so strong I had my sail in completely the wrong position for going upwind just so I control the boat better and not capsize. The cold water flying off the waves and hitting my face was really agitating. Since I wasn’t going fast enough to have my boat tipping away from me, I was tipping the boat towards me with my weight and when a wave would come it would splash a lot of water into my boat. A couple times the waves completely filled my boat and I had to bail it out again. After that happened a few times I decided to try going faster. So, I got my sail set and soon I was going really fast. I got into the very back of my boat so I wouldn’t pitch-pole, and started going upwind. Then I capsized. Then I capsized again, and again, and many more times. Every time that happened my boat and I would drift away from the way we were trying to go because the waves would push us that way. My knees and feet were torn and bloody from kneeling in the bottom of the boat while bailing.

The wind was loud and the waves were cold. My feet and knees hurt. My legs were cramped from being in my boat for so long.

I was trying as hard as I could to go upwind. The rest of the group had already gone upwind and were getting close to the beach where we launched from and where we were going out of the water. If they got in and I didn’t I would be the only one out on the water. I was going as fast as I could upwind but whenever a wave came along it would fill my boat with water and I would have to bail again. Every once and a while I would capsize again. Along the way I saw several other people in the clinic. They had capsized and were now just bailing until they could sail again.

Finally, I saw a motor boat coming up the river towards me. As I saw that I filled my boat with water again. This time my boat was actually under water several inches because the airbags were losing air. Now I couldn’t bail because My boat was underwater. I started waving my arms and they came to me. They asked me if I needed a tow and I told them I did they then took the sail out of my boat and lay it down in there’s. They tied my bowline to there boat and towed me to the beach.

After that whole ordeal I felt very nervous about sailing on the river again. But, I came back the next two days and sailed again. On those two next days I did much better, I only capsized a few times. I even came back that weekend for a regatta. Overall, it was a very good experience because I learned a lot, even if it wasn’t very enjoyable at the time it was happening.

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