It’s the last race of the big regatta and all you need to win is to stay in first place. The wind has picked up and every line on the boat is tight. You and your skipper put on your spray tops and you tighten your harness. Before the starting sequence begins, your skipper sails up wind. You crank in the gib and get yourself out on the wire, then lower yourself so you are parallel to the water. You need to keep your balance while waves slam against your legs and back.
The five-minute horn blows; you come in from the wire and head down to the starting line. Your skipper checks the line, and the boat is really favored. At four minutes, the committee boat throws up the black flag. All you think about is that your boat better not be over the line within one minute of the start or you and your skipper will be disqualified.
The one-minute horn blows and every other boat is fighting for the best spot on the line. Your skipper tries to stay away from the confusion but close enough to the committee boat to get a good start. You look at your watch, push past the feeling of butterflies in your stomach, and jump out on the wire. Three, two, one ... the gun blows and your boat shoots out and the two of you are out in front of the fleet.
Now, the only thing you are focused on is keeping the lead. While you’re on the wire, a gust comes and you lower yourself. You try to keep your body as straight as possible, and you’re practically gliding over the water.
You are the first boat to the windward mark and as you round, your skipper pulls up the spinnaker. You use every ounce of power to push out the spin pole. As the boat starts to heal, you grab the sheet and get back out on the wire. Your arm, hand and fingers begin to cramp because you are holding the spin sheet so tight. Thankfully you see the gybe mark and know you have to gybe soon. You tell yourself not to mess up or you could flip the boat.
“Yup, let’s go.” These exact words are said by you and your skipper right before every gybe mark in every race you have ever sailed. You’re ready, so you come in from the wire and your skipper rounds the mark. You duck under the boom, hand the spin sheet back to your skipper, change the pole, take back the spin sheet, and get back out on the wire. All went smoothly, and you think, Good job. Now relax. The worst is over. This feels like the longest leg of the race and you begin cramping up again, but the second time is always ten times worse. You fight the pain and try to think only of the finish.
As you approach the leeward mark, you take down the pole, pull the spinnaker down, and stuff it into the bag as fast as possible. Your skipper rounds the mark, you pull in the gib, and of course, you’re back out on the wire. Your arms are so tired you feel like calling it quits, but this race is all that counts. You pull together all your energy and focus on the win.
Those butterflies insist on making another appearance as you come to the finish line. You take a look back and see a boat gaining. The two skippers fall into a tacking duel and you’re going wire to wire as fast as you can. One last tack will send you over the line.
You tack at the same time as the other boat. You know it’s close, but you are so focused on getting back on the wire that you don’t see the other boat. All you hear is the committee boat blow a gun. You take a deep breath and the few seconds it takes the committee boat to announce the winning sail number feels like 10 minutes. “2027,” a voice booms over a megaphone. “You’ve won the race and the regatta.”
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.