Thursday, September 15, 2005

Rio Grande Sailing Club, New Mexico sailing

From spring 2004 "Foghorn" newsletter:
Why I Patrick Petracca
I’ve been asked many times why I sail in so many club races. I don’t have the fastest boat on the lake. It does not matter to me where we finish or how we place. My sails certainly are not the newest or best performing. So why do I continue to participate in these races? When I first started sailing in club events it was to build basic sailing skills. I learned a great deal about sail trim and boat handling by watching so many boats leave us handily behind in our Catalina 22. We learned just how to cup our sails and where to find the wind by observing the position of other boats. Of course, there was no end to the free advice from better sailors, which I was glad to have.

Later, as my skills improved, I kept racing for an excuse to sail. I bought a bigger boat to improve the comfort level for the family while sailing and dockside. I took on the financial obligation of a slip in the lake not only for a place to keep my boat, but to support the marina & restaurant folks who have done so much for the club. It seems any excuse to go use that money draining toy helps to justify the expense. So I started entering more & more races. I went from one race a year to entering most regattas.

Now I continue to race and try not to miss any club events. I’ve built my skills to a comfortable level of enjoyment and developed the confidence that allows me to take a boat offshore without any hesitation. I’ve made dozens of friends and shared their fellowship on and off the water. I am truly happy with our boat and the level of forgiving performance it provides.

I firmly believe in supporting the club and it’s activities. My family and I have enjoyed the time spent on the water as some of the best shared together. We’ve learned how to work not only as a "crew" but also as a family and shared the rewards of relying on each other’s skills. We continue to learn our strengths and weaknesses and how best to cope with each individual’s moods. I am blessed that my wife truly enjoys sailing, whether racing or cruising. Our boys are learning skills and lessons that will hopefully make them better men and greater contributors to society. I have learned to be more patient, even if I have been reminded once or twice sailing is supposed to be fun. I strongly encourage all club members to enter races as often as possible. It is a wonderful opportunity to build your skills, make friends and become intimate with your boat and its sailing characteristics. Entering races supports the club’s programs and provides fellowship for all.


How to Get a Free Ride
Try showing up between 9:30 and 10:30 at a Skippers Meeting (Quality Inn or Damsite depending upon time of year) on a race Saturday to look for a crew spot. There's no real formal procedure, such as a sign up sheet or anything; you simply need to let some people such as the race committee, Larry Jessee and Patrick Petracca, and the boat skippers know that you're available and interested.

Matching of skippers and crews is an art and not an exact science. Some skippers are more competitive and are prefer sticking with existing crews to taking on a newcomer; but other skippers are shorthanded and are begging for more crew, even if it's just in the role of "rail meat" to help balance the boat. And some skippers don't even get to launch their boats if they don't have crew, so they have to themselves crew on someone else's boat. Other skippers race primarily for fun and improving their sailing skills and are quite happy to take on a newcomer who's willing to watch, listen, and learn.

Another place to learn is from the deck of the race committee boat; often the committee boat skipper could use help in keeping track of starting and finishing boats, start flags, and times. It's a very good bet that the race committee and the skippers will find a place for you on a boat somewhere if they know you need a ride. Also, sometimes one of the non-racing cruisers sails out to watch and maybe even "shadow" the racers for a bit and can take on a passenger/crew member. Occasionally we have a boat taking out a reporter or photographer.

Some of our skippers are particularly good about taking on and helping new crew get started. John Bristol, who lives with his wife Bonnie across the lake in Champagne Hills, for example, has brought in several new crew in recent years. Darold Rhodes is very good at making people comfortable with doing the things they were originally uncomfortable with doing. Sue and Rich Strasia have instructor credentials and have tremendous knowledge of sailing. Several other of our sailors also have great sailing knowledge, which might come as a surprise to people who don't know much about the New Mexico sailing scene.

So, show up with your goody bag (perhaps with sunglasses, sunscreen, hat, sailing or other gloves if you have them, a windbreaker/bit of wet weather wear depending on weather, bottle of water, maybe something to snack on, good footwear, etc.), and start meeting folks.


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