Gone with the wind aboard WhoDo?
The 48-foot sailboat rocked slightly against the waves Saturday afternoon in Northport Bay.
I stood on the dock near the public ramp of the G. Marsten Dame Marina and looked out at the WhoDo? On it’s side, a large decal held a long web address and Motovino logo.
It was only a few minutes before Erik Owen, owner of Motovino Cellars and sister enterprise Motovino Sails approached the dock in a white dinghy.
“You have any sailing experience?” he asked.
I checked my belt before answering. No notches for sailing.
“That’s too bad,” he said before motioning me aboard. “The race starts at one, but we have a pretty big handicap.
The handicap — 41 minutes and 58 seconds to be exact.
To prevent a vessel with such a high speed rating from taking the competition out of the race, we would be the last to start.
We waited a moment while Katherine Pollnow arrived at the dock to join us and meet her older brother on the boat. The three of us motored out to the former America’s Cup trainer and only one of eight 1D48s constructed. It was sleek and its carbon fiber frame reflected the sunlight.
The other three crew-members were waiting for us on board. Wasting little time, they offered a hand and helped us onto the WhoDo?
Owen handed me a GPS and asked me to keep track of the time while they raised the sails.
We motored away from the vessel’s mooring and the crew went to work. They worked furiously, pulling lines and coiling them around wenches. Their first effort failed, and the boom became tangled with the sail lines. They struggled momentarily before managing to free the boom and right our course.
Only a few minutes remained and it seemed we’d miss our start time for sure. Owen handed the helm over to 18-year-old Bill Schaff of Grand Rapids and he turned the boat around and aimed for the designated starting line.
I began to count down the seconds as our start time drew closer. 56... 57... 58.
Our start time passed, but we were only three seconds behind.
“Aright! Not bad!” Owen called out.
It became clear quickly that we weren’t going to catch the other crews. The outcome grew more definite as we failed to find the second mark after navigating the first. In fact we even sailed toward a kayak, mistaking its distant, orange glow for a buoy.
With nothing to win and even less to prove, Owen called the race and we headed for the boat’s mooring.
It was on our way back I got to experience sailing at its finest.
Schaff was finally catching the wind right and our boat-speed rose above the wind-speed, a feat Schaff and the crew openly celebrated.
The cheers were cut short by a sudden gust of wind that rocked the boat hard. Schaff made a brilliant save however and returned the boat’s course.
“Excellent save!” Owen exclaimed. “Now this is sailing.”
We didn’t come in first. We didn’t even finish the race, but that didn’t bother Owen in the least.
“Who cares,” he said. “That was a fun little sail.
“So who wants to go back out?”