Guest Blog Post by CSC Volunteer – Chuck Sugent
True North IV
Anyone who has owned a boat, or has bummed a ride on some rich friend’s boat, has at some time in their lives dreamed of America’s Cup 12-meter racing.
In the spring of 2010, my wife and I spent a random rambling tour of the Caribbean. While in Sint Maarten, we learned that some enterprising guy had procured four retired 12-meter yachts, for commercial tour purposes. They’d stage open ocean match races, skippered by licensed captains, on true 12-meters (before the 12-meter formula allowed multi-hulls and other insane derivations thereof).
Paying public crews are assigned specific winch positions, based on strength and/or experience. I found myself in the center well of Canada’s True North IV, working a massive grinder, teamed up with a beefy Aussie bloke with an inappropriate number of tattoos. From my portside position, I was close by the skipper, with whom I quickly developed an efficient working relationship. This became increasingly important when it was clear that my Aussie mate was to spend most of the voyage chumming over the side.
The match race occurred in erratic 15 knots of wind, in a choppy sea, with spray drenching everyone on board. The result was, of course, a photo finish. Post-finish, the crew relaxed from their assignments and enjoyed some well-earned refreshment. Rum is a wonderful elixir for the soul.
Having kept a running conversation with the skipper, he was apparently satisfied enough with my knowledge, experience, and hopefully skill, that he asked out of the blue, “Would you like to take her in?” Imagine my response.|
After five minutes of instruction on the nuances of 12-meter piloting, we swung around to a starboard close reach course back to Sint Maarten. We were trimmed fairly upright when I stood in at the helm. After another few minutes of feeling the boat, I asked the skipper, “What kind of speed can we get out of her on this course?” His nonchalant response was, “Go ahead. Find out.” Imagine my response again.
I pointed her up a couple of clicks, she heeled a few degrees, and a permanent grin creased my face. We were hammering at a speed I’d never imagined within my control, when I looked forward at my crew mates. Most of them had concerned expressions at seeing someone other than their skipper at the helm, particularly sporting a goofy sunburned permanent grin.
Upon entrance to the outer harbor, I relinquished the helm the skipper. I had felt uncommonly confident at the helm, but I’m not foolish enough to think I could guide this rocket to its mooring ball in a busy harbor.
An hour later, after a dip in the milky turquoise waves at the beach and a few beers with my new mates, I reflected on the experience . . . for a very long time. Ten years on, every time I’m near big water, I still feel the power and the throb of the rudder aboard True North IV.