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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sailing Into Paradise in Phuket

From December 6th through December 10th I felt like I was the luckiest sailor in the world, I was apart of the 25th Anniversary Phuket King's Cup Regatta, which is touted to be the premier sailing event of the Eastern Hemisphere.

It all started in 1991, when Jenny Dahms and I signed up for resident camp, where we would be learning sailing because my body couldn't handle the other options Girlscout Camp had to offer. I had to use a nebulizer, breathing machine, three times a day for I had really bad asthma induced by allergies. Thankfully, Jenny was patient and kind enough to be with that kid at camp. This was my first introduction to sailing and when I fell in love. Until we were "too old" for camp, Jenny and I would return year after year to have our week on the water.

Sadly, it would be 13 years until I would return to the sailing world in San Diego, California and meet Captian Mike Rafferty, a local middle school science teacher who taught sailing on the weekends for community college where my roommate Sara was taking classes. She told our other roommate, Jill, and I about her colleges hidden treasure, three months of Sunday sailing for only $30! It was such a steal that Jill and I quickly signed up and became some of Mike's favorite students, even though I stunk and still do at the terminology. My favorite classes were when I could take out a Laser (dinghy) by myself. I wouldn't have any one shouting at me words I couldn't remember and had the freedom to go as fast as I want, since the lean and tipping the boat scares a lot of people. Where as I love speed to much and therefore, I tipped the boat almost every other class but half of the fun was flipping it back over and pulling myself in the boat. Mike didn't seem to care because I never asked for help or wrecked a boat. I loved the wind, water, and the trill of it all.

Those days had to come to end, when Mike decided to retire and sail across the Pacific. He asked a few other students to join him for the first leg, which was the Baja Ha-Ha cruisers rally from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The timing sucked for me because I had final projects due in my master's program and Big Brothers Big Sisters Golf Marathon fundraiser, I needed to be ready for the next week. When Mike sailed into the sunset I never knew if I would see him again or not, but before left he made a huge mistake and told me I was always welcome on his boat.

In 2011, I called in that offer, but different circumstances awaited me. Mike had lost his boat and home of 15 years off the coast of Australia and was now living on land in Phuket, Thailand. I could not stay on his boat with him since it now longer existed, but I could stay with him in Nai Harn and he would try a place for me to crew in the annual King's Cup Regatta. The first few days of the regatta, I only watched while Mike helped crew his friends, Bill's boat. Mike told the other crew members about me, and slowly they worked on Bill to let me join them. The final push was paying 1000 baht ($30, but includes food and drinks) for an after race party where the crew would ask him again in front of him. I was nervous because, I hadn't been on a sailboat in over 2 year, never had crewed this size boat and yet alone in a race, but with Mikes confidence in me I could't pass up this amazing opportunity.

The next day, I woke up 6:30 poped some Dramamine in my mouth, just in case, and got myself stoked. As soon as I saw all the other crews lining up for the long tails to take them to their boat, I knew I was in for something good. The first day it wasn't as good as I hoped it would have been since we started on the wrong course and ended up in 4th. I did learn a lot, and Nick, our captain for the race, gave me his ticket to the party that night since he couldn't make it. My 2nd race day was 10 times better. I had the special job of sitting blow deck until the race course numbers were called out, so we didn't mess up again. Then I had to help count down the start time, and we were the first out of the gate beating out our fiercest competition Odin and Linda. They passed us, and then the wind died. Inside I secretly worried about not doing so well again, however the rest of the crew appeared calm. As the race came to a close they explained to me why, out boat was handicapped 10 minutes for every hour compared to Linda and Odin, which would be reflected on the posted race time. I now understood that pretty much no matter what we did Odin and Linda would always cross the finish line first, however it didn't guarantee that they had beaten us. In fact that day we came in 1st in our class and I got to drive Astraeus into the bay. The next day was even more exciting; it was the last day of the regatta and all the boats would be on the same course. This is not ideal conditions since you have a ton more boats to watch out for, but more me it also meant I could watch them all day. The wind was great and we averaged five knots. Sadly it didn't matter since the wind was flat where we started, a few bad tacks, a stuck halyard, and a Spinnaker that got away from us. We took 4th. I didn't really care, I had a great day and was hooked.

The real icing on the cake came at the closing party, when we learned we took 2nd overall in the cruising class!

Special thanks to William Sax the skipper of Astraeus for letting me crew a regatta for the first but not the last time, Captain Nick for being so patient with me and answering all my questions in his beautiful South African accent, Rita and Steven Johnson for being so warm, welcoming and down right wonderful to me, and most importantly a huge thanks to Michael Rafferty sailing instructor and friend for making one of my dreams come true in such a large way.

Location:Kata Beach, Phuket, Thailand

1 comment:

  1. soooo awesome! i am jealous! i'll never forget our times at camp...or sailing. remember when the boat tipped and i swam it back to shore? ha! good luck with the rest of your adventures!


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