Sunday, September 14, 2008
Victory can sometimes be just the absence of abject defeat...
Saturday dawned sunny and warm...no further reprieve from the racing. We met in the bar at the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron at 11 and were delighted to see that we'd picked up two additional crew members for the race: Simon, a young accountant from the UK in Oz on a six-month contract, and Warrick, a past crew member who was probably asked along once Terry and Julie realised we were hopeless. I believe that Simon is supposed to join us for the series, but he was either shy or horrified on Saturday...we'll see if he comes back. By 11:30 we were doing as many practice jibes around the harbour with the spinnaker as possible. Despite the stress that jibing entails, we were able to watch some of the other races getting started. Up and down Sydney Harbour on a Saturday are a number of races at each of the clubs-- it barely looks like there is room for another sailboat to make its way down the harbour.
We started our race well but were having trouble picking up speed. However, we went from last to second at the start of the first downwind leg. Given our previous challenges with getting the spinnaker flying in a timely manner, gaining ground in this way was quite a surprise accomplishment. The wind picked up steadily over the 2+ hours of race, increasing the challenge and excitement of the race. Frankly, towards the end when we were really zipping up and down the harbour was when I began enjoying myself less. Mistakes started happening more frequently, and tempers rose accordingly. While I really like sailing, I've never been particularly competitive, except with myself. I've always enjoyed sports like climbing and running and snowboarding, where I can constantly improve upon my own past performance. Racing sailboats, to me, is like taking something I like and adding yelling, which makes me decidedly uncomfortable. However, it's really a privelege to get to spend Saturday afternoon out on the water, particularly a Saturday like this one. Mild discomfort seems a small price to pay to have an experience than most Sydneysiders will never have.
We crossed the line second out of six or seven boats, though, and ended up in fourth place in terms of points. I had really feared that we'd finish in last place, 30 minutes or more behind the next to the last boat. Each boat has a handicap based on anticipated speed, so your place in points is generally different from your palce across the line.
The pictures above are taken during the sail back up the harbour towards the yacht squadron after the race...there would certainly be no photography during the race! You can see the last few races in the harbour finishing up behind us.
Today, Eric and I drove south about an hour to the Royal National Park. It's quite a large park, with lots of beaches, hiking, camping, canoeing, waterfalls, etc. It was raining today, but our appetites are whetted, and we're anxious to get back to explore further. Anyway, I was looking up in the trees almost the entire time trying to spot a koala. The pictures above are from a Hindu temple just outside the park.
It's still strange to be in the car with Eric driving on the wrong side of the road. I have this hightened sense of awareness, so I can only imagine what it must be like for him driving. It's stranger still to think that I may not drive the entire time we're here since I'm not allowed to drive his company car. I'm really glad we have the car now as it makes little trips like the one we took today possible. We're thinking of driving down to Melbourne for Labor Day, the first weekend in October. It's only a few hour's drive, and the drive down the coast is supposed to be one of the most gorgeous in the country.
One other adjustment we've been making is to the safety climate here. Our front door barely has a lock on it. When I go to boot camp in the park, we all leave our things lying in the grass. On Wednesday, after having drinks with some friends from work, I waited on a train platform well after dark without worrying. By and large, crime is reduced. And without guns, the worst that can happen to you is suddenly much less serious.
When you check out at the grocery store here, the cashier often says, "See ya," like they fully expect to see you again, even though Sydney is huge.
We're not entirely certain whether sticky beak is a noun, meaning someone who is very nosy, or a verb, meaning to inspect something closely. We've heard both usages this week and are investigating further.