by Dave Turner
I confess. I strayed. My relationship had grown stale and unexciting. The initial attraction was gone and what had initially seemed so wonderful faded to a gray, dull, never good enough relationship. I was unsatisfied and unfulfilled and not even fully aware of it. My betrayal happened so gradually that I really didn’t realize it at first. First a casual inquiry, then more frequent contact, then a sudden rush of excitement and before I knew it things had gone too far and I was neglecting my first love.
The above describes my brief foray into Thistle sailboat racing. A few years back, I put my windsurfer aside and spent a season as a crew member on a boat out of Wilmington, DE. I love to be out on the water and a Thistle requires very little wind to sail, which meant that I could get out on the water frequently. I learned some new skills and made a lot of new friends. As a lightweight, I was very popular with the Skippers. A Thistle is best sailed with about 450 pounds for a crew of three. A total crew weight of 600 pounds or more makes it very difficult to get the boat up on a plane. My interest culminated with participating in the mid-Atlantic regional championships, with our boat placing 7th out of 22 vessels.
However, the appeal of the Thistle soon began to wane. I found that much of my discontent with windsurfing resulted from having older equipment. I upgraded my rigs and boards and found my new equipment to be much more user friendly. While the Thistle gets you on the water frequently, it is not nearly the exciting and loose ride that you get with windsurfing. The sail blocks much of your view and you have to duck under the low boom every time your jibe. Fail to duck in time and you get a big whack on the head. A Thistle capsizes fairly easily and I became mildly hypothermic one session while body dragging behind our boat (full of water) as the other crew members attempted to sail after our bailer, which had not been secured to the boat and was floating out with the tide at about 3 knots. In addition, a fifteen foot boat can seem exceedingly small when your skipper turns into a tyrant when outpaced by the competition.
In the end, I rediscovered my appreciation for my first love (other than my spouse, that is!), Windsurfing. While windy weather that fits your schedule my seem infrequent at times, there is nothing that matches the exhilarating sense of speed, freedom, and that close to nature feeling that you get from a good day of windsurfing. In addition, there’s the instant acceptance that you get from the windsurfing community. Show up at any windsurfing sailing site and you will be accepted regardless of your skill level or ability. Add in a great club, such as BABA, with its camaraderie and inexpensive trips to Hatteras, and I don’t think that I will be straying again anytime soon.