My Affair

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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.D_Turner_beach

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One comment

  1. Michael Parramore

    After owning and rebuilding 7 mostly wooden thistles and campaigning them all at district and national level, I find this a interesting post.. I am currently racing lasers with my 14 year old daughter. The thistle is a 65 year old design and it is not going to offer the same ease and less complexity of a windsurfer. But, with a one design, everyone is racing the same boat with the same gear. I also started racing windsurfer One Designs in 1981. The thing I like about racing is racing one designs, whether that be WOD, Kona, Laser, J 22, etc.. The Thistle class is large with typically 100 plus boats at the nationals and a family atmosphere. Ditto the laser, with even larger #’s at NA’s, european Champs and Worlds, but, not so family oriented. At the 1981 and 1985 windsurfer NA’s in Michigan there were 500 boards, I personally like large fleets and tactical racing. One design and large fleets gives you that, unfortunately that is gone for windsurfing, at least in this country. Two different kinds of racing, or the majority of windsurfers in this country in small fleets or no racing. I still have my F2 380 and a whole quiver of sails, but for now, the laser suits me and my family. I don’t see why the two cannot live in harmony.
    Michael Parramore
    Severn Sailing Assn
    Mayo, Md
    Laser #200405
    F2 380
    Former Thistle #550,696,815,1115,818,3823,3612
    Former J30, J24’s, J22, too many Jet-14’s to mention

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