Spring Break at Sea
New C Takes 1st Annual HBS Sailing Cup
Sun, fun, and relaxation in foreign lands: necessary but not sufficient components of an epic spring break for 19 mariners from HBS. For these hardy souls, the week would not be complete without braving the unforgiving sea, the relentless discipline of an Ahab-like instructor, and several multiple choice tests. They not only endured, but relished the experience, returning to campus with a salty swagger and unmatched golden tans.
Preparation started weeks prior to the actual trip. While Boston was lashed with endless snow and blustery winds, the sailors-to-be read instructional manuals from U.S. Sailing, learning valuable skills such as knot-tying and helmsmanship. As Jenny Hepworth (NF) quipped, “they were almost as interesting as the BGIE book.”
The journey to Tortola, the capital of the British Virgin Islands, was itself arduous. Malfunctioning diesel engines hobbled interisland ferries, and the relaxed island pace gnawed at the nerves of those still standing in lengthy immigration lines. Thankfully, my fellow travelers and I arrived to find dinner and stress-relieving cocktails waiting at the Nanny Cay Resort & Marina. There we met our accomplished instructors from the Robert Swain Sailing School, including its namesake and owner, Mr. Robert Swain.
Our group arose to crowing cocks on Sunday morning. After re-hydrating from the previous evening’s festivities and liberally applying sunscreen, we practiced rigging, tacking, and jibing in IC24s and similar keelboats. We conducted man overboard drills, honing our ability to react and swiftly come about to recover unintentional swimmers. Conditions were ideal, with weather in the high 70s, hardly noticeable humidity, and a refreshing saltwater breeze, all under a sunny azure sky. Long, frigid treks to the Charles and Doubletree became figments of a distant past. While the weather was calm, the HBS sailors had to remain alert and exercise panther-like reflexes to avoid danger. Alex Borowiecki (NC) remarked, “During an unexpected jibe, when we had zero comprehension of what was going on, the metal boom came flying across the boat at approximately 40 mph, narrowly missing Heidi Scheeline’s (NC) face by ½ inch, to which our instructor calmly reacted, ‘wow that thing really came close to knocking you right out…that would have knocked you clear off the boat…wow that was really, really close.’ Fifty percent of our docking experiences involved direct head-on collisions with other boats.”
Another morning of training on keelboats on Monday gave way to boarding what would be our home for the next five evenings, one of four live-aboard sailboats. Our accommodations and provisioning were far less Spartan than I remember from my Navy days, as evidenced by a private cabin and healthy supply of local rum and ginger beer. But this was no cruise ship, and there were limits to lollygagging. As beginning sailors, the crew of three boats would have to complete the written and practical testing required to achieve U.S. Sailing certification in Basic Keelboat, Basic Cruising, and Bareboat Cruising. A handful of returning ECs struck off separately with Rob Swain in a fourth boat to earn certification in Coastal Passage Making and Celestial Navigation.
Days were spent sailing from island to island, learning the ancient skills that enabled our nautical predecessors to spread commerce, learning, and contagious diseases around the globe. “After continuous badgering, I finally learned to steer straight…well, sort of,” said Adam Pines (NF). Pines noted that crewmate Jon-Pal Mouzakis Gagnum (NH) “was our on-board boyscout, really getting into the work and enjoyed learning the process…he would go around tying lines with his teeth.” Hepworth joked that perhaps Pines would do well to take after his Greek compatriot. “Adam’s prowess driving the dingy was matched only by his skills as a swimmer. He ran us aground on the way to a bar and feared being attacked by sea monsters in depths greater than 10 feet.”
But all work and no play makes Jack Tar a dull boy. Afternoons were spent leisurely reading, sunbathing or snorkeling. In the evening, we took turns preparing meals in the galley and took a motorized dinghy ashore to partake in the convivial brotherhood of the sea that unites sailors the world over. “Our first bar experience at Willy T’s introduced us to the welcoming culture that embodies the BVI,” remarked Borowiecki about the Monday night spent moored near Norman Island.
While everyone relaxed in the warm weather and easy camaraderie of the group, for one RC, the pressure to find a summer internship lingered in the background. Ah, but the graces of Poseidon conspired with the luck of the Irish for the Notre Dame alumnus. “Nothing quite like shots of Midori on the private beaches of Cooper Island to celebrate St. Patty’s Day HBS style…and of course network for a summer internship,” declared Borowiecki, after meeting a Fortune 500 executive and fellow sailing enthusiast eager to hire HBS talent.
On Saturday the 19th, all four boats reunited and raced home from Peter Island. The competition was fierce, but the spirited and well-trained crew of RC students from Section C (Borowiecki, Diana Dimitrova, Mariam Dombrovskaja, Heidi Scheeline, and your humble correspondent) rose to the challenge. Led by Captain Ken Roach, the Hakuna Matata II (a 53 ft Beneteau 523) maneuvered nimbly around mooring balls to gain an insurmountable lead. Powered by 10 kt winds, the perfectly-trimmed vessel dominated its shorter opponents, including Rob Swain’s own Cool Girl, crewed by the more experienced and current Sailing Club Co-Presidents Clemens Raemy (OA) and Joe McDermott (OB), and McDermott’s fiancée. Hakuna Matata II opened the distance as time wore on, and eventually finished a full seven minutes ahead of the second-place boat, Cool Girl. Despite a substantial handicap, the Hakuna Matata II was crowned champion and recipient of the 1st annual Swain-McDermott-Raemy HBS Sailing Trophy.
The win was not without controversy, given the victorious boat’s waterline advantage. “Cool Girl was by far the fastest boat out there, despite Hakuna Matata II winning the trophy,” said Raemy. “However, we simply had let the new president of the Sailing Club take the trophy home so that there would be a defending champion next year.”