Sailing has been one of the biggest influences in my life and I’d say that during my teenaged years it was the biggest influence. The promise of sailing on Saturday and eventually Sunday as well, got me through each of the five days of the week at a school that I despised, I’ve made friends that are still at my side though sailing, I’ve gotten the majority of my bruises, scrapes, scratches and dented bones courtesy sailing. At least two of my most condemning adolescent decisions were concocted and carried out in yacht clubs. On the other hand, it is through sailing that I developed (much needed) social skills. After 11 years of being a sailor there are more aspects of my life that are influenced by sailing than those that aren’t. Sailing took me through those precious times that I needed a distraction from other realities.
How I started sailing is really simple: my dad used to sail a friend’s father’s boat on weekends in his youth, had children and thought that they should sail, mom asked us if we wanted to learn, we said yes, mom took us to sign up, the class was full, we went back the following year and started.
Unlike the other extracurricular activities that I was involved in, sailing required group effort. It forced you to learn to work as a team, something that neither ballet or swimming would teach. For that first summer vacation though, sailing wasn’t yet about teaching or learning, it was like the country mouse going to the big city for the first time. Swear words were flying here and there (‘crap’ and ‘damn’), boys watched their backs for incoming wedgies (just learned to spell that word) and girls were thrown off of jetties (this was before the time of 9 year olds having cellphones).
Our coaches were wild, good looking, older teenaged boys who all represented the country abroad sailing at regattas. They wore whistles/dry packs around their necks, had VHF radios clipped somewhere on their way-too-big brandname board shorts and all had these easy to remember, easy to mix up, extremely basic names. They would capsize our boats, tow us on a rope behind the dinghies, take us kayaking and skateboard on ramps off of the jetty. Occasionally they would let us keep our hot sticky lifejackets off. My first sailing friends were two girls from California who were visiting for the summer, another Trini girl and the brother of one of the Cali girls, they were all three to four years older- 12/13years old to my 9 years. Ou friendships were typical of camps; best friends for a few weeks then out of contact. We had a grand time playing games, ditching our life jackets, hiding the hats and shades of our coaches, duct taping their hairy legs and drinking soda.
That summer 2004, was easily one of the most enjoyable, eye opening summers; needless to say that was the best summer camp and none of the others ever lived up to it. I actually still have film to develop from pictures I took during that camp… eleven years later. After that year, management changed and the free for all was done, stricter rules were now implemented and they were certainly carried out. Camp was still extremely fun and made our summers full of spilled Banana Boat sunscreen in our camp bags and lobster red skin. The following summer I went back to camp and once again had an epic adventure. I actually met a fellow camper who ended up going to the same secondary school as me, up to today we are still really good friends. Sailing was the perfect blend of adventure, technicality, friendship and responsibility. It needed nothing more. I kept at it and my knowledge of this mysterious capturing and use of the wind kept growing as well. My parents purchased for me a brand new 420 that became quite the thing to envy. Soon enough I entered the racing class and with my teammate, Megan Chan Chow, made a clean sweep every season.
Eventually, the two of us along with some other girls got to attend a one design keelboat race in the island of St. Marten where older more experienced women were victorious over us in every which way, sixth place out of six teams was how it all ended. The older ladies however thoroughly enjoyed our youthful, energetic company. The following year we returned with a score to settle and were victorious in the very first race of the competition! (the other races are not mentioned for obvious reasons however this year we were place much closer to the top than our first year) One day, a tropical storm/depression blew across the island on a day that we were supposed to have classes. Soaked through, hungry, cellphone less and without shelter, my friend who is still my friend to today and I were taken in and offered warm pastries and towels by some family friends who owned a magnificent racing yacht. In addition to their offerings to us young sailors, they invited us to come sail at the Sunday races with them. Eight years later, it is these people who have just crossed the Atlantic setting a new local record and it is them who I will be sailing with at the prestigious Cowes Week 2015 in less than a month’s time. At first I sailed with them intermittently, but after a few years I became a regular on board about four years ago. They even gave me their J-24 to sail for a season, until I one day punched a hole in its hull by means of the start boat. (Not my brightest moment- subsequently I would have gladly hidden under the bar until all of the other sailors left the premises. I didn’t get my way but I’m better for it.)I have since sailed throughout the Caribbean with this team collecting podium finishes and sharing fellowship among sailors. Check out our team website at www.operationsouthman.com Nowadays I sail my 420 and dinghies in regular infrequently, more of my time is spent *laboring* on the deck of the 43 foot Several, ‘SY Legacy’. From rail bait to foredeck, to backstays and finally a combination of backstays and foredeck, I enjoy my days sailing and learning aboard Legacy. Usually when I think of a decade, it seems like a word that although I’ve lived through two, I can’t adequately apply it to many areas of my life but as it turns out, I’ve been sailing for more than a decade now. I feel extremely cool saying that :$ So there we go, a brief history of how I came to be the sailor that I am today. Keep dreaming, stay salty kids, Rushell