Christopher Hoder

A Close Race

The sky darkens as the clouds move forward. Glancing at the bell, the water rips past it, pulled by the current. “Ten more minutes, ten more minutes.” I pray, looking up at the sky. A sharp line of ripples speeds towards us and with it comes a thick, tropical breeze. As the sky becomes as dark as night, and the coming storm distracts, and strains my concentration. My stomach begins to churn at the sight of the heavens. An ominous feel looms over the race, distracting me from my work. The spinnaker luffs. Orders from all around snap me back into the race.

The spinnaker flaps wildly in the wind, as the boat slows down. Slowly, the Rogers boat creeps past. Scurrilous words ring out from the skipper behind me. My eyes become glued to the sail, no longer did anything else matter. We were on the homeward stretch. In a cry of anger the gods let out a frightful yell. Silence fell over the boat, nobody wanting to say a word.

“Jibe ho”

Leaping into action, everybody scrambles around. Rolling onto the deck, I reach for the spinnaker pole. “Mast, rope, rope, mast” I’d done it a thousand times before but this time it had to be perfect. The race depended on a smooth transition.  Click, click, click the mainsheet came in and the boom crossed. The spinnaker rotates in front of the boat, as a few wrinkles run across it. The finish line creeps closer and closer, while the Rogers hold the lead.

Eyes stay glued to the sail, we played the sheets, hoping for the slightest bit of an edge.  The gale winds coming over the water change the game plan. We started looking around for the wind and trying to out think our opponents. Back and forth we sail across the channel. Little movements to find the wind as the dark, masses come shooting across the water past us towards the finish. The Roger’s boat and ours remain neck and neck past the ledge. Half a mile, I sense, looking back up at the sky. The rain seemed inevitable now as another bang rings out.  The sails empty, as another puff comes through, the wind was changing. Noticing this quickly, we shift our sails to fill them again. Every second matters now and the slight shift in the race gave us the lead. We inch past the Rogers bow. Only an inch in front, excitement shoots through my veins - we could win.  Promptly afterwards, the heavens let loose a fury of water. The pounding on the deck hammers reality into our mind as we sit staring up and slowly pulling in and out on our ropes.

“Head to the boat! Head to the Boat!” John bellows at us. Although we want to head down to the committee boat, the Rogers, still feet from us, yell to us to head up, our boats drift dangerously close. We stare into their eyes as we drift closer and closer. With competitiveness and concentration flowing from their eyes no emotion or words were spoken except for those shouting orders. Almost colliding, we enter the final 100 feet to the finish line. Our boats even, and the race on the line, we move forward. Slowly, our boats passed by the bow and came up to the line. The moments before the gun were long and quiet. Only the sound of the mainsail moving back and forth, crinkling, and the water lapping past the boats were heard. BANG, tweet. Almost synchronically the gun and the horn go off. The cry came from the committee boat. The person on the committee boat’s scream muffled by the wind, and his words inaudible. Catching the tail end of it, I heard “Rogers second.”


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