As some of my sailing friends enjoy their exotic winter sailing trips to the Dominican Republic or Florida, I console myself with Dorothy’s simple, homespun wisdom, “There’s no place like home.” It’s easier to do that after a great day of frostbite sailing in perfect conditions at my winter sailing home, Cottage Park Yacht Club in Winthrop.
By many standards we have a humble, little laser fleet of about 16 -18 boats, with about 10 racing on any given day. We are a tag along fleet to the larger fleet of Interclubs, those little tubs that no one sails in the summer, but which have a die-hard following of excellent sailors in the winter. Despite our humble stature in the Laser world, and even in the local club world, we enjoy our sailing here as much as anywhere.
In a two hour time window, we typically race 5 – 7 short windward – leeward races, with start – finish in the middle. Races are run by Hatch Brown, retired MIT sailing master, who knows how to keep lines and courses square and how to keep things moving. Even with two fleets, he keeps both fleets racing ninety percent of the time, with no waiting around, and minimal fleet interference.
What I like the most about racing here is what I would like in racing anywhere – that it is always competitive. The short courses certainly contribute to that; seldom can anyone get a great enough start or hit a big enough shift to get way ahead. In twelve to fifteen minute races, the fleet never spreads out far enough that there isn’t tight racing. Starts, tactics, and boat handling are all really important in races where time doesn’t allow boat speed to make up for other mistakes.
The other important factor is that the sailors seem reasonably close in skill. None of us are rock stars and everyone is good enough to take care of themselves in winter conditions. We usually have three to four different races winners on a given day, and two thirds of the fleet has a least one top three race.
For all the advantages offered by exotic venues, warm weather, large fleets, and proximity to the very best sailors, most of what I love about sailing is here in my own backyard, even in the winter.
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