Back in the Sabot Again

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Men’s division winners John Drayton (3rd), Jeff McDermaid (2nd) and Danny North (1st).

There’s nothing quite like an 8-foot sabot to humble a sailor’s three-masted ego.

In a moment of weakness last weekend, I allowed longtime friend Nancy Mellon to talk me into hopping into a tiny sabot again.

Stepping into a sabot again is like stepping back in time, only smaller.

I first started sailing sabots when I was about 7 years old (nearly 40 years ago!). I was a more appropriate sabot-sailing size back then, probably about 2 feet shorter and well over 100 pounds lighter than I am now. I now weigh about twice what the boat does, and at almost 6 feet tall, my roll tacks and maneuvers are at best “awkward” (try to imagine Shaq driving around in a Mini).

Nevertheless, I am always surprised when I get back in these little boats at a senior sabot regatta; I’m rarely the biggest sailor, and I’m far from the oldest.  The competition in this class remains fierce at all levels.  There are former junior and senior champions throughout the fleet.  Many of the sabots racing in adult events have been custom rigged and meticulously maintained.  And many of the racers have been racing these boats steadily for 20-30 years, and in a few cases far more.

At the end of the day I did manage to claw my way all the way up to third place in the Men’s fleet.  It wasn’t quite as pretty as it sounds – there were only six boats, and in my first race I had to tack right on the wind of this kindly older gentleman just to avoid a last place finish (sorry about that).

Fortunately, as the day progressed, my sabot skills started to re-emerge.  By the last race I actually felt like I was challenging former junior sabot champion Danny North a little bit (OK, I’m not sure he was getting too nervous).

But I was also humbled by the fact that the one “Clydesdale” in our fleet, ABYC’s Jeff McDermaid, was sailing fully 40 pounds heavier than I was, yet he still finished second in our class.  Clearly I still have some work to do on my sabot techniques.

Senior Sabot Nationals are just two weekends away here in Newport (hosted by BYC).  I haven’t yet decided if I’m up for another sabot regatta, but for now that decision can wait.


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