The truth about yachting

Cover of Three men in a boatThe truth about yachting is that it is wet. All the time. And cold. And you do it all at an angle of 45 degrees. Then, just as your balance has adjusted to that, they tack and you have to do it all again from the other side. Oh, and it’s windy and when it’s not windy (aka The America’s Cup 2013), the skipper, probably your best mate or lover will be grumpy, grumpy, grumpy. He may put on the diesel engine. And then there’s the seasickness.

So I am mystified by the zealousness with which the nation has taken to The America’s Cup. And I should know, because back in the 70s, I was raised on a diet of glamorous Peter Stuyvesant sailing adverts – all beautiful women in bikinis and gorgeous tanned men, went on a date with a yachting man to a Thor Heyerdahl (KonTiki) film. And married him.

The first yacht was a thing of great beauty belonging to the Dragon class. Sleek, wooden craft with no facilities whatsoever, they are famous for having been the favoured yacht of Royalty. But Royalty has minions and Dragons need to be recaulked and varnished every year. My husband only had me.

Then he said: let’s build a yacht and take part in the Cape to  Rio race. The word “No” never crossed my mind. And that is how I came to be pregnant, wearing a bright orange lifejacket like a giant Oros man and  sailing the seas of the Cape of Storms without the comfort of sherry (the acknowledged best thing to drink on yachts because it tastes the same coming up as it does going down.)

The baby, my daughter, was born and I continued sailing with children. Such Fun – Not. Then, one day on a rough trip, breastfeeding her down below, I burped her. She vomited down my back and I threw up in the bucket between my knees. Everyone agreed it was time to quit. I have never been back on a yacht since.

That said,  the library has loads of sailing books and resources for all the innocents out there. But I am sticking to narrow boats and ocean liners from now on. But for all of you who are getting up the crack of dawn to support Emirate Team New Zealand and who are considering buying a dinghy for Christmas, I say stick to a rubber ducky and if you don’t believe me, surely this quote will convince you!

Sailing – The fine art of getting wet and becoming ill, while going nowhere slowly at great expense (equivalent to standing in a cold shower, fully clothed, throwing up, and tearing up $100 bills, while a bunch of other people watch you).

Time to put on my red socks. Go Team New Zealand!

My lucky red socks

Cover: The Team New Zealand Story, 1995-2003I have owned red socks for as long as I can remember, but it was Sir Peter Blake who made red socks lucky and fashionable.

It was 1995 and New Zealand was in the grip of America’s Cup fever.  I didn’t know my aft from my grinder. Black Magic had won the Louis Vuitton Cup and the right to challenge  Team Dennis Connor off the coast of San Diego.

Journalists soon noticed that every time Sir Peter Blake wore his red socks, Black Magic won a race.  Soon almost every one in New Zealand was wearing red socks and Black Magic made history, winning the America’s Cup 5-0. I remember hearing Peter Montgomery shouting, “The America’s Cup is now New Zealand’s Cup!”.

Cover:  The Last Great Adventure of Sir Peter BlakeIn 2000, I donned my new red socks and as summer turned to autumn, I knew the difference between a spinnaker and a gennaker and Peter Montgomery exclaimed “The America’s Cup is still New Zealand’s Cup!”

In 1997, Blake became the Cousteau Society’s head of expeditions and spent more time bringing marine conservation issues to our notice. Sadly, on 5 December  2001, pirates shot and killed Blake while he was on an environmental trip in South America.

His enthusiasm and love for the environment and his dedication to young people lives on in the Sir Peter Blake Trust and Red Socks Day. On Friday 29th June, I’ll be wearing my lucky socks; what about you?