Tuesday, August 20, 2013

They that go down to the sea in ships...

When Italy beat Sweden in the semi-finals and advanced to face New Zealand to determine who would race against Oracle Team USA for the America's Cup, I was less than thrilled. It wasn't that many of my ancestors lived in Sweden. It was the fact that Italy had already raced New Zealand in the round robin races and lost. Badly. Their scores for five races were one DNS (did not sail), 2 losses, and 2 DNFs (Did Not Finish). They did make it to the finish line, but the rules say the race is over five minutes after the first boat crosses the finish line, so if you're seven minutes behind you get DNF for your score.

I was expecting the finals to have all the excitement of watching paint dry--or, in this case, watching paint get wet. I was wrong.

The schedule called for two races on Saturday. The first race was scheduled for 1:10 pm, and things began to go wrong even before the start. First the start time was pushed back twice because the wind was blowing too fast. They started at 1:30 pm. Luna Rossa (Italy) had been frantically fixing a problem with its starboard daggerboard right before the race--nothing like having your shore crew crawling around the boat with a hacksaw and a glue gun to get you into the right frame of mind to race. Unfortunately, the repair failed just as the race started. You need both daggerboards in order to race the boat, so Luna Rossa limped to the downwind end of the course and waited to see if anything would happen to New Zealand's boat.

New Zealand sailed the first downwind leg, rounded the mark, sailed the upwind leg, and rounded the upwind mark. From there all they had to do was sail another downwind leg, make a right turn around the downwind mark and sail a short leg to the finish line. But as they rounded the upwind mark things went--well, Biblical. As in Psalm 107:
23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
24 These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.
25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.
26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end.
28 Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
The winds were on the high end of safe, and rounding a mark is like turning a corner while driving a car: you accelerate coming out of the turn. There's a video on the America's Cup YouTube channel, but it all happened so fast it's hard to see. There wasn't much mounting up to heaven, but the front of both hulls went underwater. I didn't see anyone reeling to and fro, but two of the crew did go overboard, and I suspect there was quite a bit of prayer. Fortunately the Lord sent the chase boat, which pulled the two men out of the water. This left the racing boat with a nine-man crew and some damage to the boat, but they did sail the rest of the course successfully.

So the race ended with two boats needing to be fixed and a second race scheduled for 2:10 pm. Fortunately, the wind speed increased and the second race was cancelled, giving both teams much-needed repair time.

And that gives me an idea for a story.