by Jim Smith
While this may contradict what Charlie Harrett of Melges Boat Works called me when he crewed for me last fall, it is a pronouncement that I make as a matter of fact, not in rebuttal or from a sense of hurt pride.
For I am indeed a hack during some times of the year--late summer and fall mostly. I freely admit it. But not now. Not now in the spring.
No, I have had all winter to lose my hacky ways. I have had opportunities while the snow was blowing outside to sit on my favorite porcelain chair and read wise sayings from Dellenbaugh and Perry. I was a hack--last fall. Not now.
Now, too, I have a new carbon fiber tiller extension—a brand new carbon fiber tiller extension, lighter than a piece of styrofoam flotation that falls down from the underside of the deck when you first ask someone to let the traveler out in a new boat and the rope runs through it and a chunk falls off and down to the floor.
It (back to the tiller extension) will float in my hand as I look up the lake and steer like Harry Melges. I will not steer like a guy using a hack-saw, because I am not a hack! Not now, it's spring.
By late summer, definitely by fall, I will be a hack. It always happens. Early on I will tack into lifts in an uncanny way. People will ask, "How did you know it was going to lift like that?"
I'll just shrug and tell them I just felt like I was 'one with the boat.' Later in the season, when I tack, the puff will follow me through the tack into a terrible knock. Then I'll tack back immediately and completely stop the boat. Later in the season I will try to pinch around the weather mark. I will rear-end another boat in a drifter...
Much later in the season, by fall, I will think I can port tack the fleet at the start.
Then I'll know I'm a hack. I will talk to myself as a hack. "You idiot!" I will say under my breath. "Why do you continue to compete in this sport? Why don't you hang it up!"
I watch my crew to see if they've noticed what a hack I am. I see them talking to each other in the front of the boat. (I am not looking up the lake and steering like Harry Melges now.) They continue to talk without including me.
"How's it going up there? Jib trim OK?" I ask.
"Sail the boat," one yells. "You're a hack!" the other.
They know. It's fall, and they know—and I know. It's time to quit this sport. It's time to put the equipment away and think about more pleasant things. It may even be time to take up Race Committee work.
By Christmas time, I will have learned from Stuart Walker how the increasing heat of the day affects the wind and how to anticipate it. I will have heard and understood what the heck the fine tune does and whether you use it first or the vang.
Soon it is spring. I buy a new pair of Harken shoes with really sticky soles that grip the deck and the cockpit floor like nobody's business. I would never slip into the boat on a tack and drop the mainsheet with these babies!
It's spring, and we get new backstays that are thinner than Brian Porter's mainsheet, and stronger, too.
It's spring, and I believe my crew, Bob Harring, can hike harder than Billy Freytag!
It's spring, and I am not a hack!
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