Tuesday, September 25, 2012

2012 North American Championship - Jesse Falsone

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Here's a report on the 2012 505 NAs, which I had never expected to give.

I'm sitting in my office on Wednesday mid-morning when I get a call. It's Mike Martin and he needs me to hop a flight to San Francisco immediately to sail the 505 NAs with him, but not until he makes absolutely sure that any one of 7 other local (and not so local) alternatives absolutely cannot make it. I don't remember the entire list, but Carl Buchan, some local kite boarder, and one of the Barbados Worlds rum girls were in there so I'm not in such bad company. Mike's regular crew, "Jeffa" Nelson, had to bolt out of town for a family emergency, otherwise the regatta would have been over since they are 10% faster. Mike and I sailed together in 2005 on both coasts and the Germany worlds where we were one bad tactical move from the title (and decades of an unbearably smug Falsone). This success accounts for why I'm #8 on the Mike Martin 505 crew depth chart.

After explaining to Mike that although it was possible, I would undoubtedly pay a large price at work, where I had proposal work, and at home being that it was my daughter's 10th birthday and my wedding anniversary. Mike was undeterred by such flimflam, but said to give him another hour to check in with the junior club after I said that I only weighed 192 and had a bad shoulder. Meanwhile, I watched the internet prices of last-minute plane tickets ratchet ever-higher by the minute.

In desperation, Mike relented and asked me to push the "purchase" button, which I did just before airfares reached a grand and I would have to connect through Anchorage.

So, after an unconvincing explanation to my boss and tepid approval from my wife, I risked life and limb dodging DC traffic to get home, pack, and race back up to BWI for my flight to SFO. Fortunately, I did have just enough time to stop at CVS and pick up a prescription for some little pills to calm my nerves. There was a lot to live up to after snatching the crewing spot from some anonymous kite boarder.

Mike picks me up at the airport on-time, which is like 10pm west coast time, 1pm east coast time. He told me I looked small and weak. I didn't tell him I hadn't slept the night before. Everyone was happy.

It bears mentioning that I sailed the 2009 worlds made famous by the 25 knots of wind going against a 3 knot ebb which made for some of the nastiest conditions on the Berkley Circle and any 505 worlds (except for the epic pre-worlds race in Durban 2000 which is now folklore). I survived, and declared I was now retired from 505 crewing in San Francisco. And I meant it.

But September on the Bay is different than August. It's kinder and gentler, and certainly nothing my 43 year old body and bum shoulder couldn't handle. My temerity was rewarded with 4 days of some of the best sailing conditions you could hope for if you neglect the 50 degree water temperature and the hour sail to the race course.

I won't bore you with the details of the racing other than to say that most races were sailed in 15-20 knots, and the flood tide kept the sea pretty flat. We sailed 11 races, with none other than Pip Pearson, 505 legend and class president, presiding over the race committee on behalf of the sailors. Courses were square and just the right length for the 27 boats. Gate starts went off without a hitch. Mike and I even had the honor of being the first pathfinder, which has nothing to do with Mike Holt appointing us, and possibly believing that the left side would be favored early in the day (speculation and slander!). Now I'm no Russ Miller in the front of the boat, but we did have our chances to win, some of which were unrelated to a broken trapeze ring or over standing the finish while in the lead or not slamming our competition during a crucial time on the last day. In the end, it was none other than Hampton's Tyler Moore sailing with Rob Woelfel who would come out on top by two points over Mike and myself. Tyler and Rob were masterful when it counted, and that's what champions do. I expect this victory, Tyler's 4th at the NAs, is especially gratifying since it comes in west coast waters, where west coasters hate to lose. Well done, my friend! You earned it through two decades of commitment to the class and bettering your game. Rob - you earned it too (insert surly in defeat comment here).

As for me, I believe I was the only sub 6 foot or 200 pound crew in the top half of the fleet, but this only shows how hard Mike hikes. It is a convenient excuse nonetheless. But, the important thing is that we beat Mike Holt, which was the real goal anyway. Holty was severely handicapped himself with Dave Shelton on the wire, so who can blame him.

So, with a heavy heart, I caught my red eye back to BWI, rushed back to work, literally walking into a meeting with company brass this morning while still buttoning the same shirt I had ditched in the car last Wednesday. Was it worth it? Damn straight it was! I had another shot at the title with Mike Martin, notched another top three finish at NAs, and solidified my legend as the best midget 505 crew in modern times (not counting Darren Nicholson). What's more, I'm told I'm eligible for the US Sailing grant for worlds. Unfortunately, Mike's involvement in the AC has labeled him a professional and therefore forfeits his half of the grant to me (thanks, Mike!). Now, I just need to get some sleep before I write something that will get me in trouble.

"Jessee" Falsone

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