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"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was within me an invincible summer." -Albert Camus. For those sailors who have not had the opportunity to head south for Key West Race Week, or to any other southern venue that is warm and sunny, and for the frostbiters who have been denied access to Manhasset Bay because of either icy conditions, high winds, or high snowdrifts, this quote serves us well. For it is only an incurable optimistic outlook that can get us through these short winter days, huddled near a fireplace for warmth, with a good book (on sailing, naturally) to help us bide our time. But before you know it, spring will be upon us and we'll be back in the boatyards preparing for another sailing season. And we can enjoy vicariously the great adventures of those who managed to catch a ride on a boat in Key West. Reports of what happened and how our local sailors faired will have to wait until next week, as many of our returning teams were either delayed or had flights cancelled when trying to return to LaGuardia or Kennedy. But from initial reports, it was a really good time, with great sailing. More next week.

As reported last week, The Rolex Miami OCR has begun, and it looks like some new talent may give our seasoned sailors a run for their money. Andy Horton and crew Brad Nichol, from Newport, RI and Hanover, NH, respectively, are on the top of the leader board in the Star Class. This is only the fourth Star regatta for the team of Horton/Nichols. It was back in 1999 that Andy Horton, an unranked sailor established himself as a serious match racer when he came in fourth in the Knickerbocker Cup beating Dave Dellenbaugh, Tony Rey and other notables. Now Horton is a winning member of the 2004 ISAF Match Racing World Championship team and won the first day at the OCR. Mark Mendelblatt and Steve Erickson are in second place, but these two top teams have four points each. In third place is Mark Reynolds, a four-time Olympian and three-time Olympic medalist, with crew Phil Trinter, from Port Washington, who along with Paul Cayard, came in 5th in the 2004 Olympics. There is still a lot of sailing left so there can be many changes at the top of the scoreboard before the final race is finished. Other sailors turning in top performances were Amanda Clark/Sarah Mergenthaler in 470 class. In recent years Clark has been in our area giving sailing seminars for junior sailors as well as adults.

Here's an interesting proposition for those who have extra time on their hands. Lands' End is conducting a "Thrill of the Mac" essay contest, and the prize is a spot on board Lands' End new, 38-foot C&C 115 for the Chicago Mackinac Race on July 16. The essays are to be 500 words describing why the writer feels he or she is cut out to sail non-stop for approximately 60 hours up Lake Michigan to Mackinac. Prizes include travel and lodging for the winner and three family members at the majestic Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. For those readers who aren't familiar with this race, it is one the best, and has been known to be a wild and exciting event. And the Grand Hotel is just a great place to spend a few days, as is Mackinac Island. If interested, go to www.landsend.com/rules for a complete set of rules. Good luck!

While we are spending out time dreaming of the day when we can launch our boats and get the spring sailing season going, a story emerges that will resonate with anyone who has been sailing or racing on Long Island Sound when the wind dies to just about nothing, and you feel your boat going backwards (which would be about 99 percent of the sailing community). Someone once described these conditions as "like walking backwards up an escalator," and nothing can be more frustrating, especially if you are racing and happen to be in the lead. This is exactly what has happened to Ellen MacArthur, who after planning for over two years, set out 50 days ago to complete a solo circumnavigation record, and has been in the lead the entire time - that is until the wind died and she has now lost her lead on Francis Joyon's record. MacArthur, who is sailing on her 75 foot trimaran, B&Q, has a deficit of about 29 miles on the record pace, and is facing approximately a week of light wind. After rounding Cape Horn with more than a four-day lead, MacArthur has seen her lead dwindle to a deficit. But her indomitable spirit has kept her going. "I've been at sea for over 50 days and I am not going to throw my hands up in the air now and give up. No way. We're still level - we're not three days or five days behind him, we still have a chance. But we need wind: right now there is no chance of breaking the record if the wind stays as light as it is. The only way to look at it is as a new race every day, no matter where you are, ahead or behind. Yet you have to treat every day with respect, getting as much out of the boat - and yourself - as you can." What does this sailing wonder do to keep motivated in the face of defeat? "You try to keep your morale up, try to keep motivated. I've done all the repair jobs on the boat, really preparing for the final onslaught home. In trying to be positive, I've occupied myself by fixing everything, getting everything back on track: like climbing the mast in the morning just to make sure everything was OK (it looked fine). I have done all the things I can to try to get us as ready as possible for when we get across the Equator and into some stronger winds. I don't know whether I will have a chance to break this record or not but I've got to hang in there for two more weeks. That's the way I'm thinking and I'm trying to look after myself the best I can. I am exceptionally tired and I'm fairly bruised on my left leg from my hip down to the knee. Going up the mast yesterday morning left me feeling pretty battered again. It just aggravated the leg so it's all pretty swollen and blue. I'll stay in one piece to the finish though, because I don't have any option. The record is definitely within our sights - I'm not going to let go of that until the second-hand ticks over on our target time of 0704 GMT Feb 9, that's for sure." MacArthur is one gusty lady. Let's hope she manages to achieve her goals, but if not, with her positive outlook, she will be back in the game in no time, trying for another record. See www.teamellen.com for more information.


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