The last practice sail we will do as the Oakcliff All-American Offshore Team.
It’s strange to recognize it. You look around; everyone is comfortable, chatter comes easy while motion around the boat is fluid. Sure, we talk about the hoist before setting the spinnaker, but everyone knows we’re all on the same page. Nothing seems odd.
Then you realize; this is the last practice. After The Fastnet, there is no return plan. No next place to meet, next race to prep for, no definite plan. It’s only been four months since we all arrived at Kings Point, but already this schedule has become normal life and these strangers have become teammates, practically family. It comes as a shock that next week this could change; it will change.
Vanquish continues to be sailed out the Solent with no change in pace, my moves are conscious but automatic. I begin reflecting, I’m certain most of the team has grasped that we are in The Last. It is an excellent day for reflection. The breeze is strong as we reach off Cowes, weaving through the thick traffic of Cowes Week, testing the current we expect at the starting line. We beat up to the Narrows, eventually short tacking our way through, with warm air under a partly cloudy sky. After a month in Great Britain I know this weather is fifty-fifty and nearly impossible to predict.
Running back to Gosport, into the notorious current on our nose, required frequent jibes but the weather only improved. Perfect sailing that allows the mind occasional time to wander.
When I was selected for the team I was excited, but I was nervous; in a way I hadn’t been in a very long time. Since early high school; I’ve kept myself stress-free, always knowing it’ll work out, whatever it is. School, sports, college, work; it all came easy. But I was stressed for this opportunity. I wasn’t 100% confident. Who were these other people, what was I supposed to do?
I met a few of the crew in Baltimore early on. We immediately began diving into the depths of our new boat. While we worked on these irregular tasks, I felt at ease. We clicked.
Now the unknown is when we’ll see each other again, but there’s no doubt we all will. Already there’s talk of boats to sail and regattas to compete. Everyone is inspired from this experience and eager to continue.
This segment of the Oakcliff All-American Offshore Team is nearing completion, but no one is walking away saying it’s finished. The team is committed to helping the Oakcliff All American Offshore program grow, and looking forward to sailing with the next generation. The experiences we’ve had and connections we’ve made have already impacted our lives. It’s been far too good to us to not share with as many young American sailors as possible. Yes it may be our Last, but I turn back to the pedestal satisfied that it is hopefully the first of many.