|On the Way Out|
Peering through my binoculars from a bulkhead across from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, I watched as the fleet of Optimist class sailboats passed each other.
|And Off They Go!|
They were parallel to a starting line and counting down from a three minute horn blast. At zero, they will turn and head toward the first buoy of a triangular course. Later, I was told that it was 102 degrees on the water and this was the third of four days of sailing at a US Sailing Junior Olympic regatta. Most of these sailors are 12 and under and the heat was more of a nuisance than an impediment to performance.
|Heading Toward The Mark|
The Wildfowl Ninja was in his second regatta in as many weeks. Each day, the fleet of ~35 boats will race 4-5 races and will be on the water from about 10:30 am until 3 pm, eating lunch and hydrating on the water. Although not as physically demanding as other outdoor pursuits, these sailors must remain focused and mentally sharp and endurance in this heat will keep them closer to the front of the pack.
|Looking Good, Stormbreaker!|
Having found a spot in the shadow of a 30 foot sailboat on a trailer, I look down at my pack: the equivalent of my blind bag. Water, lunch, binoculars, camera, sunscreen, folding chair, sunglasses, and hat are all in my pack. The sailors are about 200 yards out from me when they round a mark (or buoy). The instructors, in their inflatables and Boston Whalers, circle the sailors like a hen watching her ducklings venture out: close enough to give support, but far enough not to get in their way.
|Post Race Tow In|
Through practice and competition, these sailors gain skill, self-confidence and self-reliance. As the sun shifts overhead diminishing my shade and cooking me slowly, I think of the mental focus that they retain in this heat. Last night, I asked the Wildfowl Ninja about sailing in this heat. His reply was nonchalant and indicative of the young man’s maturity. “I don’t think about the heat”, he said coolly, “I think about what I need to do”