Then came my most dreaded part–tight maneuvering amongst a bay of expensive yachts. The wind fell to a whisper as we entered the deep horseshoe cove. Swell glided in on our leftover momentum. Unsure of where to go, my crewmate scanned with the binoculars, spotting a herd of sailors on a boat across from a dock with a bright orange flag.
“That must be it!” We agreed.
As we made it in their earshot, they commenced a flurry of yelling and pointing, “C’est ici!! Ici!! Over here!!”
Judging from where we lay, I knew we wouldn’t make it through the finish line on that tack. And the wind was so light and there was a moored boat just to the other side that we might drift down into!? Quel horreur!?–as they say in French…
We had no choice, though. We’d made it this far…we had to cross the finish line! Swell’s bow came slowly over in our attempt to tack, but just as I’d feared we slipped backwards towards the yacht to the right…
“Pull, pull!!” I encouraged my friend. “Tighten that sheet as fast as you can!”
Those seconds passed in agonizing slow motion. I gripped the wheel with my heart in my throat, despite the lack of steerage in our windless stall. The scene grew silent around us…You could have heard a fish sneeze!
Swell slipped steadily backwards and I envisioned the inevitable collision that was to ensue. Then, just in time, the genoa caught a miracle gust and the slight surge of forward drive was enough to inch us just in front of the lovely yacht and its braced crew.
After that I knew we’d done it. We made one final tack after gaining a bit of speed and Swell glided through the finish line in a roar of cheers. “Donner une bisous! Donner une bisous! Donner une bisous! (Give him a kiss!)” They chanted.
I let go of the helm and turned towards my happy mate. He grinned, unabashed, and we embraced in the thrill of the finish before I gave him a crowd-pleasing kiss.
We celebrated with the other racers that evening and the whole island seemed delighted that not only had I finally repaired Swell’s leak, but that contrary to what some believed, I could, in fact, sail her too!