OVER THE YEARS, I’ve enjoyed racing small sailboats solo and with different
crews, locally and all the way up to world championships. Each event, team, and
type of boat presents different challenges. And after it’s over, and warm months
dissolve into fall, it’s fun to look back to the season’s highlights. Last season, my
highlight was very personal. In April, my 16-year-old daughter Sophie and I were
invited to join a father-and-son team at Charleston Race Week on a 23-foot J70. Our
amateur skipper Willy (at 14, the youngest in the entire field!) was on the same starting
line as adults – some of them pro sailors. In all, more than 300 boats participated from
across the U.S. in the well-run event, staffed by scores of local volunteers.
On practice day, our team sorted out who would do what, and choreographed maneuvers to raise and lower sails, and tightly round marks. As Day 1 races started, there were
more than 50 identical boats on our starting line, jockeying for position and crisscrossing
tacks, vying to get ahead. Though you’d expect boats to separate as the race progressed,
as we rounded some marks we were in 20-boat packs, all using the same water, at the
same time, without touching – with Charleston’s legendary current contributing to
During the three-day event, we
had eight races and lots of wind.
The kids did everything from making our lunches ashore to getting the boat ready each day and
tying it up at night. I was bowled
over with the talent shown by
our young skipper, making smart,
quick decisions, showing skill that
many people decades his senior
haven’t yet found. To be part of
this team working as one, with
two parents and two kids, was a
In the end, team Northerly didn’t win a trophy. But we accomplished our goal of
improving each day, had a whole lot of fun, and we slayed some dragons. The kids
encountered, conquered, and even enjoyed big breeze and broaches where we hung on as
the boat lay sideways with sails in the water for what seemed an eternity. We surfed wildly
in 30-knot puffs, pulled off a gutsy steering maneuver and passed a dozen boats while
avoiding a traffic jam, and we yelled up at the top of our lungs under a bridge – doesn’t
everyone? I watched how my daughter handled herself onboard, and I felt pride – in her,
in Willy, and in the innate ability of a boat to teach us all how to work together as a team.
Margaret Bonds Podlich
WHO REALLY WON?
Team Northerly, with (L-R)
Margaret and Sophie, skipper
Willy and Ken Comerford.
VOLUME XIX, No. 5, OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2013
©BoatU.S. Magazine (ISSN 1090-1272) Published bimonthly
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Margaret Bonds Podlich
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