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by Thomas Mauer - Willow Grove, Pennsylvania - USA

I was desperate to go to Sail OK 2011. It looked like everyone in the small boat building world was descending on Eufaula and I wanted to come as well but finances are tight and I was going to have to live vicariously through the web. Then a chance comment on a weekend sail with Steve Bosquette changed everything. He said he was going and would split the driving.

I forced him on a 16hr drive to St. Louis the first night and I'm sure he was reconsidering his offer. We drove eight hours on Thursday to arrive at the boat palace just before dinner.

Steve with Water Dancer

Friday Steve helped me adjust my sail so that my boat was better balanced and I was finally able to tack and go to windward. It was a whole new boat! Vaughan and I screamed up and down in front of the beach, and Water Dancer finally sailed with a bone in her teeth. We buried the bow a couple of times and for the first time ever the splash guard did its job.

I raced for the first time ever at the worlds on Saturday. In the first race I had trouble getting over the starting line, and around the first buoy. I had issues with that buoy in every heat it turns out. Vaughan crewed with me on the first race and was mostly in control of the sail while I was on the tiller. We worked hard and came in dead last. We were thrilled to have finished our first race and went off to lunch.

The second race Vaughan elected to stay on shore and swim with the other kids. I had a better start but a worse time rounding the first buoy. It seemed that no matter where I turned or what I did I was in irons. I think I was trying to point too high. I was aiming for the buoy and not really thinking about making multiple tacks like everyone else. I noticed that and tried to do better. I was lapped by the leaders and eventually I finished the race. I was tired and feeling a little worn out.

Water Dancer rounding the second buoy in race 2

The third race 10 min warning went off about 3 minutes after I finished the second race. (I think they were all waiting for me to finish so they could get on with it...) I had taken my sail down because it was binding and I wanted to re-rig it and get some water. Steve Bosquette threw me a couple of bottles of water as I re-rigged and got off the beach at the 4 min warning. I was on my way to the start line when the race began. I didn't have any problems crossing the start like before and thought I was going to have a better race. I was wrong. Again whenever I went for the first buoy I always ended up in trouble around the sunken trees. I believe I was lapped by the entire field on the first go round. I made sure to watch how the other boats were oriented, the set of their sails, and tried to do the same. Eventually I finished my first lap. As I passed the start line again I think there were two or three boats just finishing up. Determined not to give up I pointed my bow towards that cursed first buoy and felt like I was finally getting it. About the time I hit the tree stumps and was going to come about I lost rudder control. Cursing, I found that the bottom eye had ripped out of my rudder head. I pulled my rudder out, and carefully disassembled it so as not to drop any crucial parts into the water then pulled the whole thing into the boat as my sail flapped in the wind. I repaired the rudder head, put everything back together and saw that I had been pushed way farther out than I wanted during my repairs. With a sigh I pulled in the sheet and started for the buoy as one of the chase boats came out and asked if I was all right and did I want a tow. I thanked them for the offer and declined. I was going to finish this race! And I did, and it felt great coming across the finish line.

Water Dancer with a bone in her teeth

Everyone was very supportive and congratulated me on finishing. It was suggested I might rename Water Dancer to Persistence. A few people said they could see my sailing improve during the competition and I appreciated that. John Welsford made a point of telling me not to be embarrassed by my performance (I wasn't but it was cool of him to tell me this), that I was part of less that 1% of folks who build their own boat and put them in the water.

The Pirate poker on Sunday was fun. I almost hit the Skiff America as the wind blew its aft around when I was approaching for some cards and then another duck appeared on her far side. The duck and I were moving pretty fast, and somehow we managed not to hit. I threaded the needle missing them both by about 2' on either side. Not getting a lot of cards, Jay in PDR508 and I rafted up and managed to sail that way a bit and spent the rest of the competition shooting folks with water guns and lobbing water balloons. It was a most excellent time.

Getting ready to rig for the Pirate Poker Run as Vaughan tests the range of his water cannon.

Vaughan and I actually won the marshmallow peep scoop competition. It's handy to have a dedicated scooper on board and the uncanny ability to have your boat go into irons no matter where you point!
(AND we beat John Welsford in a competition... how cool is that!?!)

It was a great weekend. I learned a lot from everyone, met some designers I had put on up on a bit of a pedestal and then learned they are just guys too. Guys who know a lot about boats, but their pretty much just like the rest of us.

The drive back was pretty much the same as it was out, but more evenly broken up. I think we drove through Virginia for a week on Tuesday.

The green Goat Island Skiff. (Vaughan liked it because it had GIR on the bow)

We won a lot of prizes, met a lot of great people, and I really can't imagine a better end to the first summer of our first boat building experience.

Thank you Steve for making the trip possible. Thank you Mike and Jackie for hosting us all. Thank you to all the cooks you were awesome! Thank you John Welsford for the conversation and encouragement. Thanks to Dave Gray for the chance to make a better sail! To Jim Michalak for donating plans (we won the AF4 Breve plans and we really like that boat). Thanks to Chuck at Duckworks, we won a gift certificate from you which means real pintles and gudgeons in our near future. Thank you to everyone who gave us advice before, between, and during the races, we are forever in your debt!