Road To The Cup – Holiday Edition



2023 Year in Review

The best thing I can say about 2023 is that, if rain and crappy weather turn you on, you probably had the longest orgasm of your life.  We lost a full third of our racing season to poor conditions, which I suppose is a fair trade if you like rain and orgasms.  But if sailboat racing is your thing, Mother Nature hosed you – literally.  Of course, with Mother Nature, it could always be worse.  We had no hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, floods, swarms of locust, or even one volcanic eruption.  Aside from a couple of nor’easters and the ongoing food fights that are Marblehead Town meetings, things were generally quiet.  But before we get to our season review, let’s take a quick look at a few of the year’s events beyond our cozy little sailing community. 

In short, the world lost its mind.  Our government, of course, has been a train wreck.  The year started with the embarrassment of the House voting 15 times before finally electing a speaker, and then firing him a few months later.  They can’t seem to agree on a spending package to keep the government running, so lurch along month to month on temporary measures that leave us at risk of sending our dysfunctional law makers home, which come to think of it, maybe wouldn’t be a bad idea.  We recently came perilously close to a fist fight on the floor of the senate that was broken up by, of all people, the physically unimposing Bernie Sanders.  And don’t even get me started about George Santos, who I hear is now hawking personalized Cameo videos for 200 bucks a pop.  As to the presidential campaign, best not to go there, other than to say no civil discourse this.

In business and economics, inflation started to moderate, at least everywhere except Crosby’s, which still charges $10.99 for blueberries and eight bucks for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.  Silicon Valley Bank, who lent to tech startups, was forced to shut its doors when a lot of those startups failed, spooking depositors who couldn’t get their money out fast enough.  Later in the year, thousands lost billions through ill-advised crypto investments through brokerage FTX, which also went down.  As it turns out, it was serving as a piggy bank for its shaggy founder, who was using customers’ money to make his own ill-advised crypto investments. 

We lost Suzanne SomersMathew PerryDick ButkusTim WakefieldJimmy BuffetRobby RobersonTony BennettJeff BeckRosalynn CarterNorman Lear and Henry Kissinger.  We also just lost Charlie Munger, a personal hero of mine, for his ability to elevate common sense to an artform. 

Closer to home, we sadly lost two members of our extended R19 family – Chicago’s Peter Kovats and Joni Lane, both of whose memories will continue to inspire us.

But it wasn’t all bad.  Millions of devoted fans spent their life savings to watch the spectacle of Travis Kelce’s girlfriend generate a pile of cash equivalent to the GDP of a small, third-world country, and that’s just from the merch.  Add in revenue from concert tickets, the movie, streaming and publishing royalties, and she’s well positioned to buy her man his very own football team.  Person of the year, indeed!

In the world of Boston sports, both the Bruins and Celtics remain respectable, but I can’t say the same for the Red Sox, and let’s not even mention Mr. Grumpy Pants and the sad state of a once dominant football franchise.  The Texas Rangers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks four games to one to win a world series watched by practically no one, generating ratings similar to reruns of Charlie’s Angels.  Tom Brady retired from football after a 23-year career to pursue other interests, including golf and supermodels. 

And finally, Prince Charles was coronated King Charles III at the ripe young age of 73.  Much to the delight of the world press. Scandalously, Prince Harry attended the coronation without his wife Meghan Markle, who reportedly was not with Tom Brady at the time.  But I digress. 

Moving on to our corner of the world, the year started with the election of a new slate of Fleet 5 officers.  Illustrating the adage about bad pennies, seemingly for the hundredth time, I again assumed the role of fleet captain, though the election was probably rigged, which as we know is all the rage.  Outgoing Fleet Captain Elise Nash, who longed to return to a more serene life of chasing toddlers, 80-hour work weeks, bouncy castles and weekend birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese, needed an exit strategy and was, in all probability, stuffing ballot boxes as she raced for the door.

The winter party came and went with no arrests or injuries, which is shocking considering the frictionless accessibility to the fleet’s largest asset – the bar.  Social czar Anne Marije Veenland served as both bar steward and party host, which makes the lack of incidents even more impressive.  Meanwhile down in the Caribbean, home to some of the world’s greatest rum drinks, Seamus Hourihan wasn’t as successful avoiding incidents, leaving a big hunk of his boat’s centerboard on a rock.  There is, of course, no evidence that rum was involved.

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Rich & Rosie Denton’s profile in the March newsletter redefined for just about everyone the term ‘cute couple,’ prompting a collective “aww…” and the suggestion to introduce a new perpetual trophy for “Most Adorable.” 

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See what I mean?

Also in March, Teams Kaznoski & Pandapas took on the dauting but enviable task of finding the best conch fritters in the BVI.  It was arduous work, and several unfortunate conchs were indeed harmed in the process, leaving the judges to drown their guilt with the aforementioned rum drinks.  The fritter finalists were Foxy’s and Tipsy’s, and it came down to a “toin coss,” which is how you say it after a few Painkillers. 

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Finally in March, Steve Uhl, who got his first pilot’s license when he was a teen, took me up for a spin.  In addition to circling the area, which is a lot like reaching back and forth, we also did a few touch-and-goes, which Steve later tried in his boat while reaching back and forth, but with less successful results – more on that in a minute.

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In April, the fleet held its first spring meeting in years, which to be honest, was held because Anne Marije so enjoys toting the bar.  Of course, it was a serious business meeting to consider weighty issues, and important decisions were made, the most impactful of which was approving the all-important bar budget.

Elise Nash kicked off May with a well written article attempting to improve our crappy roll tacking.  Of course, it didn’t.  But Brother Jim Raisides, who can roll with the best of them, was so excited about it, he almost wrote in. 

MRA threw a Cinco de Mayo party, which was shockingly well-attended, most likely because people were able to remember the date.  The spring clinic featured three of our rock stars – Matt HooksCharlie Pendleton and Evan Cooke, and was purportedly focused on succeeding in really light and really heavy conditions.  But that was just a ruse.  The real focus was to get us to stop whining whenever the breeze is fresh.

Speaking of Jim Raisides, he and the Commodorable Lady Vonda won the year’s best dressed award at CYC’s Kentucky Derby Party – hands down.  I once harbored illusions that I might one day clean up with this kind of style, but regrettably, there is no cure for frumpy.

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Sailing kicked off on an uncharacteristically nice Memorial Day Weekend.  Though no longer called Spring Series, had it been, Team Frisch / Hourihan would have won it.  The weekend featured the debut of Marine Regnault, who went on to win two of our fleet perpetuals.  It also featured one of the season’s best brain-farts, as Team Lane rounded a leeward mark the wrong way – in traffic.  There was no damage, no yelling or protests, though the incident earned Mike ‘Goofball of the Week’ honors and put him in immediate contention for the 2023 Hacker Award.

Six races in two days was an optimistic start to the season, but proved to be the most MRA sailing we would get before the 4th of July, due to lousy conditions and East Coasts.  June 17th, which I assume you know is my birthday, provided the only June MRA racing we would do.  However, June did launch what would prove to be Steve Uhl’s Twilight annihilation tour.  The only Twilights he didn’t win that month were the ones he didn’t sail, which was none.  He did get a 2nd to end the first series, but that doesn’t count because it happened in July, and he threw it out anyway. 

The fleet held its June party at Larry Ehrhardt’s house.  There were no arrests there either, though rumor has it that Marblehead’s finest drove by a few times.  The Hingham and Hull Fleets joined forces to host the East Coasts, which proved to be a light-air event.  Five teams made the trek, and Team Shoreman / Reynolds, with their blazing speed took 2nd, serving notice that they were more than able to open a can of whoop-ass on the rest of us should they ever decide to come out and sail.

July was crazy.  The 4th proved to be a nothing burger, as fog rolled in just in time for the fireworks, which made for a display as profoundly unimpressive as the Patriot’s season.  But July also included the Halifax Race, known for its similarity to a three-day cold shower, which featured several of our tribe, including Seamus Hourihan sporting his new centerboard.

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July also brought a return to MRA racing, at least partially, as fog spoiled one of the days.  We sailed two days before our very popular summer clinic, which by the way, featured the debut of Jim & Dan Gabriel, who my wife refers to as the angels.  The brainchild of Joe Fava, the clinic was great prep for Race Week.  Of course, no amount of prep would have made any difference in trying to beat Team Hooks / Pascal, who simply obliterated the competition, winning by a 25-point margin over 2nd place.  Of course, with Race Week comes the traditional Race Week party, which for the 33rd time was hosted by Jenifer Uhl.  Sure, Steve does what he’s told, but we all know who makes that party hum.  Super well-attended as usual, and again, thankfully, no arrests.  Finally, July featured the Fast Mermaid Pursuit Race, with Team Fava taking the Rhodes division, due in no small part to the fact that he brought in a couple of pros.

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As usual, August was hangover month and participation took a hit.  The four-day Race Week hall pass isn’t free, and the weekend after is usually when the first installment comes due.  We got in five of the six Series 2 Twilights, though a couple were of the grass-growing / paint drying variety.  Steve Uhl won two of those, though in fairness, he only raced three, probably because he also had a tab to pay.  We also sailed the Around Misery Island Race, held on a day with a fresh breeze that favored anyone of considerable girth.  Team Taylor won it, though I’m certainly not implying anything there.

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We got in four of the five MRA race days (though one of them had just one race), as Day 5 was a washout.  Steve Uhl had to sit out Day 4 after attempting that touch-and-go I mentioned, as in touch another boat and then go in before you sink.  Turns out, reaching on a crowded starting line on port tack while not looking where you’re going isn’t a great idea.  What was he looking at?  Four or five Vipers starting in 4-5 knots of breeze.  How can you not be mesmerized by that?  Anyway, that proved worthy of ‘Goofball of the Week’ honors, which set him up for a dog fight with Mike Lane for the coveted Hacker Award.

Sarah Sheldon hosted our Labor Day party, which was so wild, people started skinny dipping off the rocks, and police from both Marblehead and Swampscott were called in to restore order.  Kidding!  It was the perfect location, Sarah was the perfect host, and thankfully, everyone kept their clothes on. 

Anyway, the season really kind of petered out after that (with apologies to anyone named Peter).  Fall Series came and went with nary a starting sequence, as all three days were washed out.  That of course pleased Steve, who had led in the scoring all season before his touch-and-go.  With no additional racing, he still had a chance and was hoping to pull a rabbit out of his hat, but in the end, that Viper start was his Waterloo.

The season finally closed with Nationals in New Orleans, and 3½ teams made the trip, including Hacker finalists Lane & Uhl.  There is something to that, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.  Anyway, the Hacker was finally decided in November at the well-attended awards party at our house, where thankfully there were no incidents other than our new puppy losing her mind. 

Puppies, by the way, are an IQ test, and in bringing home a four-month-old two weeks before the party, we failed miserably. Anyway, Steve triumphantly prevailed over Mike for 2023 Hacker honors, leaving Mike to settle for winning Nationals as a consolation prize. 

So all-in-all, 2023 was quite a year, and who knows what 2024 will bring.  We have lots of questions. 

Will this be the year Team Shoreman Reynolds cracks open that can of whoop-ass? 

Will we still think the Dentons are adorable when they start kicking our hineys. 

Will Shannon Lane email me again about the proper spelling of the word hiney? 

How long will it take the Gabriels to start rolling snake eyes?

Will we see Chris Remeika & Adam Roberts again this year?

Will Doug Sabin buy a Rhodes 19?

Will Team Hefler make its debut? 

Will Teams TaylorEhrhardtHooks / PascalFava / NashCooke / KaznoskiDittrich and a bunch of others sail enough to contend for the Cup.

After more than a decade in, will this be the year the Bloxhams finally finish their boat? 

Will we see EYC RC Chair Jud Smith run races? 

Will Steve Uhl attempt any more touch-and-goes? 

And finally, will we ever get Kim Pandapas to stop writing this crap?