"...and the Sigma 38 National Championship has been won by Arbitrator!" The Irishman made his announcement and we all clapped and cheered enthusiastically as our skipper, Don, failed to appear to accept the prize and we pushed our mast man towards the front to hold the Waterford Crystal goblet above his head in true Italian style. We had won! It had been a long week and we had 'raced hard' but it had been worth all the bruising (of bodies and egos) for this moment and the glowing pride of being National Champions.
Within a few short hours
we were reaching our way back across the Irish sea and I had time to reflect
on how, within 18 months, I had gone from novice cruiser sailor, to Pit girl
(Halliards) of the winning Sigma 38, beating 23 other highly competitive boats.
The first nine months of 1998 had been pretty awful and I was hitting a late
20's crisis by the end of the summer. I was very stressed out at work and
realised that I needed a hobby that would distract me from the agonies of
speedy commuter London. I found myself writing a list of goals I wanted to
achieve in my life and the words 'sail across the Atlantic' appeared before
me. It dawned on me, that this would never happen, unless (as with so much
in life) I made it happen. Flicking through Floodlight, I found an advert
for Dayskipper Theory Classes, underneath an advert for the London Corinthian
Sailing Club. In a moment of decisiveness, I made the call and a kind, friendly
voice invited me to go down to the club that night (Tuesday) to get a 'feel
for the place'. I duly traipsed down, only to discover that the friendly voice
belonged to Maggie, the wife of Chris, the Manager, and I was greeted by friendly
smiles and good beer. By the time I made my way happily home, I had signed
up for the classes and put my name down for the (infamous) Offshore
Within a few months I had dinghy sailed on the Thames (courses) and crewed for Mark and Susan Lewis on their Sigma 33 (Buckshot) in the Solent. In addition, I had made many friends and was enjoying an active and exciting social life, a million miles away from the stresses and strains of work.
At Christmas, I signed up with Peter Hopps on the chartered J120, Jacaranda, to compete in the RORC series and the Fastnet race, and in May, I completed the Dayskipper Practical at the Hamble School of Yachting.
By last November,
when I put my name down on the RORC crew register, I had many sailing miles
under my belt, and ended up with a choice of boats to crew for. As luck would
have it, I decided to go for the place on Arbitrator.
So there you have it: From Yachty Totty to Winch Wench in 18 short months.
As this is the closest I will get to an Oscar speech (I'll save you the tears!)
I would like to thank the Offshore
Group, and all those at LCSC who have encouraged me and given me the training
that helped me to be part of a winning team at Cork this year. And to all
those people reading this and toying with the idea of a new hobby - go for
Fiona Hinton, Social Secretary