Monday, September 2, 2013

Crewing Flying Dutchman

The earlier post about woman Mothist, Pat Duane, who was also one of the U.S.A's earliest Flying Dutchman sailors, reminded me of the one time in my sailing career I sailed with a current Olympic Sailing Team skipper. Norm Freeman, who had finished sixth out of twenty in the Flying Dutchman class at the 1976 Kingston Olympic Regatta that summer, had come to Annapolis in the fall of that year to race the Flying Dutchman invitational at SSA; sans crew, as it turned out, as his Olympic crew had taken a break. Initially Norm tried to recruit my friend, Duncan Skinner, who, at 6'7" height and string-bean physique, was the ideal FD crew (the FD sporting 190 sq. ft. of sail area with a large percentage of it packed in a massive genoa jib). Duncan had already made commitments for the weekend and put forth my name even though I was small for FD crew (5' 10 1/2" (1.79) m. and 175 lbs. (80kg) weight). I was game, though I had never stepped on a Flying Dutchman, my trapeze-hand experience mostly with International 14's.

The fall regatta was windy and I must admit, my crew-work was definitely not of Olympic caliber, it taking forever to horse that big genoa in on the tacks. I was probably taking 2 to 3 times as long as his Olympic crew. No matter! His FD was so much faster than the rest of the fleet that 1/2 way up the first beat we had a clear lead that we extended throughout the race. We ended up with all firsts.

There are a lot of strings on a Flying Dutchman but Norm did all the adjustments. I found the Flying Dutchman very smooth and much more stable than the International 14. I do remember, in one race, concentrating on the spinnaker downwind, blasting along comfortably, when I felt some unnatural shakiness in the steering. Experienced crews know to check the skipper when that happens. He might have fallen out of the boat, or tripped, but it wasn't a disaster this time. Norm was standing up, straddling the tiller, worried about a particular nasty gust coming up on us. To me the FD was handling the breeze beautifully, with predictable responses, so I was somewhat puzzled by his concern. Eventually Norm settled down and we won another one.

The current crop of skiffs are thought to call for a more athletic crews. To my mind, the demands on a top-notch FD crew are just as athletic if not more so. It takes lots of strength to handle that genoa.

Dr. Stout took the picture below to memorialize my one regatta with an Olympic Team skipper.


Baydog said...

Rod, your sailing experience is unparalleled. Are there any boats you haven't sailed?

Tweezerman said...


Yeah, I've sailed on lots of different small dinghies (not too much on catamarans). Nowadays (with age) I've become more discriminating about what I try out. A friend of mine keeps bugging me to go out on his Aussie 18 but I'm not too thrilled about being flung about 18 feet into the mast if we capsize. Same with the foiling Moth. With a foiler a one time sail would only be a capsize fest and to buy a foiler and put the time in to enjoy it is not where my head is at these days.

Anonymous said...

What a lot of good stories you have!

Tweezerman said...


Sea Stories are the glue that ties us together. The parties, the stories, the laughter are as much what sailboat racing is about as the actual cut-and-thrust on the water.