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Every Racer Needs a Cruising Buddy

Racers who have big sponsors have adequate shore crew and plenty of resources. What about those who sail locally and never have the right tool for the job. The Racer-Cruiser buddy system can be a boon to both.
Racers have a high water line because they have stripped everything off their boat to gain weightlessness advantage.  Cruisers paint their waterline higher to take into account all the stuff they carry with them.  Nothing has become more evident than the fact that every racer needs a cruiser buddy to supply them with skills and equipment to effect repairs so they can keep on going fast. 

A couple of years ago we were eagerly following the Around Alone Race. One of our friends had taken the big step, or shall we say huge leap and was a participant. Half way around the world he landed in New Zealand – a broken boat, broken spirit and flat broke. He had no shore support crew, no spares and only the basic tools. To take part in the race our friend had sold everything. He even borrowed a significant amount of cash from his ex wife.

His daily emails had described the loss of his headsail in the Southern Ocean, the fire on board along with other calamities. Small wonder he sounded so alone and so far away.

At the same time we were also following a cruising couple who had befriended our family prior to taking off around the world from Ireland . Though they had taken a ‘little’ longer to get there, they were also in New Zealand . As it happened, they were just a short way up the coast from where the racers were resting after the past Southern Ocean leg. We sent the cruisers an email thinking they might enjoy checking out the Around Alone racers and asking them to look up our friend there. And they did. Cruisers have supplies and time.  They head over for some excitement. (They’ve been cruising there for awhile.) 

They set off the very next day and effectively became the shore support crew for our racing friend. They had fiberglass, tools galore, spare sheets and halyards. When the new headsail and furler arrived they installed it. With their cruising boat, they towed out the racer each day for trials and then back in again while the engine was serviced. They stayed, offering expertise and spare parts, companionship and connections, and the support of a fellow soul who has known need. 

Morale was exceptionally high when the racers took off. Other cruisers were awaiting our friend when he arrived in South Africa , and he wound up coming in an overall second. This was truly a lifetime achievement, and the cruisers rocked. Hmmm, partnership in progress. 

Back at our home port, we always check out the go fast sail boats when we come in to a dock or have a chance at the moorings. We marvel at the gadgetry and wonder at the spartan accommodations. Inevitably there is some bit of hydraulic plumbing or a shaft seal that is leaking and the owner is there with a vice grip and a screw driver looking at the problem in frustration. We go back to our boat and return a few minutes later with a heavy tool bag – complete with teflon tape.  Together, we fix the problem and carry the weight back to our home while the sleek cruiser goes on to take line honors, and we played our bit part.  

If every serious racer were to partner with a cruiser, sailing life would be so much more interesting – and equitable. No, not as an employee, but as a full partner.  After all the cruiser may well have the wherewithal and experience to keep things afloat and winning, while the racer would have an easy way to dispose of unwanted (outdated) gizmos and gear. What true cruiser does not want an extra sail, miscellaneous plumbing bits, or some slightly used electronic device?

So here is born a new idea: the sailing buddy system.  Racers go out there and go fast. But if things go awry, it’s DNS or DNF.  Cruisers have all this stuff, but they generally can’t go fast with it.  So, if a cruiser adopts a racer and vice versa, they’ll have the perfect partnership.  The thrill of being involved with a race boat and the security of being able to fix her. It’s a partnership made out of the blue. Amen! 

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