Go ahead, twist your tongue and call him Poprishchin, the protagonist in Nikolai Gogol’s short story “Diary of a Madman.” Although he’s not a schizophrenic like Poprishchin, he, too, does crazy things — but a different kind of crazy.
Away from the spotlight of micromanaged prime-time sailing events, a little celebration is in order this summer. The place couldn’t be more picturesque: Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. The occasion could not be more fitting: a world championship. And the excuse is better than any: The Tempest, like Medicare and Medicaid, turned 50 this year. It’s perhaps the best small keelboat you never sailed.
How many times this past week did you use the term polymath? Me? Less than once. It’s a word that is rarely used because people who know a lot about a lot are not en vogue. We are a society of experts who seem to know much about little and learn more about less until we know all about nothing. That, perhaps, is the pinnacle of expertise.
It was a gray day off California. Under a thinning blanket of fog, the Pacific was yawning and stretching to wake up, its surface barely rippled. But aboard the J Class yacht Endeavour, a 130-foot steel colossus with a displacement of 160 tons, the rhythmic up and down of the residual swell was noticeable.
Slowly the black-hulled vessel backs into her berth. A lively cross breeze turns this process into a balancing act, especially for the skipper, who has to work the throttle in reverse while handling the monstrous oak tiller to counter the leeway of the bow. With some help from bystanders, she’s made fast so her guests can disembark and make way for the next group, which is eagerly waiting to board.
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