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Antigua Sailing Week: cohesion among the crew

Jonathan Russo is a passionate sailor from New York who took a break from the Northeast spring and headed to the Caribbean for Antigua Sailing Week, where he is filing daily reports for Soundings. This is his third dispatch.

The crew of our Farr 65, Spirit of Juno, wasfeeling the cohesion that had settled in when it came to sailing skills. After one practice day (cut short by a shredded sail), the around-island race and one day of round-the-buoys racing, there was a comfortable familiarity with the boat.

This familiarity evidenced itself in numerous ways: Tacks were faster and smoother. When Capt. Tony asked for a sheet loosened in anticipation of a sail adjustment, it just happened — he did not have to ask twice — and sails came up and down faster, too, thus less valuable time was lost.

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Even the task of what I call “high-side etiquette” was accomplished with more certainty. When you pay for a spot on a boat such as Juno for a race anywhere in the world, there is one thing you must do. You must move to the high, or windward side of the boat when it is racing upwind, and do it fast. You must lean over the rail and hike your body out as far as possible, which helps the boat sail faster by being more balanced.

The faster the eight or nine crew — those not manning a winch or loosening a sheet — do this, the happier the captain is. If you don’t want to be responsible for mission-critical jobs such as the traveler or the mainsheet, or jib winch, fine, but you must sit on the high-side rail.

The Juno crew had deeply integrated this into its consciousness, and the whole boat was now astir with each tack. The captain’s and mate’s exertions to move to the high side were now more of an amusing nudge than a serious reprimand.

The winds for Day 3 were up again, at about 18 knots, and the sea state was robust. We were sent on a different racecourse than the previous day. This course took us through the smaller boat fleets. There were more than a hundred of them. Their different-colored spinnakers appeared in the distance like color smudges in a pointillist painting. The whole vision was just magnificent. We all remarked how lucky we felt to be out sailing in the Caribbean.

The day also brought us a setback with a ripped spinnaker, but Juno carried on under jib alone.

Back at the dock, the daily wrap-up found Capt. Tony telling us how well we had jelled as a crew. Yes, mistakes were made and would be made the next day and the day after that, too, but the improvement was real and the day glorious.

Jonathan Russo has been sailing for more than 30 years. His home port is Shelter Island, N.Y., and he sails his Sabre 38, Sachem, extensively in New England waters.