When you buy a race boat there are a number of things you always get as part of the package; 1. A box of spares that do not seem to fit anywhere on the boat, 2. the joy of discovery as you uncover all the cowboy repairs the last owner failed to mention 3. a pile of old spinnakers which if you take them on spec are an awesome sail inventory but are in fact old, tired and fit to pop at any moment. We own four 10-20 year old 60ft race boats so yeah…. we have a lot of the above.
The spare parts just get tossed in the trash to allow for the moment 3 months later when you realize ‘ooh that’s what that bit was, ooh its custom you say? $1000 minimum you say…ooh .S*^t. The cowboy repairs we can actually take in our stride as we have an awesome set of hard skills among our crew that can whip any boat into order in short order. So that leaves the kites.
Spinnakers for this size of boat range in the $10,000 to about $15,000 range- so when I say we have 35 that makes it sound like we are sitting on a fortune. Not so. The reality is 17 of them were built in 1992 for Yamaha one of our boats that competed in- and won- the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race. When we spread these sails out for assessment they are impressive- the size of a tennis court- wonderful strong blues and reds, famous sponsorship branding- the very sails in fact that featured on sailing magazine covers all over the world BUT. BUT. Time is not a friend to the material these things are made from- a light woven material like a tent flysheet. Now, 20+ years down the track we are outside of the life span the sail makers expected and perhaps even beyond the lifespan of many of the sailmaker. So what do you do? Part of me wants to hoard them in our store room, unpack them annually, look at them, fold them, pack them, talk about them at the yacht club because when they are gone they are gone. Luckily the other part of me, the 51% does not believe in Sunday best. Why save the best you have for special occasions when all manner of unforeseen tragedy can befall you at any moment robbing you of the opportunity to ever experience whatever it was you were saving. Therefore, I use the best china every day, all of my Star Wars figures are out of their original packaging and we put up old kites whenever we can. Which, circuitously brings me finally to Froggy.
Froggy is a fractional spinnaker we discovered in our inventory early on which was a perfect match for our sail training schedule. Froggy is a smaller, more controllable sail designed originally for very heavy winds (30 knots) and high boats speeds (22.5knots by the polars). In our situation as a training platform for ocean racing Froggy was equally good for people new to the boat to learn to drive with in normal breeze. So why Froggy? This sail had a huge green frog on it licking a big red and white lollipop and the branding read ‘Lollipop Hospital Radio for Children’ hence Froggy. Built 24 years ago and no doubt hammered all to hell in the Whitbread race by ROss Fields and the Yamaha crew Froggy then waited 20 long years in the perfect storage conditions offered by his long term home in California before exploding back on to the racing scene (!) in the 2016 Antigua Race week where he literally led us to a string of podiums in the Ocean Class.
Spool forward through 6 months of sail training work where Froggy has been a mainstay and that brings us up to the present where for the last 48hrs he has been doing exactly what he was meant to do forging downwind (albeit in a mere 20knots)in a major open ocean race. After a squall last night that saw him brought down for the hours of dawn, Froggy came back onto deck this morning around 0900 and stepped up to the plate for the final time. In brilliant sunshine, over blue seas, straining against a crisp breeze, Froggy broke 14knots for the last time and then bowed out from professional sailing forever.
With a gentle almost polite ripping sound Froggy slowly descended into the water in a number of pieces and after a momentary swim alongside the boat was ceremonially retrieved by a thankful crew and packed for the last time. A quiet descended over the deck, farewell Froggy we shall never forget you. Amen.
Never ones to be knocked down for long the Spartans passed around a stiff pot of expresso coffee later and got back to work.
We are currently hoisting a new kite- exciting! This one is from 1997 and has a Fish on it. Sweet! Lets see how far this one gets…