The dinghy sailor who made the transition… • Live Sail Die

I never thought I would be one to make the transition…I always thought I was happy in the world I was born into. Not once had I looked across the road and thought the grass was greener, had I always been perfectly satisfied with the way my lawns were maintained. However, one day everything changed, and after a bit of persuasion, I think it’s important to share my story so that if there’s someone like me, they know they’re not alone. !!!

It all started in March when Suellen texted me saying that AJ Reid had asked me if I would like to join him and his crew aboard the Anarchy for the CRBE Auckland City of Sails Regatta. I was very surprised and my immediate response was… “he realizes my only keelboat experience is sunbathing on a 50ft Beneteau aye?”

I’ve always had this perception that keelboat racing was boring…just an excuse to have a jolly jaunt around the harbour, and those sailors must have no idea what it’s like to go fast and feel the adrenaline. I hate saying this out loud and I know it makes me sound extremely ignorant and quite arrogant, but it has to be said so you know where I was at.

However, when Suellen sent me this message, I had this immediate fear that I wouldn’t be good enough and was walking into this situation with no idea what I was doing. This is absolutely not what I expected to feel.

I spent the next three days frantically searching for my dry pants, which I knew hadn’t been worn since the good old Kawau weekdays. Of course, it was incredibly hot and sunny and they didn’t even get out of the car.

The day arrived, I humbly stood there as the crew rigged the Anarchy for the race, trying to stay out of the way and absorb it all. I tried to make myself as small as possible while AJ described each of our jobs on the boat. I managed to become the timekeeper because at least the starting flags are the same as the dinghies, aren’t they?

Not only that, but I also landed the task of carrying the kite into the boat during a drop. So basically the human recovery line!! (you know there are systems for that). Oh well at least it made me feel relatively important.

The weekend was a relative success, mistakes were made but luckily they were largely not my fault. I only managed to get in the way for 50% of the maneuvers. However, this weekend brought about a change in my perspective, something and one that I am now proud to admit.

I was so wrong on keelboat sailing, the adrenaline is still there if not more so than on skiffs or dinghies. Although it is a completely different type of adrenaline. On the one hand you’re trying not to break all your limbs and drown hanging on a 20-knot line, and on the other you have boats worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and all weighing several tons that load each other.

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Anarchy race.  Photo: Suellen Hurling

I also found on the Anarchy that there were a lot more boats to cross to get to the new side, and therefore a lot more potential to do that and skate under the railing. Although extremely mortifying, I think the worst would be floating around in the water waiting to see if the sharks ate me before the crew managed to turn around and come back. Although given everything I gossip about, they’d probably see it as good riddance.

Since that fateful weekend when I was too scared to say no to this SMS invitation, I’ve been back aboard the Anarchy several times, and not just for sailing!!! I have never learned so much on board a boat as I have on Anarchy, and not only about sailing but also about myself and about life. If you keep your ears pricked up, AJ drops countless little life lesson nuggets. Some of them were so good that I decided to put together a list so you all can enjoy them too.

AJ’s words of wisdom:
1. Never waste a B…r. You finish that one (apparently there is no greater tragedy)
2. Hope is not a strategy
3. Everything you do in life should have two benefits…one is not enough
4. Do not give birth at home
5. Don’t say what you don’t understand
6. Crying doesn’t make the boat go faster

Of course, most of them are unrelated to sailing, but they can all be applied to many areas of our lives, and you certainly won’t get any wiser by outsmarting port solo or sliding on a skiff. Think of the wealth of knowledge I would have had I started keelboat racing from the start!!!

Anarchy race.  Photo by Suellen/Live Sail Die

Now this transition was by no means easy, I had to overcome all my doubts. Everything I once believed about my way of life has been flipped on its head. Over the past few months I’ve dabbled both sides of the road and learned to love both shades of green. To my surprise, the majority of my family and friends have been very accepting and supportive of my transition.

It was very difficult to come out of the darkness, but here I am: Tasman Rowntree identifies as loving drifts and foils and as a human bungee aboard the Anarchy. It’s not easy to say, but to be truly authentic with myself, I needed to tell the truth.

And if there’s anyone out there struggling with this internal battle, know that you’re not alone. I’d give you all my number and tell you to reach out, but I don’t answer calls from random numbers, and I never check my voicemail, so the whole exercise would be pretty pointless – although the comments on LiveSailDie are welcome as always.

Thank you to everyone who supported my journey, to the crew of Anarchy who first sparked my love for big boats, to the people close to me who love me no matter what I choose to love. And especially to AJ, who pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me these 6 crucial life lessons that I am now able to share with you all.

I didn’t choose this way of life… this way of life chose me.

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