"I've got some gloves in the cabin you can borrow," Chuck, one of my fellow crew members says.
"Thanks," I tell him. Something about closing a barn door came to mind. To add insult to injury, we lose the race. Hutchinson's boat catches a wind shift and passes us before we know what's happened.
"We have a problem, mates," Courts announced afterward. Our all-male crew looked up at him with concern. "Their jib bunny's better looking than ours. No offense, Mike."
Mike, who is from upstate New York, was in charge of our jib—the small sail at the bow. The jib bunny's job is to lean against the jib with arms spread wide while sailing downwind. During jibes he or she flings the jib from one side to the other. Mike had done this perfectly well. But he was not a 26-year-old London beauty wearing a tank top and short shorts, as Maria Blake, our opponent's jib bunny, was.
"None taken," Mike said, sounding hurt.
"That's O.K.," said Jim, who was working the mainsail winch. "Mike's fast. I'd rather have speed than looks on the jib any day."
Courts looked at him, bemused. "Yeah?" he said, mulling it over. "I wouldn't."
Our fortunes improved from that point on, however, as we easily won our next two races, despite one moment during a sudden turn when I was garroted by the lines attaching the traveler to the boom. Our 2-1 at the end of that first day put us in a three-way tie for first.
That night the various crews and skippers got together for cocktails and dinner, and after a couple of rums we learned that not all the skippers were as laid-back as Courts. Hutchinson, a J-24 world champion, had been particularly hard on his crew. Every time Hutchinson, who on land was as polite a fellow as you'd ever hope to meet, asked Eliot to let out the jib, or take it in, Eliot would overdo it. "I'm looking for an inch, Eliot! One inch. Not six! You keep giving me six!"
"But I...." the elderly man started to explain.