For me this was the high point of the race. I had begun this trip with a scornful laugh. Now I realized that scorn had been replaced with pride. I knew what Swede meant when he called ocean racing "the greatest sport in the world." And when I heard a voice say over the radio, "Hello, Isla Mujeres, this is the yacht Chandell preparing to cross the finish line," I was as stunned and bewildered as everyone else.
"Chandell! Where the hell did she come from?"
No one would hazard a guess.
Nimbus had outsailed a bigger boat and lost to a smaller one. I suppose this is a familiar irony in racing, but accepting it is still hard. Finishing second (third on corrected time) is somehow not good enough to make up for all the aches and bruises incurred along the way, and though we had the ritualistic drink in the bar of the Zazil-Ha, the drink everybody had talked about for six days, it didn't taste as good as the warm beer after a squall. Maybe the lateness of the hour (3 a.m.) had something to do with it. Maybe not. In any case, the going was heavy. Chuck Billing wondered when he could get a plane home. Swede talked about another race coming up, this one in the Great Lakes. Dave Jr. thought he would do a little skin diving. "Might as well. There's nothing else to do." And I suddenly remembered what had brought me to Isla Mujeres in the first place and asked the manager of the hotel, Mr. Esteban Lima, about how I could get to the bonefish and tarpon.
Mr. Lima said he would try to find me a boat, "though it might take a day or two."
I told him I'd wait.
Hanging around such a fine hotel as the Zazil-Ha on such a beautiful island as Isla Mujeres seemed an easy enough thing to do. On any other week it would have been. But this was the week of the Regata al Sol, and soon the Zazil-Ha looked the same as I remembered the Broadwater Beach Marina looking the night before the race. Many of the same people had chartered an airplane in order to be on hand when the boats arrived. Among them was a yacht broker. "You'd be surprised," he told me, "how many people crew on a boat for the first time and then want a boat of their own."