seconds." Two boats right in their path. Samuelson swung beneath them and
let out his sails, to pick up drive through the choppy water.
No help for it,
they were going to be late, but at least they had a stretch of water to
themselves. The boats they had just avoided were Hunt's and Goslin's. Now they
were heading straight for the line, Dyce hauling in the main-sheet, hand over
hand, Nat trimming the jib. The boat was suddenly lying over on her side,
heeling under gusts that were almost twice as strong, now that they were headed
close to the wind. She was shivering like a racehorse that has been struck with
a steel whip. When the cannon sounded Samuelson was less than a boat length
from the line, but still it was a poor start, for him.
know," Samuelson said. There was no need to ask what he meant. Dyce was the
first to see it.
tacked." Five seconds later. "Goslin."
With no order
given, they tacked, heading away from the Westchester shore now, out into the
center of the Sound. Hunt and Goslin were on the same tack with them, and one
other boat followed half a minute later, but the rest of the fleet was headed
inshore, where they would be protected from the worst of the waves. It was
always a choice. If they headed out into the Sound they would get a better wind
angle later on, but if they hugged the Westchester shore they would escape the
pounding of the waves, which lessened their speed out here.
eight eight." As Dyce spoke, he boosted himself up on deck, but his brother
was ahead of him, already lying up forward. Like a pair of jockeys flattening
themselves on a horse's back, they rode there, hanging as far out as possible
to help right this boat that weighed 3� tons and that staggered and shuddered
from the force of the wind blowing against them.
Nat felt better.
Riding up here, with the wind in his face, his anger and fear were gone. For a
moment he had a sensation that he couldn't remember his own age. Maybe he was a
child who dreamed this. Maybe he was middle-aged and it was all behind him and
nothing mattered. He couldn't remember, so maybe the old man was right after
all. Damn it, what had he had for lunch yesterday?
The boat was
lying too far over. The wind was picking up. Samuelson released the mainsheet a
few inches, spilling wind from the forward part of the sail, which took a
deformed curve like a seagull with a broken wing. Threading his way through the
waves, Samuelson headed into each crest as it loomed ahead of him, then headed
off, away from the wind as the boat slid down the wave's back. Up and over; off
and away. He held the tiller with thumb and forefinger, constantly moving it
but never more than a few inches, and he was good, he was very good, anyone
could see that. Up. A second's pause, facing almost into the wind, dangling on
the crest, on the brink of losing control, then off and away. Wind filling the
sail again. It was a pleasure to watch him.
The wind shifted
direction and they tacked, almost at the same instant as Hunt and Goslin. They
held the new course a few minutes then tacked back again, as the wind shifted
once more. The fourth skipper never changed course, so that was the end of
A few minutes
later they all tacked for the mark. The boats that headed for Westchester had
done the same and the two groups were converging. Nat could see that the
Westchester leader was ahead of them; it had paid off, then, to hug the shore.
Mackenzie would be first at the mark, then Hunt, and then Houghton. And then
them, probably, just ahead of Goslin. That wasn't bad, fourth, in a fleet like
this, with three more legs for the others to make mistakes.