At five minutes
before the start the committee fired another cannon.
"Flag end of
the line is favored," said Dyce, who had put on his own foul-weather suit,
"but Hunt is nosing around the committee boat end."
"I'll bet he
is," replied Samuelson.
So that was it.
The tactical decision—not just for the start but for the first leg—had been
made. At four minutes before the start they headed back toward the committee
boats today," said Nat. "Not bad in this weather." Only a beginner
ever counted the fleet.
Two and a half
minutes before the start. They passed the committee boat and headed away from
the line. Nat tried to remain detached, but he could feel his wrists quivering.
He laid his right hand on the deck to steady it.
minutes." Still heading away from the line. "One and three
quarters." Silence between the calls, like a trough between waves. "One
and a half."
approached an imaginary line that stretched across the water from the committee
boat at one end to an orange flag at the other. To cross this invisible line
even a fraction of a second before the starting gun meant a recall. To cross
the line a few seconds too late, behind the bow of another boat, meant spending
the crucial part of the race eating his backwind.