- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Eagle, still in the waning grip of the Gulf Stream, was drifting farther and farther east of the rhumb line—the most direct route to Halifax. Several of the smaller boats, those with fore-and-aft rigs, which could sail close to the wind, had passed her and were approaching the finish. Dar Mlodziezy was 47 miles ahead to the ENE; Simon Bolivar was 45 miles behind. Captain Cummings, watching from the bridge one evening as the day's garbage from the messdeck was dumped overboard, remarked dispiritedly, "The garbage is beating us."
A 20-knot teaser blew up on the afternoon of the sixth day that had everyone on the bridge smiling. Cummings said, "If this keeps up we've got 'em." Martin said, "Isn't it amazing the difference a couple of hours can make?" Shannon said, "That's going to sea. You have to be patient." Martin got on the PA. and addressed the crew. "Just want you to know what all your effort is for. We've set a course now for Halifax, and our speed is almost 12 knots." The cadets cheered again, but for the last time. By evening the wind had died again. On the morning of the seventh day, Martin was in CIC (Combat Information Center) listening to the position reports from the other vessels in the race and plotting their positions. As he drew a small triangle to represent Dar Mlodziezy he stabbed the chart with the point of his compass in disbelief. "It's not possible," he muttered, "not unless they motored." During the night, while Eagle had been making barely 35 miles toward Halifax, the Polish ship had covered 120 and Simon Bolivar 100. "Or unless they had a completely different weather system, which isn't likely since they're only 80 and 60 miles away, respectively." He checked the bearings again. "I don't believe it, I don't believe it."
As any reasonable team captain would do, Cummings, when he heard the news, turned the matter over to a higher court. "If they [the crew of Dar Mlodziezy] didn't turn the iron jenny on, then the good Lord has decided they should win the race, and there's nothing we can do about it," he said.
During the morning, Dasher, a 60-foot cutter, and Donald Searle, an 80-foot ketch, both Class C boats from Great Britain, crossed the finish line outside Halifax Harbour. For the square-riggers time was running out. The time limit for Eagle's class was 8 a.m. on the eighth day and Halifax was still 148 miles away. That night a heavy fog settled down into Eagle's rigging. Every two minutes her automatic foghorn sounded, and drops of water rolled off her sails onto the decks.
At eight the next morning, Eagle radioed her position to Assiniboine, a Canadian escort ship. Latitude: 42 degrees, 29 minutes north. Longitude: 62 degrees, 34 minutes west. The race of the tall ships was over. In due time an STA official in Halifax would feed the positions into a computer along with the handicaps and, in Eagle's case, a time allowance for using her engine while on call, and a winner would be declared. Meanwhile, Eagle still had 125 miles to go. At last, too late, the wind cooperated. By 9:30 the fog had burned off, the wind was blowing out of the southeast at 16 knots and Eagle was clipping along at 7½ knots with all sails set. At lunch, Cummings instructed his officers, "No matter where we finish, tell them I was proud of them. Tell them they all stood tall. They did a fine job."
"We're going too fast now," said Tom Clarke, the executive officer. "At this rate we'll arrive in the middle of the night. We don't want to do that, so the Ready Boat Crew will shorten sail this afternoon, and this evening after dinner we'll harbor furl."
Harbor furling, part of the work of readying the ship for the beauty contest the next day in Halifax, is similar to sea furling, but, being meant for show, it's tighter, tidier and more difficult, especially when cold is numbing the fingers of bare hands. After dinner, as the cadets and crew started up the ratlines, the sun was still well above the horizon, but for the first time since Eagle had left Bermuda, the wind, blowing 24 knots now, had turned cold. Their yellow foul-weather gear flapped against their legs and occasionally a watch cap would sail off a head and fall to the deck or into the sea.
The job took 2½ hours, all told. At times the wind would snatch a sail from the grasp of a hand and the sail would suddenly swell like a balloon, and the slow process of reaching, grabbing and retrieving, layer after layer, would have to begin all over again. But spirits were as high as the yards in spite of bloody knuckles and frozen ears. Laughter and shouts of happy derision rang out from the mainmast to the fore as the cadets raced each other to finish first. The hands on the main, having furled their last sail while those on the fore were still struggling with a lower topsail that refused to be tamed, roared in unison, "On the fore! Need some help?" Military discipline had the night off.