Minnesotan John Barnitt, 25, the youngest crew member on Stars & Stripes,
toiled much of the time belowdecks in what 12-meter men call the
"sewer." Stooping his 6'4" frame to fit into the aluminum boat's
cramped, hellishly hot belly, Barnitt, an ex-carpenter, stacked and unstacked
and pulled to the deck sails weighing as much as 160 pounds. "I call it
all-star jib wrestling," he joked as he relaxed in his Washington, D.C.,
hotel room on Sunday, the day before the Stars & Stripes crew called at the
White House. "It was about 100 degrees down there, all steamy, with water
dripping in on you. Sometimes it got pretty hairy."
Barnitt is dyslexic, unable to look at words—and sail-identification
numbers—without having them scramble before his eyes. In high school he studied
as little math as he could and had a girlfriend type his English papers.
"It isn't as much of a problem now," he said. "But I have to know
each sail by what it looks like, how big it is, what its function is. I can't
just go by the numbers."
boat's mastman, worked out a color-coding system to help him locate each sail.
"You can look pretty ridiculous if you put up a spinnaker sideways," he
said. "Knock on wood, I never put one up sideways and never went
labored down under Down Under, his mother, Judith, proudly watched the Cup
races on TV at her home in Minneapolis. Barnitt, the only crew member from a
landlocked hometown, learned to sail on the nearby lakes. "Even with his
problem, John has always been upbeat and very positive," said his mother, a
psychologist who had buttons printed for her friends and family. The buttons
read: WHO IS THAT MAST MAN?
Now we know: He's
a sewer expert.