"Tanja, if you have a moment, I'd like to tell you about my watch last night."
Here is Angelo's story:
Before I start, it is important that you know that I started sailing, but I never participated in and never thought I would like regatta sailing.
When I arrived to my night watch, Tanja explained the situation like she always did at the change of watch. But this time was a little different because there was another boat very close to us. I felt uncomfortable, but very professionally she explained that the red, blinking AIS shape on the chart plotter did not mean we were going to collide. Though close to each other, the sails were trimmed and that with just one degree to port, I could go faster and also move a bit closer to the other boat, but with one degree to starboard, I would be slower and grow the distance between us. She also showed me that if I pulled the main in all the way, I would have bad trim and be able to slow the boat down. I felt relaxed knowing I could control the situation with just one "click" of the autopilot or a few pulls on the main.
For a few moments I thought, "I'm not going to do anything and maybe even go slower, safer, and more relaxed," since it was night and the boats were close. Imagine if we hit! Something terrible could happen!
And now starts the "linda", really nice part of the story. I don't know what happened in my brain, "There is no one here, no one can see me, I know how to get out of a problem," I thought, "So sure, I'm going to try moving the autopilot one degree to port!" I looked at the other boat visually and then went below to look at the chart plotter and measure the distance between us. Like Tanja told me, our velocity increased, but we weren't passing. I just watched the other boat's white light (stern light).
"So what do I do," I pondered? Speed up?.... Slow down?...... "Ok," click, "One more degree to port," and we sped up some more. I also learned how to visually spot a boat and determine it's speed. I moved a line on the life line to match the boat's position and noticed the other boat fell behind that line meaning I was going faster! And then, like a miracle, his white light turned green!! We were winning! It was 4:18am.
Suddenly, the man on the other boat shined a flashlight at me as if to say, "Be careful sailor, what are you doing?" He is an older man and a very experienced sailor. But, in the same moment, I had made my own decision; as an older man also, without experience, I also shone a flashlight saying, "Yes, I am awake and I know what I'm doing."
For nearly one hour, he tried to gain on me again, but since she explained international rules state you can't overtake to windward, I felt powerful. The other boat pushed forward just a little bit, so I pushed one more click to port. This "game" lasted fifteen to twenty minutes until, at 5:12am, his AIS on the chart plotter turned red again indicating he was growing very close to me.
At this point, I took revenge and shined a light at his boat saying, "Hey man, what are YOU doing?" Finally, at 5:40am, he decided to change course and disappeared. I won my first personal regatta!! No one knows about this except me as we sail across the corridor from the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea.
Celebrating Angelo's new found confidence and experience with a finely trimmed, well-balanced boat.