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A race to a boater's rite of spring

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It’s too early to be thinking of sailing unless you’re one of those who don dry suits and launch their Sunfish off the docks at Edgewood Yacht Club on Sunday for a morning of frostbiting. There’s another group that gathers on the docks of East Greenwich Yacht Club at about the same time to race Lasers.

But, as I understand it, while these sailors are dressed to stay warm, they aren’t prepared to go into the water and they don’t need to unless they fall in. Standing on the dock, they race radio controlled Lasers that are about three feet long.

That sounds good to me.

So, I was surprised when my friend Claude Bergeron texted me that he wanted to get his Rhodes 19 out of my yard and over to Wharf Marina. Fleet racing out of Narragansett Terrace Yacht Club where we cross tacks during the summer doesn’t start until mid-May. What could have Claude in such a rush?

“Well, if I’m going to race, I’m going to take it seriously,” he declared.

There’s something to be said for commitment and a plan. That, I would venture, are two essential ingredients to putting together a winning season – whether it’s on the water or a lifelong career.

Claude is leaving nothing to chance. His is one of the cleanest and best-kept boats in the fleet. It sparkles, which is appropriate given its name, Sparkle City, so named for Central Falls where Claude grew up.

Below the waterline, the boat is one of the smoothest in the fleet. That’s not how Claude looks at it, however. Maybe she has two to three coats of bottom paint, which I would say is fine. Claude wants it perfect and that means removing all the paint, fine sanding the bottom and then spraying on a fresh coat that is burnished until it’s like glass.

“You’re not going to have an excuse if I beat you,” I warned Claude.

“We’ll see,” he replied.

Then I got down to the practicality of pulling his boat out of my yard. Until last week it was covered with snow and now it’s a sodden mass. Using the car to pull it out would leave ruts across the lawn.

Claude had a plan – see what I mean about plans? He also has brothers who he called upon to push the boat on its trailer out of the yard. Furthermore, he came prepared with sheets of plywood cut to four-foot-wide strips to be used as a runway for trailer wheels.

It all came together in minutes and Sparkle City was down at the yard where it will be worked on within a half hour.

Claude had taken the first step to the 2019 sailing season while I haven’t looked under the cover of my boat to discover what critter may have taken up winter residence there.

But, you know, just the fact he’s a step ahead starts the competitive juices flowing. Who’s to say it’s too early to start the boating season? Break out the sanders, the dust masks, the anti-fouling paint, the latex gloves, the cleaner and the wax. Such labor, as arduous as it often is, is a rite of spring for boat owners.

As for the rest of the plan, it’s to sail fast. That makes it sound simple; the execution is the tough part.

I get the feeling, however, that Claude is going to be difficult to beat. The race season is already here. I can feel it.

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