Guest Blogger Matt Maples: A Slow and Exciting Start
Posted by Tall Ships America on August 1, 2011
By Matthew Maples
It is the first night of our last race. There is little wind to fill the sails and the tall ship fleet is slowly sailing down the west coast of Norway. Red and green lights at all our sides bob like the colored lanterns of All-Hallows Eve, the only visible traces of our competitors. Even with our studding sails set on starboard we only make about 3 knots.
Even though the winds were not strong, the beginning of the race was exciting enough. Just before the race began nearly all the class A tall ships (the biggest size class) mustered at one end of the starting line just a few miles from Stavanger. As the race was beginning, the ships began to turn and hoist sail, making for the line. The Europa was in front, hovering just behind the starting line and we seemed to have waited until the last moment to turn. The cameras on our deck whirred like incessant insects as the entire fleet of class A’s headed straight for us. Leading in the front were the two big Russians, Mir and Sedov. Mir quickly pulled past us, her sail being hauled aloft to the tune of large deck speakers electronically barking orders in Russian to the sailors and cadets. Sedov came alongside our port, looming like a horizontally-placed black skyscraper over our comparatively tiny Europa. Sedov was close enough to us that Captain Klaas would later joke (was it a joke?) that we almost tapped them with our stern as we turned toward the line. With several dozen ships present there was a forest of masts, enough that it began to be difficult to tell which masts belonged to what ships!