Our writer recalls his favorite moments from 18 Figawi races across Nantucket Sound.

Photo by Blake Jackson

Photo by Blake Jackson

“we are gonna hit that boat!” The man yelling those words over the wind, out in the middle of Nantucket Sound, was my first Figawi captain.

Boats at sea are not democracies. The captain’s rule is law. But we had a little parliamentary problem on board. This captain was brilliant. He was—quite literally—a rocket scientist. In fact, let’s call him Rocket Man. Genius? Yes. Decisive? Not so much.

The first mate and most of the crew were screaming at the helmsman to, “Round up, round up!” But the captain was yelling, “Fall off, fall off!” Either maneuver would have saved us. Rounding up would point the bow into the wind, slowing her. Falling off would further fill the sails with wind and speed us up.

But we did neither. We started to tack, but then didn’t. Now, flapping sails added thrashing, taut-snapping sounds to the noise of confusion on deck. I was caught mid-tack, in no man’s land halfway across the cabin top, when the captain started screaming about the imminent collision. I grabbed a deck rail and braced for impact.