Every Wednesday, a small community of Aucklanders hurtle out of their offices and dash down to Westhaven marina to go sailing around the Waitemata Harbour for a couple of hours. They are the people frantically shopping at Victoria Park New World at 10 past 5, grabbing chips and beer, before racing down the marina berths, tearing off their shirt and tie, to get aboard the boat before it leaves.
Yacht racing is a huge adrenalin buzz because of the enormous potential for something to go wrong. You see, yachts are a living swarming mass of ropes, sails and rigging, all under huge tension just biding their time until they can tangle, snap it or disappear up the top of the mast where they sit and taunt the crew, daring them to just try and retrieve them. Sails become clingy infants, desperate to stay onboard and wrap around a comforting mast, or even better, a crew member, instead of flying free. Even better is clipping a hapless bowman around the ears as the sails flick through a tack.
The sea yearns to sit inside the cabin so it sneaks up through the toilet the moment you aren’t looking. And it needs its offerings – winch handles, sunglasses and hats – all waiting for their chance to escape into the wide ocean. The ocean loves badly tied-down sails and on a good day, a full boat. And when something does break, it is not a gentle snap – it is a huge bang and crack as sheets and wires whip through the air (a trifle overstated here, but you get the idea), seeking a potential victim. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, (who knows?) yachties are among the most fanatical of sportsmen.
Just why this is so probably requires years of in-depth psychological research, or perhaps it is simply a result of too much sun. Maybe it is best summed up by Rat: `Nice? It’s the ONLY thing,’ said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant forward for his stroke. `Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING–absolute nothing–half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,’ he went on dreamily: `messing–about–in–boats; messing—-‘