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On the East Coast, West Coast, and Gulf Coast...on the Great Lakes and all the little lakes and rivers, too—most American sailors have been wooed at one point or another by the siren call of an occasional low-stress, mid-week race. (OK, perhaps it was the skipper’s promise of beer and burgers afterwards.) These informal “beer-can chases” are a great way to break up the

Again, we tack just astern of Merlin at the windward mark, bear off for the diminutive offset leg, and prepare for our hoist. Everything goes like clockwork and soon we’re caning it toward the finish line. Merlin again heads for the port side of the course, but our wind is holding constant, Willard is doing a fine job of heating the boat up in each lull and working down in the puffs, and Myers makes sure that the kite keeps the boatspeed up.

A few gybes ensue, with each boat trying to goad the other into a blunder. Sitting on the rail, I smile at the amount of fun two identical boats can have on a well-run racecourse. I almost start to feel guilty about slipping out of work early… until I remember that my boss is sailing aboard Merlin. All guilt evaporates, replaced instead by a gentlemanly interest in who will have bragging rights at the YC bar, and at the office.

Suddenly, an error on Merlin produces a badly wrapped kite. Our gybing duel now resolved, Lynn, Myers, and Willard press Shooting Star across the finish line. A cannon blast ricochets off our rig and reverberates through our hull as we exchange high-fives. The kite drops, we gybe, and the mood swings from semi-seriousness to fully jovial. Lynn dispenses beer, and Willard pours his customary plastic cup full of “black label” red wine (boxed, to prevent spillage) as yarns are spun. We quietly sail baldheaded back into Marblehead Harbor as the sun slides below the horizon, filling the early June sky with hues of gold and somber grey.

Soon we’re ashore, enjoying the last of the sunset from the deck of the Boston Yacht Club. Merlin’s crew ambles up the dock’s ramp, smiles on their faces. We exchange handshakes and jokes as beers magically appear. (Perhaps they really are sorcerers?) I smile to myself, thinking that no matter how late I turn up to work the next morning, not only will my boss understand, he’ll also know that he’s down one for the season. But, as he’s quick to point out, the year has only just begun.

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