Be Patient with Yourself, Your Boat, and Your Crew

Be Patient and Enjoy

Bob Sopka, skipper of Infrared, races on Tuesday nights out of the Baltimore City Yacht Association and here shares his advice on being patient, cultivating a great crew, and enjoying the ride.

BCYA Tuesday night racing photo by Mary Lees Gunther

How long have you been racing on weeknights?

I first sailed with BCYA on Tuesday nights in 1997 on Dark Crystal in the non-spinnaker fleet. I bought my own boat, Infrared (a Baltic 35), in 1999 and except for the years when Infrared sailed to Canada or New England, we have done virtually every BCYA event, totaling about 40 races per year.

Do you have a core group of crew members who come out every week? 

I couldn’t be happier with the crew. We do have a solid core of eight that I can count on every week. Many have been on the boat for more than ten years. This is a team sport, and the team makes the sport.

Share a highlight from last year’s season

We are not a light air boat, but on the last Tuesday race of 2018 with <5kt wind, our tactician found the breeze, and we took our only gun of the year. A few weeks later, we made up ten boat lengths in a final tacking duel up the Patapsco River to overtake the lead boat and win the USS Constellation Cup by another ten boat lengths over that boat we passed.

What’s the best thing about weeknight racing for you and your crew?

The fun and sociability of a team sport with a group that really gets along well and has the same focus and intensity.

What does it take to do this well?

Depends on what the definition of “doing well” is. We don’t bring home many trophies, but we know when we’ve sailed well, and that’s gratifying.

What’s your crew’s tradition after the race? 

The skipper will often have a schnortle of rum and the crew depletes the beer supply on the way back to the dock, but that’s hardly unique to our boat.

Advice for new skippers?

Be patient with yourself, your boat and your crew. It took me seven years to get a full crew. Also, appreciate and understand the limitations of your boat and your crew.

~by Patricia Dempsey

Find more weeknight crew stories in the May 2019 issue.