By Megan Dwyer // Photos by Ira Potekhina, White Raven Media
Friday afternoon is special for working people. Many celebrate with an after-work drink with friends. For me, for most of my working life, Friday afternoon in summer meant racing in the BYC Friday Night Races. Racing at BYC has enriched my life in many ways.
Like many of you, I enjoy being on, in, or near the water. My activity of choice is sailing. Regular “beer can” racing on Friday evenings or Sunday afternoons, depending on the season, is a way for me to make sure sailing is on my weekly agenda.
I started racing at BYC as crew, but soon became the owner of a Santana 22, Mad Max. As a new boat owner, I reliably placed last. But I was doing something I loved. My boat handling skills, and more importantly, my confidence, improved rapidly. Both continue to improve. A few seasons of regular beer can race prepared me for racing with other Santana 22s in one-design races around the bay. In addition, handling a boat on a racing start line is excellent preparation for close quarters maneuvering, whether it be a local crowded marina or a busy fuel dock at a Mediterranean hot spot.
Of course, seeing the beauty of the bay is often a highlight. The sunsets can be spectacular. So can storms moving around the bay. Even the lights of San Francisco twinkling in the distance when the wind stops and we continue to drift ever so slowly towards the clubhouse finish line has its charm. Meeting new people and making new friendships can be the reward of almost any activity. I have been especially rewarded in this regard. My crew over the years has included co-workers, faculty and students from UC, geeks from Silicon Valley, and many more. When I have new crew on board, my initial priorities are to make the experience safe and fun. Over the years, some of my crew have become my closest friends, others have gone on to sail on other (usually bigger) boats. In addition to my own crew, I have met and become friends with other skippers and crew.
The races depend entirely on volunteers, and racers take turns to volunteer to be race committee. So thank you to the organizers, race committees, line-spotters, scorers, and other volunteers over the years that have made beer can racing happen.
If you are thinking of joining a race, but are not sure, I encourage you to give it a try, either as a skipper of your own boat or as crew. The BYC website has a wealth of resources to help you get started, and current racers are helpful to newcomers. If you have questions, but don’t know and racers, address them to firstname.lastname@example.org.