Wednesday, July 1, 2009

2009 Yacht Race and Sabani Race

The Zamami Yacht Race is on the Saturday of the big sailing race weekend, so I had to take the afternoon off school on Friday to sail into a marina north of Naha. I met my friend Vaughn there and we got some shopping done before sleeping [well] on the sailboat.

Neither Vaughn nor I have much sailing experience so our jobs were officially titled 'ballast'. We sat on the high side of the boat, which was never very high because the wind was weak all day.

[the start]

I think I heard that our boat finished third in its class. Aside from talking to Vaughn, it wasn't terribly fun. Five hours of slow going, though I did appreciate that we made the whole trip without using any gas.

Saturday night was the Yacht/Sabani party and I danced eisa for that. It was the one-year anniversary of my first performance and I celebrated by making no mistakes. It was one of my better performances.

[30 minutes to start]

[座間味丸 - Zamami maru - the 4-time defending champions - made up of young, full-time residents of Zamami]

Since I had attended all the practices I assumed that I would be starting the race for my boat, Shimawarabi. But in the final minutes the captain cut me out. It was mildly disheartening, but turned out for the best since I secretly preferred to photograph the start.

The whole crew participated in pushing the boat off, then those of us who weren't paddling quickly jumped into the support boats and took off for the 4.5 hour chase (~42 kilometers).

[Sabanis are traditional canoes that Okinawan men used for fishing - and yes, catching marlin from. The race assures the tradition carries on with strict rules (I might be making this up) on sail size, paddle dimensions, and canoe materials (wood). The winning teams have only been able to adapt technique derived from outrigger paddling, not the technological material advances]

[Zamami-maru off to an early lead]

[The Kaisou women, who finished an astounding third overall. Kaisou Okinawa is a company with a few shops in Naha that sell superbly-designed clothing and jewelry, about 50% of which are themed around the Sabani race]

About thirty minutes into the race I was surprised when the captain of the boat yelled back to the support boat to trade me in immediately. In a 4.5 hour race, lots of member changes happen, but usually not so soon. I put my camera in dry bags and stored it away as quickly as possible, then prepared for the tenuous change, which involves the speedboat trying to match the speed of the Sabani (which doesn't stop), then the members jumping between the boats.

From there, I paddled the duration. Another four hours. Everybody else changed out at least twice, but I felt strong so I just stayed. Our team has only a few young guys, so I figured a tired Dave was still stronger than a tired old guy. But I was pretty beat by the end. All my heavily-applied sunscreen had worn off and everything on my body ached. I had 8 empty water bottles laying at my feet. But I do love that feeling of accomplishment when I have no energy left.
Our boat finished seventh, three places down from the year prior. The Kaisou men upset Zamami-maru with a 10-minute lead at the finish. The Kaisou women slaughtered the womens' field (and the mens').

[our boat was towed from outside the harbor to this, the exit point, where the boat was lifted out with a crane, then prepared to go back on the ferry to Zamami]

[Ryukyu (Okinawan islands) glass trophies]

We had a closing party Sunday night at the port, then our team went out to an izakaya (like a bar, except with real food). I slept really well, then had to take the fast ferry back and go straight to work and class Monday morning.

No comments: