A short story from: Coastal Maine in Words and Art: Gallery Fukurou’s Reflections by Maine Writers, 2019.
© Donna Hinkley, 2019
Emerge, photographic art by Ramona du Houx
The contestants were ready. The boats were in place. The coast and pier were covered with fans and family. The time was set.
Ready. Steady. Go! The starting gun was shot, and the sailors were on their way. Excitement raced through people along the shore. They jumped and shouted. They whooped and hollered. They cheered for the team they wanted to win.
The wind was strong, and the minute the sails were raised the boats had taken off with a blast. Men and women moved about the decks, knowing every job, working by instinct, enjoying the ride—the power and the rush of emotions a regatta can bring.
The closest boat to shore was well on task. They were trying to get every bit of energy out the wind that they could harness in the sails. The months of practice paid off. They slipped into first place and pushed harder, knowing first could easily slip away, when the wind leaves them and finds the next set of sails.
The coast was loaded with encouraging folks. The colorful clothes dotted the beach like confetti at a party, adults cheering and children playing in the sand.
One slip on the deck of the boat closest to the beach brought gasps from the spectators. A quick whip of a sail and the ducking of a head brought out oohs and ahhs. Fast maneuvers dotted each boat as they raced to the circle point.
Almost there, coming closer, a whip around the buoy, first place, yeah, no time to relax, got to keep moving. One by one the boats flowed around the buoy, as close as they could without hitting it with their hulls. The sails puffed out like an old man who has had a rich life, pushing for the next breath.
The lead boat was now a good two lengths in front of the other racers. Glee brightened their faces, and they pushed their bodies even harder. They needed to keep their advantage. They needed to keep ahead.
The boat in second place pressured them almost to a breaking point. Faces red, sweat covering their bodies, their arms ached with the fury they exerted. They were catching up. They were getting closer. They were going to catch the first boat. A chill ran down their spines in the excitement of gaining first place. They know they will do it.
The crowd could see the space narrowing between first and second place. The cheers for their favorite team exploded across the beach and the pier, hands flying in the air, waving, cheering, exulting in the close race.
The crew in first place never looked back. They drove themselves as hard as they possibly could. First place is not an easy seat. All want to unseat the boat running in the prized position.
The second-place crew was getting nervous. Time was running out. They needed to put as much effort as possible into gaining that position. They needed to go faster. They needed more speed.
The captain of the first boat took a chance on glancing back towards the other boats. Shock drew through him, like a knife had slowly stabbed into his gut and pulled out again. He turned to his teammates and gave a mighty shout, “Pour it on, pour it on! They’re catching up!”
The gap was closing. The crews were pushing their muscles as hard as they could.
The second-place boat had caught up with the leaders. They were gaining ground. They were flying forward. The boat barely stayed in the water. The wind caught the sails and lifted them upward, so the boat was skimming the surface. The crew was ecstatic. They could see the lead boat. They could feel the energy flowing out of the crew of the lead boat. It energized them to succeed in overtaking the lead.
The crowd went wild. Hats flew in the air. Banners waved. Shouts boomed. The noise vibrated the pier and bounced off the nearby cliff. People were running across the beach, jockeying for position to be the one who saw the most.
Who would win? Nerves of steel turned into nerves of jelly. Hopes and dreams will either be glorified or dashed upon the rocks.
The finish line was coming closer. The crews could see the end. Second place was halfway up first place’s side. Closer and closer second place came. Closer and closer the finished line came. Could they make it?
Time hung, crews worked hard, the finish line came. First place won!