Dateline: February 5th, 2014, San Diego California
Last week at the Tall Ships America Annual Awards Dinner, Pride of Baltimore II was awarded the Perry Bowl for placing first in 2013’s Tall Ships Challenge Race Series. This marks the fifth time since 2000 Pride II has won the series, and, following on the heels of her 2012 Perry Bowl, this is the first time she has ever won in back-to-back seasons. Adding her 2010 win, she’s claimed top honors three of the last four years.
In presenting the award, Tall Ships America listed out the finishing results of the races on all five Great Lakes with a steady drumbeat – one second place and four firsts – hinting that all Pride II need do was cast off lines and slide easily to a win. But buying into such fantasy would discredit both the field of competition and the efforts of the crew.
First off, in the dynamic environment of sailing there are no foregone conclusions. The wind is fickle and the weather is a prankster. Nowhere more so than in the temperamental Great Lakes, with the patchy doldrums and summer squalls of baffling inland oceans. Seen from a height, the courses where we raced might boast a mackerel pattern – the bright sheen of flat clam here, the glittered shine and texture of wind driven water there. And if the weather weren’t opponent enough, the fleet teemed with competition. Stately Niagara and nimble Lynx, our swift 1812-era sisters; full-rigged Sorlandet, sleek Appledore IV, and three-masted Denis Sullivan, with her rig made for the Great Lakes.
All these ships and more eyed the finish line with the same set gaze as Pride II and her crew. Lynx beat us on Erie, and was a mere 22 seconds behind on Michigan, with Appledore IV nipping at her heels. Niagara held the lead on Huron and Superior until late race wind shifts favored Pride II’s weatherly hull. Competition this sharp comes only from crews and ships honed by practice, drill, and perfection of craft. At this level, the ship is like a machine with human gears and cogs. Or perhaps a wholly living being, the crew toiling and laboring as cells and pulses within the larger creature of the vessel herself.
Either way, aboard Pride II the crew was focused, dedicated, and absolutely set on getting every last ounce of speed from the ship. It’s easy to imagine the intensity as visceral sweat and muscle and a powered-up Pride frothing at the bows, heeling and surging along. But that’s romanticism, not reality. The races are long, the conditions constant only in their changing. The intensity is inward. Our fingers are on the pulse of the ship, we strain to detect changes in the rhythms of the ship and the subtleties of wind. It’s a staring contest with the weather, with the other ships. The minds of all hands scan the ever-changing horizon, study the cloud streaked or star speckled dome of sky for clues to the unfolding mystery of the future.
In the end, it comes down to luck – specifically when luck is the convergence of preparation and opportunity. The Captains, Crew, and Staff of Pride, Inc. are grateful to the Tall Ships Challenge for the opportunity to campaign Pride II with our striving sister ships, and we could not be prouder of the hard work, dedication, and commitment the 2013 crew put into preparing for the Challenge.
Captain Jamie Trost and the truly proud Staff and Crew of Pride of Baltimore, Inc.