275 Years on an “E”

275 Years on an "E"

It is a typical summer weekend at Crystal Lake with a sunny sky and a 20 mph breeze from the south. Norman Olsen and crew make their way out onto the dock, hoist their CR-60 sails, and sail out from the lee of the club to the blustery race course. In a year where the WMYA region saw a surge in participation from younger sailors, there is something a little different going on here. Olsen, 77, and his able crew all qualify for free coffee, as they have a combined 275 years of “experience” on board. While it seems they might all be more comfortable on a keel boat, they all share a common fate.

Despite an average age of 69 years, they simply can’t get the passion for the thrilling E out of their systems. To make matters worse, Olsen’s E has recently become even more thrilling.  After posting a pair of threes in the big breeze, Olsen confides that he is really having fun this year. “I always enjoyed putting up the reacher and sailing the angles, but with this asymmetric rig, we’re taking that to a new level.” On this day, Olsen’s team consists of former E champion Ed Schindler, Sr., Dr. John Modlin and accomplished E skipper Bill Cotsworth, who has sailed with Olsen for many years. Cotsworth, who started club racing in 1955, recalled a similar day last year. “We had the same kind of conditions last year, but it was a little different story with the old rig. After considering whether we should even go out there, we ended up sailing in survival mode, bearing off to the corner, doing one jibe, then finishing the run. Today we were in racing mode, jibing to the favored heading or to get into better wind. We were going a lot faster, yet had much more control.” A big smile ensues.

Legendary Larry Price, 78, who is known for dropping by a few times each year and smoking the fleet, just misses winning the weekend series by a boat length. Price, who steps into the asymmetric rig like he has been sailing it his whole life has perfect angles and blazing speed. He readily confesses, “This is a lot more fun, just amazing. My only problem is that we’re going so fast I don’t have enough time to think anymore!” According to Olsen, there were times in the past when he wondered how much longer he could campaign his E. “With this boat, I don’t think about that any more”. With role models like Olsen and Price, maybe we can sail forever.