This is a mobile proxy. It is intended to visit the IOMfAtS Story Shelf on devices that would otherwise not correctly display the site. Please direct all your feedback to the friendly guy over at IOMfAtS!

Finding Tim

A Fourth Alternate Reality

by Charlie
With editorial assistance from Dix and John


I know, the 49ers were those brave, hardy, and greedy souls that set out for California in 1849 because they'd heard that "thar was gold in them thar hills." If, in the fall of 1996, you'd asked either Tim or me what a 49er was, that would have been the answer you got. Maybe, just maybe, we might have mentioned a certain football team. We would learn, and so will you.

Auggie was fifteen years old, a senior in high school and a freshman in college at the same time that winter. Lynn was a poor graduate student, studying art, and trying to sell a painting or two to help pay the rent-though Auggie assured her that the rent would be paid regardless. In fact, the evening they came by our house for dinner Lynn was all bubbly over the fact that she'd just sold a painting, one that'd been in a little art store in a strip mall in Fargo. It sold for $150, and she got $100. Auggie'd spent too much time in the high level world of Chicago art to be impressed, but Lynn was delighted. And, as I'll have to admit, Auggie was doing a really good job of being enthusiastic. In fact, it was he, not Lynn, that first told us of the sale.

As we sat around before dinner, Auggie had a couple of questions for us-besides asking what the occasion of our dinner invitation was. I asked him if it wasn't possible that we'd just wanted to get together with the two of them for dinner, and that we didn't have some agenda in the background? Auggie just laughed and said, "You guys don't work that way. If it was just getting a few of the Gang together, it would've been a larger group."

Well, he was right. And I admitted that we did have an agenda, but it would wait until dinner, because, until then, one or the other of us was going to have to keep tending to the dinner. They offered to come into the kitchen with us, but I pointed out that Tim'd be outside grilling steaks, so our being in the kitchen wouldn't help. Lynn said, "Isn't a wind chill below zero a little cold for outdoor grilling?"

With that Tim came in, in his shirt sleeves (at least they were long sleeves), and said, "Shit, it's cold out. I hope you like rare steaks."

I almost fainted on the spot. Tim never talked about it being cold. I stepped outside to see what'd inspired Tim's comment. The thermometer on our back deck said 2 degrees above zero, and there was a frightful wind. I have no idea what the wind chill was, but it was way below Lynn's generalization. I got back inside quickly. Tim went back out, checked the grill, threw on the steaks, and came back in more quickly than I've ever seen him move. He still didn't wear a coat.

We went back into the living room. Lynn asked for hot tea; Agggie, Tim and I had Cokes. Lynn looked puzzled. "Coke, with all that ice, after you almost froze yourself outside? Are you nuts?"

"Completely," answered Tim, and left it at that.

Auggie said, "We have a couple of questions, which we hope you two might help us with."


"You know, Shel and I are very good friends; he's just six months younger than I am."

Lynn added, "And I'll add that the two of them are sexually involved, in case you didn't know it, or thought that I might not know it."

I said, "Lynn, I'm not sure just how much we knew about Auggie and Shel, but we were absolutely certain that whatever was going on, both you and Brian would know about it. Neither of those boys would have it any other way."

"I know," answered Lynn. "But I'm still getting used to the fact that in your group that's so completely taken for granted. Believe me, most places it isn't taken for granted."

"So, Auggie, what's your question"

"I expect to marry Lynn next summer on my sixteenth birthday. Then we can legally have sex."

Tim said, "I'm way ahead of you. Shel, because he can't marry Brian, can't use that loophole to have sex with Brian two years earlier."

"Right," said Auggie.

Tim went on, "And is it fair to Shel for you to use a loophole that's open to you, when he can't?"


"Does Shel room with Brian when they travel to skating events?"

"Of course."

"Could you get away with that with Lynn?"

"The world doesn"t ask many questions anymore. Hotels don't care who's in their rooms. But in a sponsored situation, no, of course we couldn't be booked together."

"Does that stop Shel? Should it?"

"No, but it's different."

"Yes, it's different. And only a wonderful kid like you would even think to ask the question. I'd say, 'Ask Shel,' but we both know what his answer would be, and it wouldn't have anything to do with what he really felt, so that's a useless approach."

"We've thought of that."

"If Shel were two years younger, would it bother you that he had to wait?"

"No. That's life."

"Well, so is being gay. We didn't make the rules, but we have to play by them. You've got a great loophole to the eighteen years old rule. I can assure you that Charlie and I would've used it if we could have. Go for it. Just don't rub Shel's nose in it."

"You know we wouldn't do that. But remember this. All of the kids in The Lighthouse, and the rest of the Cavers, are waiting to join the Gang until Shel can join with them. Isn't that much the same thing? And they're all waiting."

I said, "I think joining the Gang and being in love with your life partner are different-especially since all of those kids live together. If you and Shel lived together, the answer to your original question might be different. I think it's great that that group all wants to join the Gang together. But none of them are putting off something as vital to their being as getting married in order to do it. In fact, they're all getting on with their lives, except for the single matter of formally joining the Gang."

Lynn said, "OK, you've supported the decisions that we've already made, and I'm ever thankful for that. But let's get on to what you have for us."

Tim left, came back in just a minute and announced that the steaks were bloody, but ready, and that we should all head to the table to eat. Because the big formal dining room of Dakota House was simply too big for just four people, we usually ate in the den when there were just four for dinner. We'd done so that evening. We all walked to the kitchen, picked up the food, and headed for the table in the den.

Tim took a bite of steak, pronounced it perfect (you could hear it moo in the background), and said, "Auggie, we want you to teach us to sail."

Auggie said, "You know how to sail. I've seen both of you sail at Camp White Elk; you're good sailors."

"We don't want to be good sailors, we want to be Olympic medalist sailors."

Lynn said, "Oh, my God. Is this how you decided to be a Olympic gold medalist diver?"

Tim said, "No, but it's just about how Charlie decided to be an Olympic gold medalist archer. Wouldn't you agree, Charlie?"

"Just about. You were headed to the Olympics, and I looked around for a sport that I might possibly have a chance at, and it seemed to be archery. The rest is history."

Auggie didn't seem too perturbed at the suggestion. He said, "I've thought about Olympic sailing. It isn't exactly my cup of tea. I like the big Es and As, not the little boats they sail in the Olympics now.

"What're they racing now?"

"It changes from Olympics to Olympics. I was reading ab article on Olympic sailing just the other day. Originally they measured Olympic sailboats in tons, then in meters, then in feet, and now just with the names of classes of boats. The designs are very controlled so that it's the sailor, not the boat, that wins the medal. It's very different from the America's Cup races, in which boat design is usually the key to winning, or at least the key to getting into the final series."

Tim said, "I've looked at the results from the previous Olympics. It seems that two man crews are used in at least some of the classes. That's what we'd be interested in."

"If I weren't talking to Tim and Charlie, right now I'd be asking two questions."

"And those would be?"

"Do you have any idea of what you're talking about getting into? And, are you out of your minds? But with your Olympic background, you do know what you're talking about getting into, and it's already been agreed that you're both out of your minds, so I'll simply pass on those questions. I'll just say, and, again, I'm sure you know, the only way to master a sailboat is to spend hours in it. To get to Olympic levels you have to spend hours and hours and hours and hours in it, spread over a long time."

"How long a time?"

"Virtually full time the year leading up to the Olympics. The international racing community moves around, with races wherever the weather's good. Not Madison, and certainly not North Dakota. Newport in the summer, Florida in the winter, the Mediterranean, England, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, Rio. It'll be hard to be a University President, Chancellor, or Dean and follow that circuit."

"That's our problem. We'll get Fred's Sports to sponsor us. They'll hire you as our coach. Could you be available for a year, year and a half? The Olympics are in three and a half years; would you be available for the next two years to get us ready for the last year and a half of intense training?"

"Are you kidding? A job like that would be a dream come true. And good old Fred's Sports is going to want an artist and a photographer to document the whole thing. Lynn and I would be available for a reasonable retainer."

Lynn said, "Auggie, you can't demand that!"

Auggie said, "Of course, I, we, can. Listen, Lynn, I'm the only skipper on earth that could do the job and would take it. They know it. I know it. Fred knows it. It's a great position to bargain from."

Tim and I both laughed. We knew Auggie wasn't bargaining; he was simply working out details. We'd known from the sparkle in his eyes the instant he grasped what we wanted that he'd do it. Frankly, it'd never occurred to us that he wouldn't.

Now he sounded just like Tim when he started telling a young diver what was expected. "It's winter, and there's no point in starting by heading to Florida. We'll probably start in Madison in late spring. In the meantime, there are all sorts of books you need to read. You have to master all kinds of rules, read about sailing in general, and stuff about the boat you'll be sailing. We have to pick the boat, but I'm pretty sure we'll be talking about a 49er. It's a rather strange looking boat, but sails excellently-with skilled sailors. We'll get you on the water as much as we can next summer, and work out the plans for the next three seasons then."

Tim said, "We've been at our jobs for long enough that we're due sabbatical's. We'll plan to take off for a little over a year before the Olympics, dropping in on campus whenever we can, and keeping in touch by email."

Auggie said, "You'll need to be available two years before the Olympics. I'm pretty sure that the sailing team will be selected almost a year in advance, based on races in the year before that. So that year is actually the most important. However, once selected for the team you'll be expected to be at key regattas all year."

Tim said, "Yes, sir. We'll work that out."

I said to Tim, "How do you like being on the receiving end of this? I've seen you lay out work schedules for young athletes, and you can be just as unbending as Auggie. How to you like it?"

Tim said, "I love it, and I wouldn't want Auggie to change in the least. He tells us what we have to do to have a chance at an Olympic medal, and we do it. If we start arguing, then either we picked the wrong coach-and we didn't-or we're admitting that we really didn't want a medal."

I said, "You really can practice what you preach, can't you?"

"I haven't been preaching it all these years without meaning it. And kids like Billy, Judy, and Jody, responded well. Now it's our turn, Charlie."

"What've I gotten myself into?"

"Being a two-sport Olympic medalist."

Lynn said, "That's the most absurdly overconfident remark I've ever heard, but somehow it seems to be appropriate."

Auggie said, "With Auggie the Magician behind them, how can they fail?"

He got a (gentle) cuff on the ear from Lynn for that one, but chuckles from Tim and me.

I'm getting ahead of myself at little here, but I'll try not to give away the plot (is there a plot here?). For the next several years I was utterly amazed at Tim. He put himself totally under the direction of Auggie. He never argued, protested, disagreed, nor failed to follow Auggie's directions. Not in the seclusion of our bedroom did he gripe or argue with Auggie's directions. This was a different Tim than I was used to. Tim was a man in charge, a leader, a dreamer, a planner. But as far as sailing was concerned, he became an abject follower. At some point I asked Tim about this.

His response was simple. "First of all, Charlie, you never really saw me in the years when I was becoming a diver and gymnast. That happened during the infamous forty months. But I picked my coaches and respected their advice and direction just as I do Auggie's. I'll have to confess that I thought a long time about this Olympic dream, or some would say pipedream, and in picking sailing, Auggie was the key. You know I changed gymnastics coaches in high school because I wasn't happy where I was, but until I did, I followed my first coach's directions just as I do Auggie's. That's why you have a coach. If you don't have complete faith in your coach, get a new one. OK, I know for many kids changing the coach isn't a possibility. But if you're going to second guess your coach, you're not going to get to the top."

I said, "I'm thinking of Willie. He uprooted his entire life for the coach he wanted. And look where it got him."

"But once he got to Michigan, he followed the directions of his coach completely. And look where it got him."

Back to the present, which at this time was the approach of Christmas in 1996. Sailing wasn't exactly going to be a daily activity, though I wondered if Tim or Auggie would dream up a Christmas trip to the Carribean or somewhere. No such luck. Auggie arrived at Dakota House a week before Christmas with a big gift box; he looked like he could hardly carry it. It had both of our names on it, and we opened it eagerly. It contained a virtual library of books on sailing. From beginner to expert. There were two books on weather. And finally there was what Auggie called The Bible for the 49er class sailboat. He grinned at us. "We start sailing in the Bahamas in early February. Arrange a week off. And get all this reading under your belts before we go. Got to go, Lynn's expecting me for dinner."

There were seventeen books in the pile. About one every two days, if we were going to make Auggie's deadline. One look at Tim, as he perused the pile, made it clear that we were going to make Auggie's deadline. I said, "Do you think we're going to have time for sex between now and the Bahamas?"

"Yes, but not as often as I'd like, and I wouldn't bet on any other kind of recreation. Whew! Auggie's taking this seriously. Thank goodness, if he didn't, we'd be cooked."

"You knew he would."

"Of course."

We agreed to skip our reading on Christmas Day, but the rest of the vacation was spent buried in books. We learned terminology, basic sailing, rules of the road, racing rules, advanced sailing techniques (but those were delivered by two or three experts who carefully reminded their readers that only by getting into the boat and sailing were you going to be any good). I learned more about weather, clouds and wind patterns than I ever wanted to learn. We read about ocean sailing, lake sailing, even transoceanic sailing. Even if we never again get into a sailboat we could at least talk like experts.

Auggie visited regularly and quizzed us, not so much to make sure we were doing the work, but that we were getting the important stuff, as Auggie put it, "We're doing the forest for the trees thing."

We asked about his plans for going to the Bahamas, but got little information. We were told to block out Friday, February 7 through Monday, February 17, 1997, leaving and arriving about midday. Tickets? "Don't worry." Lodging? "Don't worry." Sailboat? "Of course, lots of them." What to pack? "Swimming suits, sun screen, and, Tim, skip the Speedos, you'll need a real suit, as much as I like ogling you in your Speedo. Couple of tee shirts. Maybe a few clothes, nothing fancy. We won't be doing the hotel dining room circuit."

That's all we could get out of him.

Auggie disappeared for a week, but called us Thursday night before our departure for who knew where in the Bahamas. "Andy, Lynn, and I'll pick you up at Twamley about 11:00 a.m. tomorrow. Have your bags with you. Travel light."


"Be ready." And he hung up.

I said to Tim, "This is beginning to sound like our cruise to France."

Auggie barged into Tim's office exactly at 11:00 a.m., I was there with Tim waiting for him. Andy walked in behind him. Auggie said, "Tim, Charlie, I'd like you to meet Andrew Oldfield. Mr. Oldfield is the official liaison between Fred's Sports and its newly sponsored sailing team, now officially known as 'Tim'n Charlie'."

We shook hands, and then burst out laughing. Andy said, "I have specific instructions that having this team win a medal in the next Olympics is a top corporate priority. Fred told me, 'If they don't win, it had better be Auggie's fault, not something that Fred's Sports did or didn't do.' As I'm sure you know, Fred's Sports will spare no expense for this team."

"And now we're off. Andy's coming along to take care of all the details, so that the three of us don't have to think about anything but sailing for the next ten days. Lynn, our team artist, is waiting in the car. She's also carrying my cameras."

We were driven to the Fargo Airport by a Fred's Sports driver, flew to St. Louis, Miami, Nassau, and then by puddle jumper to Freeport. Andy had the tickets, handled our bags, and took care of our every need, to the point of embarrassment. Auggie said, "Look, I know you think of Andy as your good pal and not your flunkie. But you're going to have to get used to the idea that if you're going to succeed in this mad venture, you're going to have to place yourself in the hands of your friends, coach, and sponsor, and only worry about sailing. If you're going to worry about anything else, make it the university, not what Andy, Fred, Lynn, I and others're doing for you. Oh, yes, don't forget, Lynn and I are Fred's Sports employees during this venture as well. Andy's the boss down here, except when it comes to sailing. Then I call all the shots. You two guys just do as you're told."

We put our tails between our legs and started to learn to march to a different drummer. I think that, for the first time, I began to understand how newcomers to the Gang felt when they encountered Fred's generosity.

It was nine o'clock when we got to our room, and room service had meals ready on a table. It was good, filling, and nothing fancy. Clearly it was meant to set the tone that this was a working trip, not a vacation, even if it was starting in a luxury hotel in Freeport.

Shortly after dinner Paul and Amanda's son Perry walked in. This was a total surprise for Tim and me, but obviously not for Auggie and Andy. Auggie explained, "Perry's here because from time to time we're going to need a crewman for each of you this week. Perry's a damn good sailor, having learned at Camp White Elk and sailed on Lake Superior in the summer and practiced with me earlier this week. And, well, I know the rules you guys're going to impose about sleeping, and I'm damned if I'm going to sleep alone this week. So Perry and I are across the hall. Andy's in here with you two. Oh, yeah, there's only one bed, but it's a king. There was some discussion about Andy and Lynn rooming together, but Lynn decided that she wasn't ready for that. If she can't have me, she'd rather be alone."

Lynn piped up, "I know, it's different rules for Auggie. But Auggie is Auggie and I'm Lynn. I think Auggie and Perry being together is cute, and I can't wait till Perry's eighteen and I can try him out. But right now, he and Auggie make a great pair." Is there any doubt in your mind that Lynn was a perfect fit for the Gang?"

We looked at Andy and he was grinning. It looked more like Perry was drooling. Auggie looked like the cat that'd swallowed the canary. With that, he and Perry took each others hands and headed out the door. Auggie looked back over his shoulder and said, "Breakfast in this room, 5:30. It's been ordered, and a wake-up call for 5:00 has been requested. Get at least a little sleep."

Lynn said, "I don't plan to make it to breakfast. Fred is actually paying me to be the team artist, but even Fred doesn't have enough money to get me to a 5:30 breakfast."

I found some Cokes in the room refrigerator and the three of us sat down. Andy said, "Do you believe that little Auggie? The morning after you two talked to him about wanting to be Olympic sailors he headed for Fred's office. He told Fred the whole story. You can imagine Fred's reaction; he thought it was absolutely wonderful that you two wanted to do something like this. He told Auggie, "Fred's Sports will back this 1000% percent. You're in charge."

Auggie had replied, "Look, Uncle Fred. You don't want me in your office over every little thing. How about I use Andy as my contact at Fred's Sports. And I'm sure that Andy'd like to join us for some of our sailing trips."

"Just remember, Auggie, so would I. You can work with Andy, but expect me to be involved. Those two are my favorite people on earth. Charlie's my stepson, you know. I guess that makes Tim my stepson-in-law. Whatever, I'm going to be involved. And Auggie, spare nothing. I'll get a Fred's Sports VISA card for you, and you just use it for whatever you need for this project. I know you think big, so I don't need to repeat that. I also know you have common sense, so I don't need to add the usual cautions."

"Thanks, Uncle Fred. From me, and from Tim and Charlie."

We sat in the room for a while, just pondering the situation. Andy spoke up, "You know, one of the wonderful things about the foursome is the fact that when I travel, or any one or two of us travel, the partner isn't left home alone. Sure I'm missed, and I miss Jim, Amy and Kara, but nobody's home alone. And, as you see, Auggie intends for me not to be alone this evening."

"Auggie's a little devil."

"There are a lot of people in Grand Forks, Madison, and a lot of other sailing towns that have underestimated Auggie and ended up looking very foolish. He doesn't suffer fools, and when he's racing he gives no quarter to those that have put him down. But if you've shown him respect, he'll return it double. I'm convinced that he's the closest thing to you, Tim, that the COGs have produced, but he's only ahead of the others by a slight margin. By the way, Auggie was down here earlier this week with Perry, learning to sail a 49er. He thinks Perry's a pretty special guy, and a natural sailor as well. "

"True, but don't sell Willie short, or any of the others."

"I'm not. But you're going to spend a lot of time with Auggie in the next three and a half years, you'll see."

What can I tell you about the night? We'd all been busy, and the Gang had grown an awful lot, so it'd been quite some time since we'd had Andy in our bed. He was very straightforward, "I know you guys won't fuck me, so who's going to give me a blow job?"

Tim said, "Such vulgar language!"

"Yeah, and it describes equally vulgar, and pleasurable, acts. Now I want to see some skin." Andy quickly started to undress.

I thought for a moment that I might actually see someone strip faster than Tim. But Tim could, and usually did, get his clothes off as fast as he could fall into the water from a 10-meter platform. I think Andy thought he was winning as he slipped off his Jockeys and started to lay down on the bed. But just at that moment a naked Tim flew through the air and was laying on the bed ready to greet Andy when he lay down.

Tim said, "Hurry, Charlie, or I'll have him all finished before you get here.

I hurried and we took turns, and I won the prize. Then Andy did the same for both of us. It was pretty quick, but Andy said, "I know we skipped a lot of lovely foreplay and such, but we really need to sleep. That kid across the hall is really going to put you two through your paces this week."

The phone rang at five; promptly at 5:30 Auggie and Perry came in pushing a breakfast cart. Again, very filling but nothing out of the ordinary. By six we were down at the hotel's marina. There were five sailboats lined up, all flying little Fred's Sports flags from their masts. Three looked like fairly ordinary sailboats, one being quite a bit bigger than the others. The other two were really very strange looking boats. Auggie said, "They're all technically sloops, that is they have one mast, with a mainsail and a jib. They can all fly a spinnaker. Those two strange looking things are 49ers. We won't be in them until Monday or Tuesday. They're not the boats for basic instruction. Oh, yes, I know. You both are pretty good sailors. That's at Camp White Elk. Down here you're rank beginners, and we have to get you past that very, very quickly. We start on the Nancy over there [pointing to the largest boat]. We can all sail on her."

At that point Andy excused himself. "I'm not part of the sailing staff. My job is support. I'll be checking into the office, reading my email, and trying to keep the business afloat in spite of Fred's best efforts to bankrupt us. Just for the record, Fred's Sports owns those two 49ers. They are absolutely top of the line. Learn to love them, because you're going to spend a lot of time in them. The other boats are rentals for this week. Oh, yes, my job includes the logistics of moving those two boats wherever you're going to be sailing. Ta ta." And he jogged off the pier, heading to the hotel.

Auggie said, "Don't believe half his shit. He's going back to bed; wanna bet?"

I didn't bet, and I never asked Andy. I figured that just because Tim and Auggie were tearing my life apart, I shouldn't blame Andy for avoiding some of it.

We boarded the Nancy. Auggie sat up front on the starboard side, with Perry opposite him. He said, "OK, Charlie. You're the skipper. Take us for a sail."

I thought, "That God damned little kid thinks he's going to put me on the spot. I'll show him." And I did. The boat was bigger than the X-boats I was used to at camp, but essentially the same. Tim and I got the sails up easily. The pier wasn't a dock in a lake, so we had to paddle the boat out of the marina-most of the boats were bigger and had motors. Neither Auggie nor Perry lifted a finger to help with anything, including the paddling. But we got to where we could sail, and I pushed the tiller over, caught the wind, and we were off. I headed us out to sea, and we had a glorious, relaxing time. I reflected on Auggie's method, and realized immediately that he'd goaded me into the best possible performance. Andy was right, the kid was really sharp. The thoughtful relaxation as we sailed abeam of the wind lasted about 5 minutes. Auggie told me to drop the sails and stow them. Then it was Tim's turn, and we did it all over again. We spent the morning in unrelenting exercises. Get the boat higher, balance it for speed, sail this way, tack that way. Come about. Jibe. Set the spinnaker. Take it down. Reef the sails. Sail without a jib. Sail with only a jib. Try just a jib and spinnaker. First I was at the helm, then Tim. Every once in a while Auggie would take the helm and give orders to both Tim and me as crew. Then he'd manoeuver the boat into some really messy situation and give the helm to either Tim or me. Perry sat and watched, sometimes giggling, during all of this. I was afraid he'd be bored, but he didn't seem to be.

As noon approached, we saw a launch heading our way. It stopped near us and Tim was told to dock alongside. There was Andy with lunch, Lynn with Cokes, and a head we could use! Auggie and Perry got in the launch and ate with Andy and Lynn. Except for going to the head, Tim and I weren't allowed off the Nancy. Lunch was only about half eaten when Auggie cast us off from the launch and said, "Your job is to follow the launch. Enjoy your lunch, but keep sailing."

The launch headed straight upwind!

Tim and I traded the helm position, and struggled to work out the best tacks to follow the launch upwind. We did our best to eat as we sailed, and had to drink our Cokes from the can instead of from a glass, with ice. That may have been the most unpleasant part of the day. (When we got back we told Andy that we didn't care how he did it, but he was to resolve the logistics of our getting Cokes with ice from a glass, OK, a plastic glass.)

The launch put Perry on board, and then disappeared. Perry simply mimicked what Auggie'd done in the morning. It was unrelenting, tough, difficult sailing. At dinner time he pointed us to a beach area. We pulled up the centerboard and beached the Nancy next to the launch which had gotten there before us. Andy, Auggie, Lynn, and two staff from the hotel had a driftwood fire going on the beach and were cooking fresh fish. We had a good dinner, and Auggie allowed us a relaxing sail back to the marina-with just the two of us aboard.

What a day!

Sunday the phone call came at 4:30, and by 5:30 we were at the marina. We spent the day in the two little sloops. We started with Auggie and me in one and Perry and Tim in the other. The day went much the same as the day before, but with two boats. Tim and I were told to trade boats at midmorning so I worked with Perry and Tim with Auggie. In the afternoon Tim and I were together in the boat, taking turns at the helm.

I guess we did well, because Auggie told us that night that we'd move to the 49ers in the morning. Since he'd originally said Monday or Tuesday, we took making the move on Monday as a good sign.

Monday morning, back at the more reasonable hour of six a.m. we met Goose. Goose was a tall, handsome, native Bahamian, whom Auggie introduced as one of the best twin trapeze sailors he'd ever met. Auggie said, "You've never sailed a boat like this, and you have to see it being sailed to have any idea of what it's about. Perry's still pretty new to the trapeze, so he's going to be watching with you. The boat needs a two-main crew, so Goose is the other half of the crew."

I asked, "Auggie, when did you learn to sail a 49er?" They don't have boats like this on the inland lakes of Wisconsin, do they?"

He said, "I came down last week, found Goose, and he taught me all he knows. And that's one Hell of a lot."

Goose said, "He's the best damned sailor I've ever worked with. It's like he's a part of the boat."

Auggie went on, "It was the first time in a 49er for either of us. You know, 49ers haven't been around very long. But just a few months ago the 49er was selected as the twin trapeze boat for the Sydney Olympics. There's a mad scramble to build enough boats, for people to buy them, and for everybody to learn to sail them. The fact that it'll be a new Olympic class is a huge boost for you two. Very likely the top competition at the Olympics, and to get into the Olympics, will be starting to sail the 49er right about now. But, of course, they'll be experienced at trapeze sailing, and you're not. And their two-man crews will probably have been sailing together perhaps for as long as a decade."

Auggie continued, "Oh, yeah, while we're talking about how you fit into this competition, let me tell you that you guys're about twenty years older than the competition. Tim, you're going to be the old man again, and you, Charlie, are even older. But you have one big advantage."

"Well, some good news is welcome," said Tim. "What's our one big advantage?"

"This kind of highly competitive world class sailing is very popular in Europe. It's dominated by the Europeans, especially the British. The Americans are also rans. That won't help you in the Olympics, but it'll help you get to the Olympics. Spots on the US team are much less competitive than on a European team."

"How many 49er crews can the US field in the Olympics?"

"Just one. You have to be the best in the country, or you don't go. But, being the best in the US is a lot easier than being best in England."

I asked, "OK, if there's such a mad scramble to get hold of 49ers, how did you get hold of two of them?"

"Money, and the reputation of the Fred's Sports organization. These are good ones; they'll stand up well against the new ones that're being built by Ovington this year."

"Couldn't Fred's Sports have just hired a builder to build the boat to specifications?"

"Nope. They have to be built by a licensed builder. That insures that it isn't the boat, but the sailors, that win the races."

OK, what exactly is a 49er? It's a sixteen foot, sloop rigged, racing dinghy, designed for a two person crew. It's most distinctive feature are two wings that stick out about two feet on each side of the boat. When the boat is sailing, the two crew members stand on these wings, and lean backwards so that they're parallel to the water, hanging there from two trapeze wires that extend from the mast. So if you were to look at the boat from dead ahead as it sails, the deck of the boat would seem to extend outward through the wings, which are slightly higher than the deck, and then the crew extends straight out from the wings on the upwind side, hanging by two wires-the trapezes. It's an arrangement only a gymnast or diver could love, and I was expected to romp around on this thing as nimbly as Tim! Ha.

All right, I have to step back from this story a little. Tim and I faced an incredible challenge. At ages 56 and 50 we were hoping to compete with a bunch of twenty-somethings, all of whom had either been born in sailboats, or had started sailing at about the same time the average kid learns to walk. And we expected to do it in three years. We did it, and I simply can't tell the story myself. So I dug out a couple of letters that Auggie wrote to Fred, telling about our progress.

Dear Fred,

Things are going well here. I'm having more fun than a barrel of monkeys-between Goose, Andy, Perry, and me, we're keeping Tim and Charlie completely and totally immersed in sailing and utterly exhausted. Andy reports that they were up for sex only the first night, and considering those two, that's really saying something.

On Monday morning Goose and I took them out in the 49ers. (They're wonderful boats. I don't know how you managed to get hold of two of them.) I don't think they'd ever seen a sailboat rigged with trapezes before, and they sure had never sailed in one. Goose and I took one of the 49ers out and Perry followed along with Tim and Charlie in a launch so that they could watch. After about an hour we put Tim in one boat with Goose and Charlie in the other with me.

I'll be honest, Fred. I was worried about Charlie. I don't think that either Tim or Charlie thought of sailboat racing as that much of an athletic event. They envisioned balance, reading the wind, planning tacks, and the like as the difference between winning and losing. And that's essentially true. But it sits on top of an incredibly athletic activity. Coming about in a 49er isn't a matter of pushing the tiller over, ducking under the boom, and letting the wind take you in a new direction. On a 49er you push the tiller over-using an extension, scramble upright while you unhook your trapeze, duck under the boom (which is very high so you're standing when you duck under), scramble up the wing, grab the trapeze wire and hook it to your harness, get to the top of the wing and lean back putting your whole weight on the trapeze and extending your body out parallel to the water. It's a huge effort, it has to be accomplished in a very few seconds, with perfect precision and balance, all the while either minding the helm or trimming the sails. I was really afraid that Charlie would never be able to master it.

I was wrong. The guy amazes me. If he puts his mind to something, he does it. By the third time we came about, he had it knocked. Not perfect, of course. That takes time. For some, years. For Charlie more like hours. I simply couldn't believe it.

When we stopped for lunch, Goose reported that Tim was almost as good. We decided to put them together in one of the 49ers in the afternoon and see what they could do.

What couldn't they do? They scrambled around the boat like master sailors. Seeing them out on the wings, hanging by their trapezes, was simply amazing. It was interesting to watch them manoeuver around the boom when they came about. Tim was a model of grace, exactly as you'd expect him to be: his body is gorgeous and it moves like you'd expect the body of a diver or gymnast to move-quick, nimble, and graceful. Charlie is another matter: he sort of lumbers around, seems unsteady, sometimes I fear he's going to fall. But he gets to where he's going about a tenth of a second ahead of Tim. I've watched this so many times, but I still can't figure out how he does it. There's no way that his heavy, sort of awkward moves can get him across the boat ahead of Tim, but they do, every time. Perry, Goose and I watch this and just shake our heads. We decided right away that we weren't going to try to give Charlie any pointers on how to move around the boat. However he does it, it works!

By the way, Perry's been sailing with us regularly. He trades off with all of us, letting one person take a break in the launch-never Tim or Charlie. It let's us give them both practice at the helm while I watch from the launch. And it allowed Goose a day off, which he needed to keep other commitments.

The first week the winds were perfect. We could count on 10 to 15 knots every day. The 49er carries so much sail that it can actually move faster than the wind. We've clocked them at 17 knots in the strongest winds they've faced!

Honestly, Fred. When they asked me to take on this task, I had serious reservations. I wouldn't have turned either of them down, not after what they've done for all of us. But my mind wasn't really able to stretch enough to see them getting into the Olympics as sailors. Well, I was just plain wrong. They stand a good chance. Our two weeks are ending here, and we'll be home soon. I'll give you a full report. But, take it from me, these guys're going to be a force to be reckoned with in US sailing. Look out, the old men're coming. The sailors need to take warning from the divers!

Much love,


A year later Auggie wrote to Fred from New Zealand (by email):


Perry and I are watching Tim and Charlie in the Freddie as they sail in the final race in the New Zealand National Championships. As you're well aware this is their first venture into real competitive sailing in the 49er. Up till now they've mostly just raced against Goose and me and a few pairs at a couple of yacht clubs, and they beat us as often as we beat them. Here in Auckland they've had to deal with organized racing for the first time. We chose New Zealand because the field here will be less competitive than in Europe, and all properly registered boats and crews (i.e. Tim and Charlie and the Freddie) were eligible. And these championships will serve to qualify them for most regattas in Europe and the US if they do well enough here.

Do well enough? That's a joke. By their second race (which they won) they were the talk of the regatta. That's not quite true-they were the talk of the regatta from the time they registered because they were the only really unknowns registered, and they were the oldest registered-Charlie by well over a decade. The laughter turned to awe after their first two races. They came in third in the first race and first in their second race.

Fred, they still make the strangest sailing pair. First, of course, their sizes are so different. But much more startling is the way they move. Tim is still the epitome of grace, moving his body like a ballet dancer. Charlie moves more like a professional wrestler, no grace at all. But he's hanging by his trapeze line, head back almost touching the water, milliseconds ahead of Tim-every time. Goose, Perry, and I aren't the only ones that haven't figured out how he does it. But he does.

There's a real wind out there today, about 21 to 24 knots. Tim and Charlie have been clocked at 25.7 knots, about as fast as a 49er ever goes. It's breathtaking. As I've been pecking away at my laptop, the race has been progressing. The Freddie is coming in second, which will make Tim and Charlie second overall in the Championships. With this under their belt they'll be the talk of the fleet, and they'll be qualified for world class 49er events.

I can hardly believe it! Tim takes it all in stride, just like his Olympic successes. Charlie, on the other hand, looks like he really doesn't know what hit him. It's charming.

Fred, you've got to be at their next regatta! In fact, it's time to bring the whole Gang.

Love, Auggie.

It would be easy to miss one of the important lines in that email, namely that Goose and Auggie beat Tim and me about as often as we beat them. That meant that whatever we could qualify for, so could they-with one key exception: Goose and Auggie couldn't compete together in the Olympics because they were of different nationalities, Goose being a Bahamian. However, our next big regatta was at Portsmouth, England, and Goose and Auggie entered as well as Tim and me. Fred invited the whole Gang, and almost everyone showed up. He put us in the Queen's Hotel, a delightful old building built in 1903 after a fire completely destroyed its predecessor. It was quite grand, and typical of Fred, who never liked modern American hotels transplanted to other parts of the world.

Fred also chartered two motor launches that allowed the Gang to get out on the Solent and view the races. In the first race Auggie and Goose, sailing the Maddie II, were just barely beaten by Tim and me sailing the Freddie. But the competition between us was for third and fourth place, as an English team and an Australian team beat us by a large margin. Auggie is as capable as Tim in always fing the silver lining in everything: he pointed out that Tim and I were the lead Americans. Auggie and Goose had made a deliberate decision that Goose would be the helm and Auggie the crew at this regatta, thereby requiring that the Maddie II sail with a Bahamian registration and flag. Auggie didn't want anything muddying Tim's and my claim to being the lead American boat, if in fact we could achieve that.

The Solent is famous for choppy water, and that often leads to a bow catching a wave and flipping the boat. Tim and I'd done that a few times sailing against Auggie and Goose, but had avoided it in New Zealand and hoped to here. However, after the third race, Auggie said to us, "Nobody's capsized yet, that means we're all sailing very conservatively. That may be OK for the Olympics, when there's no room for "Better luck next time," but we have a lot more next times, and we need to be pushing ourselves more."

So on the second day of the regatta, in the fourth race, Tim and I pushed our little boat to the max. There was about a 14 knot wind, meaning that the boats could go almost 17 knots at their fastest angle to the wind, spinnakers flying. Tim was at the helm and I was manning the sails, and we were pushing ourselves and our boat to the limit. So was Auggie, and to our astonishment, Auggie took a bow wave and flipped over in one of the more spectacular upsets I'd ever seen or think I will see. But I didn't see much of it, because Tim and I moved on at a fast clip and won the race. Along with congratulations, a number of the other sailors warned us that we were pushing our luck by being so aggressive-the Maddie II, being held up as the classic example.

Auggie, who took capsizing as a matter of routine, urged us on. He told us, "Push it, push it. Don't be scared; don't be sissies." Tim and I concluded that if we didn't capsize at some point Auggie wouldn't talk to us.

The four of us were invited to dinner with a group of British sailors that had been world class 49er sailors for several years. They were gracious hosts, but it was very clear that their intent was to find out more about us. They knew the history of our boats (all experienced 49er sailors follow every boat ever made for the class), so they knew that we'd only been sailing 49ers for a little over a year. "So, what did you sail before the 49er?"

Tim giggled a little and said, "We learned on X-boats at a summer camp back in the sixties. We haven't sailed since. We spent two days last year sailing with Auggie in the Bahamas and then he put us in 49ers."

"You mean you never sailed a competitive boat before the 49er?"

"I simply don't believe it. The 49er is a really tough boat to sail. Nobody learns on a 49er; you gradually move up to a 49er."

If I'd said that to Tim, the phrase, 'I don't believe it,' would've been terribly upsetting. But he had learned, at times with a minimum of grace, to accept the fact that people used the phrase without meaning to call him a liar. But using that phrase with Tim did insure that the conversation would end fairly soon. Tim replied, "I assure you its true. Charlie and I have virtually the same sailing experience: a few weeks at a summer camp in Michigan as teenagers, two days sailing in Freeport, and about a year sailing 49ers. That's it."

One of the other Englishmen hosting the dinner caught Tim's vibes and, quite correctly, decided to change the subject. "Are you two thinking about the Olympics in Sydney? With both of you being Olympic medalists, it would seem reasonable that you're thinking about the Olympics."

I said, "Tim doesn't lie, but I suspect he'd like to shade the truth in answering that question, so I'll answer for him. Hell, yes. Quite honestly, we went looking for a sport in which we might compete as a team. And I'll continue being honest, we got fooled in choosing sailing. We were unfamiliar with high level competitive sailing, and didn't realize how athletic a sport it is, or how much it's a young man's sport. We'll finish what we started, and with hard practice (which both Tim and I are used to) and a little luck, which we admit we'll need, we just may be competing with some of you in Syndey."

"Wow. You just decided that you'd like another Olympic medal, picked sailing, and here you are? Just that simple?"

"Just about that simple. Luckily we have two aces in the hole. The first was Auggie Madison and the second was Fred's Sports. Take either one out of the equation and we go nowhere. And believe me, we know that."

Auggie spoke up, "Nevertheless, it's Tim and Charlie out there perched on the wings and hanging onto the ropes. Nobody can do it for them. All of you know that good support systems on shore are essential, and good coaches are crucial, but ultimately it's the athletes that win the medals."

"Amen," said several of our hosts.

Those are 49ers. Your webmaster used to sail these:

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead