Tom and I developed whatever our relationship was becoming. We'd met a couple of years before when I joined 'his' sailing club shortly after I learned to sail, and we'd gravitated to each other. I'm the wiry built, mousey brown one. He's carrying a tad more weight than is truly athletic, and has longish floppy black hair.
I'm the one that Andy called a cutie that windy day when we won the GP14 race at the club, and he's the one that was kissed by me by surprise after we crossed the finish line in the lead; Tom, not Andy. Obviously we'd capsized. I mean, what else would you do?
We'd had a long talk that afternoon and evening. Neither of us is gay as far as we can tell, but neither of us is interested in girls except as friends. Neither of us is interested in boys, come to that. I'm not quite sure what it is we are interested in, either. We're working that out. We're certainly not all over each other like a rash, but we do hold hands in public, which confuses a lot of folk, especially at the club.
Andy's decided we're his pet project. Or maybe we're his pets! According to him we're the inspiration for those who follow on after us, and he wants us to go with him to our local Pride Parade. Maybe another year. At the moment we're just Jerry and Tom.
I think I want to call him Tommy.
I did, like I said to Tom when we capsized, love him just then. And he had been hoping I might, just one day, be more than just a friend.
We got the chance to go to the GP14 Youth Championship. Neither of us own a boat, so we were given the chance to borrow one of the club boats. The club does that for what it calls Young Hopefuls with capital letters. We had to save up for the entry fee. We split it down the middle, £20 each. We couldn't afford the hotel for the evening, but we had a two man tent. That would be fine. There was a meal and entertainment in the hotel, so that was sorted, and there was a full breakfast in the marquee next to the clubhouse of our host club.
Andy's got his RYA Safety Boat certificate, so our club had volunteered him to help them out on the water. In return for all the hard work he was going to be doing he was also driving us with the boat on the club trailer behind him. We'd unrigged it and put it on the trailer the previous weekend. Andy was given a room in the hotel! That was a bonus for him – Jimmy came to share his single room, and, we supposed, his single bed! They've been together as long as I've known them.
Tom supposed that there wouldn't be a whole lot of sleeping going on
We got up at crack of sparrow's fart. I was in Tom's spare room. No, really! I was. And no, he wasn't. He was in his own, and his dad drove us to meet Andy and Jimmy at the club. It wasn't even dawn when we met. We had about a three hour drive, then rig the boat, sign on for the event, and go racing!
"Some of these boats look brand new, Jerry." We were standing together, Tom and I, sorting out the boat.
"Most of these that aren't have new sails. I wonder how well we'll do?" I was getting a frisson of nerves, too. We had the jib up and it was crackling in the wind. That always makes me nervous. It goes away as soon as we get on the water. We'd read a good tuning guide , and done our best to set the old girl up, but we were new to this.
"No idea, but I don't care. Do you realise we're on our first ever weekend away from the 'rents?"
"Yup. It's a bit of an adventure. I still don't intend to come last, though!"
"You do know what you just said?"
"I do. And I mean in the racing!"
We were comfortable joking about sex, but, maybe oddly, we hadn't got that far. It didn't feel necessary at our homes, and there was no privacy, not really. Our folks were fine about us. They'd teased us, too, that day we discovered that kissing while sailing was not for the novice.
We still kissed and snuggled, though, of course we did. I think we both wondered what sharing a tent would be like.
"This start is going to be difficult," Tom said as we were heading out in a much larger fleet than we'd sailed in before. The organisers had combined the starts of the Masters and the Youths. We had a dozen boats in our class and there were a couple of dozen more Masters. They'd said it would make the starts much more fun. We weren't so sure! "There's no bias on the line, which is good, so we don't need to fight for the better end, but I do want some clear air."
"You and the rest of the fleet!" I was crewing as usual. Tom's still the better helmsman. I also like the spinnaker work. Each end of the boat's as difficult as the other, really. It's just division of skills. "Do your usual thing. Sail your own race. Pick where you intend to start and have a backup plan."
"Do I get a kiss if we win this one?"
"You get a kiss anyway! Do you think there's a prize for the first boat home sailed by boyfriends?"
"We could always donate one!"
"And win it?"
"Shut up and sail!"
"Ok, you got the time?"
"Yup. I was two seconds late with the warning , We've just under two minutes to go."
"90 seconds... 80... 70... Papa Down... 50..."
I did. "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GUN!" We were racing in our first event away from home. We were on equal terms within our own fleet, but the Masters section confused things a lot. It was hard to see who was who.
"Look around for me. Is anyone below us?"
"No, all on starboard still."
"Are we clear above?"
"No. And they're dropping down on us."
"Point UP!" Tom yelled at the boat coming down onto us when not allowed,i "Up, up, UP!"
They tacked away. "Ok, clear above. I reckon we're about halfway down the whole fleet."
"How about our part of it."
"No real idea. Just sail to drive the boat. Don't you dare pinch! We'll do just fine." I paused. "The fleet's split. Header. Tack?"
We tacked onto port. "Keep an eye on it, it may swing back. I don't know this pond well enough."
"Can we clear him?"
"Yes.... yes... No! Bear away. The shift's still with us." We went close astern of them, more speed from bearing away, but lost maybe a quarter of a length overall. Not as bad as tacking to miss them. "Ok, no-one below us. Drive!"
We drove. I was starting to see the difference between the two groups even though we were in one big fleet. The Masters had the newer boats with bright sails. They were able to sail flatter than us, a bit, because they had more weight. A lot more in more than one case. But we were a bit more agile in the boat. They sailed a bit faster, we could tack a bit quicker.
"Can we fetch the mark?"
"If the shift holds, yes."
"Tack!" There was none of this 'Ready About', 'Yes I'm Ready', 'Lee Oh' stuff from sailing school days. Tom said 'tack' and we tacked. He wasn't consistent either. Sometimes it was, 'Ok, go!'. Didn't matter, we were used to each other.
We could fetch the mark, we were on starboard and had rights over the port tack boats, We had someone above us and ahead covering us with dirty wind, but we had an overlap and we carried it into the zone. "Room for the mark!" We both called it. They gave us room. I was already inside the boat hoisting the kite. They hadn't moved the wing mark for the shift, so it was easy to carry it. Made the next leg almost too close a reach, though, and there was chaos as the fleet gybed.
Tom kept us out of the chaos, somehow.
I could describe the whole race, and the second one that day, too. We didn't capsize, we didn't come last, not in either, not in the youth group and there were a good few Masters finishing behind us, too.
"You did ok," Andy told us in the dinghy park as we were putting the boat to bed. You were halfway up the youth fleet in each race, Pretty good for your first outing." He paused. "Ah wait, your first outing was that race you kissed each other after!"
"Brat!" Tom swatted his arse.
"Ow! What was that for?"
"For being cheeky, you camp poof!"
"Says the boy who got kissed in front of the whole clubhouse!"
"If you're not careful the boy who kissed him will slap your other cheek! Take it like a christian!"
"Ok, I give up!"
"Where are we overall, Jerry?"
"Let's go and look." I led the way through the crowd round the leaderboard. "Look, we got a sixth and a seventh. With what the others are doing we're fifth overall so far after two races. Wonder what tomorrow will bring."
"I almost don't care," Tom said, taking hold of my hand. "I'm having a blast and doing it with the one person in the world I want to be with." And he pecked me on the cheek.
I'd like to say that either no-one noticed or those who did were cool about it. What I heard was "Fucking queers!" It was in a very adult male voice, too. The Masters are of great age, and this one had great bigotry, too. I felt Tom's hand grow tense on mine. I reckoned we could either get aggressive or ignore it. It oughtn't to have mattered. I saw who'd spoken, recognised him as the crew on the boat we'd made tack away. 'Better than them on the water, and better than them as people,' I thought.
"Forget him, Tom," I said, just loudly enough. "He was outsailed by a couple of teenagers today. He can say what he likes." I kissed him back. Then quieter, so only Tom could hear, "Up to a point, that is. I'm going to have a quiet word with the organiser."
"Don't bother." Tom was looking at me. "I'm here to enjoy sailing. I don't want a fight with an old fart, even when we're right. We'll just outsail him tomorrow again." He tugged my hand and we walked off to make sure the boat was put to bed properly. The plan for the morning was two races, then pack up and head home. So we checked all the gear, strapped the boat down to holdfasts in the ground and went to sort our tent out before catching the shuttle bus to the hotel where the evening meal and entertainment was. Andy'd long gone, along with Jimmy. We'd see them later, we thought.
This was the first time I'd been in a crowd with Tom holding his hand. Wow. Quite a step. Obviously not the big one from last time, though.
I'm not sure I'm a fucking queer, though, nor that Tom is.
Anyway, we've only kissed and cuddled so far!
I'm starting to get very comfy with being in love with him, though.
I'd probably better tell him that.
How does that topic even come up in the normal course of a conversation?
The meal was excellent. I don't mean the food. The food was good, hearty, filling. It'd been a long day. Somewhere in there had been a Mars bar, a large packet of cheese and onion crisps, and some Kendal Mint Cake between the races, proper healthy food for two growing lads, with three of the major food groups, chocolate, fat, and sugar. Two of those at least come from vegetables, so we were well into our five a day. Three, since a spud's a vegetable.
We doubled down on spuds to make sure of the veg status. A heap of chips with... I have no idea what it was. It had meat, carrots, gravy, and cauliflower cheese. Ah, that made four of the five. Go us! And we got talking to the... do you call them the boat next door? Unbelievably they were Janet and John, just like the reading scheme . We were just laughing at that as they turned Jerry and Tom into Tom and Jerry and fell about themselves about us.
"We get that all the time," John said. "But look at it this way, at least we're not Roger Red Hat and Jennifer Yellow Hat!"
"We try hard to ignore it," Tom told them. "It's fun the first couple of times, isn't it? Then, not so much!" He was laughing, though.
"I think there's something more special about Tom and Jerry here than a cartoon," Janet said to John.
"What? That they beat us in one race and we beat them in the other?"
"No, you dope! You were there at the results board?"
"No big deal that they kissed each other."
"It was for me. I loved it, but that wasn't what I meant."
"The way they ignored Pete Huxtable."
"Oh, that fuckwit. Well, he's our resident club bigot. Anyone with any sense ignores him. He was probably dropped on his head as a baby. Just not hard enough!"
"Nasty!" she was smiling in agreement.
"I was going to go and talk to the organisers about him, but Tom asked me to leave it," I told her. "He's right. This has been a special weekend for us."
"How so?" John asked.
"Hard to explain." That was Tom. "We've kind of discovered each other, slowly, over the last couple of years."
"Not that slowly for me! You won that race and I kissed you I was so happy, and we capsized to windward, if you remember!"
"Hard to forget..."
"You did what?" Janet asked simultaneously with John.
"It was a spectacular day, Janet. We were out in the same club boat we've borrowed for this weekend, and everything went right. It was blowing half a hooligan, lampposts were starting to bend in the wind and Tom helmed us to win a club race. That was pretty special, but everything went right. The big thing was it was the first race I've ever, ever won."
"So you kissed Tom?"
"I was so happy! He'd made it happen."
"You did, too, Jer."
"Call me 'Jer' again and you're gonna be 'Tommy' for ever! Anyway I was overflowing. Let go of the genoa sheet, turned to him and kissed him! It was just, well, so right!"
"I quite like 'Tommy' if you say it! I was so surprised I dropped the mainsheet and tiller, and we fell in! I kissed him back. Can't remember now if we were in the water first or still on the way in! He made my day, week, month, year, decade! I've loved him since we first met. It started strong and grew stronger."
"I know I love him now. I do, Tommy. I love you. I don't quite know how to tell you."
"That way worked just fine!" He kissed my nose. "Yeah. I can cope with being called Tommy by you Jeremy."
"I draw the line at 'Jeremy'!"
"Harsh, but fair!" Tommy's eyes were twinkling.
"How long've you been boyfriends? I know. Nosy girl!"
"It was either that day or just perhaps today," Tommy said, squeezing my hand. "Today's the first time Jerry's told me properly that he loves me. And..." Suddenly he was in tears and looking at me. "And I realised almost for the first time just how much I love him and how important he is to me. He's one of a kind, brings out the best in me." He was wiping his eyes on the back of his hand. "I do everything better when Jerry's with me. He makes me confident..."
"I've never met a couple of gay lads our age before," John said. "You're so ordinary, and in a good way. You're normal. That came out wrong, the 'normal' part. I mean you're just like me and my mates. You do the same stuff I do. Except you're boyfriends. That's just cool."
"What are you and Janet?" I asked him.
"Not twins! People think we are, sometimes. What are we, Janet?"
"Not sure, quite. We've always been friends We go out together and have fun, but I don't think we're going out, or not yet at least. We don't kiss and cuddle, but that's maybe because we've been friends since we were little. We're us, really."
"That works," I said. "It's taken us a while to discover what we mean to each other. I'd have been happy with a good mate to sail with, which Tom always was. Seems he's my boyfriend now as well, and I appear to be gay, which is a huge surprise and a bit new! Oh look, apple crumble! That's our full five a day now, with the apple! Hmm, vanilla is from a seed pod. Does that mean custard makes it six of the five a day? Go us!"
"We've got two new friends, Jerry."
"Yeah, I like them. We'll have to beat them tomorrow, though!"
We were heading back to the tent. The entertainment had been fun. What started off as sea shanties became more bawdy as the evening went on. We discovered this was The Two Jays, the name of Janet and John's boat, home club. Pete Huxtable had been the bawdiest and was unceremoniously shown the door at about half past nine. We stayed until it ended at just past ten.
"I have a confession to make," I said as we got to the tent flaps. "Don't look so worried!" I could feel his hand tense up. "It's just that I've never been camping before."
"Ah, well, I was going to tell you that, too! I think the trick is not to touch the sides if it rains!"
"Couldn't we just turn the boat upside down and use it as a hard roof if it rains?"
It had taken us a while to work out when it was still daylight how to pitch the tent at all. It wasn't one of those modern ones that you throw at the ground and everything pops into shape. It was dad's old one from the stone age when he used to go white water kayaking. It had poles and guy ropes and a flysheet and a groundsheet. We wrestled with it for ages. Then we were in a hurry, so all our gear for the night and next morning was inside. Except the wetsuits, that is. Neither of us fancied spending a night with clammy wetsuits near us.
I don' t know what I was expecting, exactly, but being not warm was not it. I'd sort of been thinking how we'd snuggle and cuddle and discover each other... Actually I realised I wasn't quite sure what I was thinking.
I also hadn't realised how soundproof tents weren't. All of us who were camping were in the same field next to the club, and we could hear conversations across the camp site as clearly as if we were all in the same room. But then I supposed we were in the same 'room' really.
We'd fought our sleeping bags into place; bags, plural; puffy down filled bags. They were on some sort of thin foam mat thing that's meant to be the last word in comfort.
"Come down to the water with me, Jerry." He took my hand.
"I am so not going for a swim!"
"Dolt! Nor am I. Just come with me."
No moon, no wind, but a chill in the air, this was a late May evening, Summer was half here, but not really yet. Tom took my other hand in his and turned me to him.
And kissed me.
Kissed me, at the water's edge, on our first ever night away, on what I look on now as the first time we became boyfriends.
And I kissed him back.
I don't know how to describe it, any of it. So many words that don't quite fit. My heart was pounding, my head was flying way above us, and we were as close together as we could be without becoming one person.
If this were just a story we'd have been in the throes of some unimaginable... no, it was very imaginable... some very imaginable passion. We'd have ripped each other's clothes off there and then, and probably been discovered in flagrante delicious by Pete Huxtable the bigoted old fart!
Only it wasn't. There was no plot, no impossible quest, just two boys understanding the love that they'd always had for each other, that we'd always had for each other. This was us.
I found we were sitting astride a fallen tree, facing each other. I wonder how that happened. "Are we gay, Tommy?" The idea of not being happily heterosexual used to alarm me. Not now.
"I expect so," he said. "Only, I don't think it matters? Does it matter for you?"
"It would have, once, when there wasn't a Tommy." I had my hands on his knees. "Being gay alone can't be much fun."
I can be so thick at times. "No, I don't suppose it was. I had no idea, you know. Not really. I just knew we liked each other."
"That's in the past. We've got each other now." With some difficulty he turned round on the log and leaned back into me. "Keep me safe, Jerry. Please keep me safe."
As daylight filtered through the tent fabric I woke to the sound of frying. I was wrestling with my sleeping bag, inside which I did not seem to be. There was a scruffy pile of sleep on my right, sort of entwined with his sleeping bag, too. We'd got up to a lot after we got back to the tent, none of which involved getting inside the bags and sleeping. We'd showered after sailing often enough. We'd seen each other unclothed, but we'd never felt skin against skin before that night, never... well, never you mind what we'd never.
I did know we'd be doing it again.
Actually, rather often! It was a revelation, in more ways than one. Tom makes little mewing noises when... Ah. Too Much Information!
I kissed a bit of him I could find in the sleeping bag serpent. "Time for breakfast?"
"If you say so! But it's still time for breakfast."
"I hurt all over. Soft is what that was not."
"Whoever said those mats are comfy was obviously in marketing."
"I can hear frying."
"Yeah. Not so. I looked out of the tent. That's rain we hear."
"Maybe one day!"
After braving the rain to get to the clubhouse we waved to The Two Jays who were just leaving and wolfed bacon butties and tea down. We had two races to go.
As we were stripping off in the changing room I felt my wetsuit. Cold, clammy, and not a life enhancing experience. I took it into the shower, ran it hot, rinsed it and me in hot water, and put it on under the shower, wet and warm. When I came back Tom was wriggling into his and looking disgusted. "This is bloody cold! Yuck!"
"Mine's toasty warm!"
"You might have told me..."
"One of us has to be the brains of the outfit!"
"I shall so get you for that, if I can ever get into this suit!"
It wasn't just raining, it was persisting down. Real cold front rain. And wind there wasn't. We got afloat like everyone else. Then we drifted in a desultory way vaguely towards the committee boat. We were about half way there after taking half an hour to cover about 500 metres when we heard two sound signals and the Answering Pennant was hoisted.
"Race postponed," Tom said. "Well, there's no sailing to be done. We'd better keep trying to get nearer to the committee boat though. They can still start some sort of race if they decide to, and we need to be ready."
"I've not had so much fun since the cat was sick on the carpet last."
"You don't have a cat."
There was speculation between the boats about whether we'd get a race in or not. After about half an hour they added flag H below the pennant with two more sound signals.ii "Not seen that before," Tom said.
Andy was touring the fleet in the safety boat. He'd already towed some of us in. "Anyone want a tow ashore? I'll trail a long line, you can make fast to it and I'll drag you in. They're going to make a decision in about an hour and a half. This weather front's passing and they're working out if there's any breeze coming behind this lot of wet. The flags mean there'll be a discussion and information ashore."
We took his line. Well taught, we bent on with a rolling hitch, and joined about ten other boats on a herringbone tow back to the slipway. Then onto the launching trolley with the boat and into the clubhouse with all of us for a tedious wait.
After almost two hours we heard three hoots and the answering pennant was replaced with flags N over A, and they announced 'No more racing today'. "Sorry all of you," the race officer told us. "There's not even a breath of wind coming. It wouldn't even be a decent drifting match. So we've decided to close the meeting with lunch and the prize giving."
I looked round. No-one seemed too unhappy. We'd all have liked a race, but no wind makes racing pointless. "What we'll do as a club, especially for those of you who've come so far to get here, is keep your details and give you a 25% discount for the Youth fleet on our next GP Open Meeting just to make up for the disappointment today. We can't control the weather, but we can do a little bit to make up for it. We know many of the Youth fleet raise the entry fee for themselves. We're sure the Masters won't mind that we can't offer them the same gesture. We already keep entry fees as low as we can."
There was a murmur of approval. I hadn't even thought of the money until then. My weekend was special already, with or without the racing. I was happy to be packig up the boat and tent and going home.
I had a boyfriend. I never thought I'd ever want, nor have, one of those
Just in case you're wondering, that big step from the first time I told you about us?
This wasn't it.
You know this is a story, but the GP14 Class Association doesn't. So, to set their minds at reast, this is based on no club that I know of, nor any real Masters and Youth Championship meeting. So please suspend your disbelief. It's about people who are likely to exist, but actually only live in my head. Apart from being a fun tale it's a tribute to a fine design of boat that's been enjoyed by thousands since it appeared on the scene in 1949. I won my first dinghy race in a GP in North Wales; I was about a year younger than Tom or Jerry.
i Some readers will know the Racing Rules of Sailing . Others will attempt to decipher them and falter. There are rather a lot of them. This link goes to the 2017-2020 revision, at least until 2021! It probably goes to the next version after that then. The event Tom and Jerry sailed in was using the prior revision, now obsolete, but very similar. You could just trust me!
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