Charlie Garrard and Scott Alexander were quite difficult to interview, only because they made this writer laugh so much. Gerrard was wearing a multicolored tasseled long vest (clearly a back story there so keep reading), and it was near impossible to get a straight answer out of the pair. This story is what we learned about Team Merlin.
They are mostly friends from Marblehead, Mass., with a few token friends from Maine and Florida along for the ride, who have been sailing together for somewhere between twenty and thirty years, they laugh all the time, and naturally, given that Marblehead is just four square miles with some one thousand boats on moorings, they met each other sailing.
“It’s a very active sailing scene and it’s the birthplace of the American Navy, if you didn’t know that,” Alexander reminded.
At home in Marblehead the team sails on a J/105, also called Merlin, which they really enjoy but Garrard pointed out, Marblehead is in the US Pacific Northeast, its sailing season is short, starting in the middle of June, therefore Team Merlin is obligated to leave town for the Caribbean to fulfil its sailing fix during the winter months.
“We don’t travel well as a team, you don’t know how hard this week is on us,” Garrard joked. “The lay day is actually the hardest day of the week – we’re on a bareboat, we appreciate being at anchor in a beautiful anchorage with our own food and booze and laughs, lots of laughs. We laugh our asses off until the wee hours, then we get up in the morning and we get it done, we go out and win it. We’re just going to keep doing that this weekend.”
Team Merlin is going into the BVI Spring Regatta with two big wins in class already this week, taking the podium in the Round Tortola and Scrub Island Invitational races, sailing on a Moorings 45 called Sea’s the Daze.
“It’s actually quite difficult transitioning to a charter boat,” Garrard commented. “Most people don’t know the rules so you can’t accept the fact that you are the starboard boat! The start for the race to Scrub Island was very interesting for the Bareboat fleet, and we luckily escaped – we were on starboard and wove between the boats coming at us on port and left them all.”
Garrard continued, “When you’re on a charter boat you just have to work with who is on the boat to make it go fast because you are not racing your J/105 from back home! We got down here a day early and took the boat out for practice to know what we were working with. It’s great to have other boats next to us and we’re constantly watching out for what works and what doesn’t.”
Racing with seven on board, Team Merlin is now on their fifth BVI Spring Regatta.
“This is the best – we’ve done St Maarten, we’ve done Antigua Sailing Week – but this is just the best place to race a boat, nothing compares, geographically you can’t beat it with the St Francis Drake channel, the breeze, the islands, people are so nice, anchorages are really nice,” Alexander commented.
Outside of these events the group cruise the BVI often, Garrard noted that he’s cruised the destination some twenty times.
On board, they take the art of cocktailing quite seriously, and over the years Alexander, known for his main trimming and as the team motivator, has developed his sandwich skills to quite a high level together with a very customized home recipe for painkillers.
“I have been working on it for thirty years and have nailed it,” he laughed. “Soggy Dollar Bar is going DOWN as I’ve got the recipe.”
Team Merlin is a little concerned about the amount of rum that they have gone through this week and have suggested that perhaps there is either a leak in their charter boat, or it is a simple case of evaporation. It is hot in the BVI after all. And the other crazy thing about the BVI, related Gerrard, is the lack of hangovers, “We’ve been coming down here for twenty something years and just can’t get hungover.”
But perhaps the most telling aspect that this team is one heck of a tight group of buddies is their accountability to each other. Each night after dinner following a few bottles of wine they vote on the “Dick of the Day”. Each person gets a paper ballot to vote with to explain who they think should get Dick of the Day and why. The person who is the current Dick reads out the votes and gets to convey the new Dick who will get to wear the special jacket for 24 hours.
At the time of writing, Gerrard was sporting the Dick of the Day vest.
“The number of our boat is 13, I had to stick a 1 and a 3 to get 13, but I put a 1 and an E,” Gerrard joked. “I was just being stupid to see who would notice. Scott was out snorkeling and burst out, “This is unbelievable – it’s not even close to 13,” so I was busted.”
According to Dick of the Day rules, the guy who gets it on the last day of the regatta has to wear it for four months until Team Merlin’s next regatta in June.
“The good side of it is an incentive not to screw up racing, you try to think ahead and anticipate, which is what we do on the J/105 – you know your job and try to keep it together when things start going crazy,” Garrard said. “Plus, the vest is perfect for the 70s theme party coming up on Saturday night!”
Team Merlin: Charlie Garrard, Marblehead MA, UK/US – skipper/helmsman; Alec Torrie, Marblehead MA, Can/US – Trimmer/spare helmsman; Doug Sabin, Marblehead MA, US – Tactics; Scott Alexander, St Augustine FL, US – Mainsheet, motivation; Tim Sheehy, Marblehead MA, US – Bottom scrubber/floater; Peter Nielsen – Marblehead MA, NZ/US – Media/cocktail mixer. – Michelle Slade