Episode 216 - Qingdau
If our attention were now turned to Qingdau, we'd find our sailors long gone. They'd left Qingdau immediately after qualifying, headed for Sydney, Australia, a venue chosen by Perry for a very specific reason: Lady Bay Beach. While Perry had no problem being the team leader, he wasn't so arrogant that he didn't discuss most matters with Auggie. They'd noted that among those new to the team Freddie, Angus, Trevor, and Arndel had joined in the love portion of love and support; Josh, Greg, Flint and Pam apparently hadn't. It was clear that Josh and Greg, and of course Flint and Pam, were involved with each other, but they hadn't ventured further. And the rest of the team, including Perry, had been hesitant to initiate things. Auggie had replied that things were going well, and that perhaps the four newcomers were content with each other. Perry's response had been, "That's fine, as long as that's really what they want. But they certainly are aware that others are sexually involved, and may be shy or simply waiting for an invitation. If that's the case, it can lead to frustration, and poor teamwork. Let's head to Sydney, where we know that Lady Bay Beach–a clothing optional beach–is nearby, and be certain that Millie and David invite the whole gang to join them at the Beach."
Auggie responded, "Good idea. It'll ease the four into a more open sexual atmosphere, but they can easily decline. And, if they do you'll know where they stand."
Sydney was great sailing, and the three pairs sailed hard every day. The support team continued to work well together. David and Millie took their free day to head to Lady Bay Beach, came back healthily excited, and invited the whole group to take an afternoon off to visit Lady Bay Beach, where they assured everyone that clothing was really optional: it welcomed people who opted either way, as long as they didn't find the scene in front of them offensive. Perry, who'd put them up to the invitation, suggested that Thursday afternoon, three days hence, could be an afternoon for relaxation. He made it clear that relaxation was required, but that Lady Bay Beach was for those interested. He said he'd arrange transportation, but he needed to know by Wednesday morning who'd like to go.
That set up a conversation between Flint and Pam, who shared it with me more than a year later. So the quotation marks reflect a best guess at what was said and, of course, a very shortened version.
Pam opened the conversation, "Well, that was quite an invitation we just got."
Flint replied, "Perry made it clear that there was no problem with anyone not participating."
"I know he said that, and I'm sure he means it. But we also know that group dynamics are extremely important to Perry. I think we should go."
"Do you think Josh and Greg'll go?"
"I can't imagine that they wouldn't."
"Neither can I. What about us?"
"Do you think it'd bother Josh to have his parents there?"
"They've been pretty open with us, but we've never seen them in action."
"They've been explicit enough so that I wouldn't learn much from watching. Besides, at this beach there'll be no sexual behavior, only nudity."
"OK, what about us? We've known that there's a lot of back and forth in the bedrooms of this team, and I think we may be the only ones not included. Well, I don't know about Josh and Greg."
"So, would we like to spread our wings a little?"
Flint thought a minute and said, "There are some pretty sexy people out there. Lynn's a delight; so for that matter is Millie. Oh, Hell, Pam, I'll have to admit that some of those boys turn me on. Now that I've gotten used to the relationship between Josh and Greg, my mind has strayed in places that it never would have a couple of years ago."
"Well, this group's made for a woman; there's all kinds of wonderful male flesh out there, and it's clear that it could be available. I could just drool over Norman."
"I guess the question we should be asking ourselves is whether having our spouse sexually involved with one of these luscious hunks or babes is going to ruin our marriage. Or perhaps enhance it?"
"Well, if you spent the night with that fabulous Lynn, would returning to me be a comedown? There's no way I'm going to compete in a beauty contest with either Lynn or Millie. Maybe not with Norman, either."
"That's a tough question to answer, but I guess it's the key to this conversation. Let me put it this way: I've taken both Lynn and Norman to bed in my daydreams any number of times. It heats me up, and enhances the sex that I have with you. Of course, I don't have orgasms in my dreams, so the situation is a little different. But I really believe exploring in new directions could enhance our appreciation of each other. I know that might be a self-serving belief, but I really think it might be true."
"I'll have to admit that I've been fucked by every boy and man on this team–in my dreams. I'm not against expanding my horizons. Let me suggest this: Let's head to this Lady Bay Beach. We'll screw up our nerve to strip naked, and just follow the leaders. I take it that Millie and David'll be the leaders. We'll go with the flow. Thursday night, back in the quiet of this room, we'll have this same conversation. Then maybe we spread our wings a little, or maybe we decide to leave our wings clipped. And, while they don't need our permission or approval, I think we should tell Josh that we'll be completely comfortable with their heading to the beach and warn them that we'll be there as well."
"This whole conversation 's gotten me very heated up. How about you?"
"To bed, sir, to bed."
Josh and Greg, being the youngest two on the team had been hesitant to initiate sexual relationships. And just because they were the youngest, even though of age, the rest had been equally hesitant. However, they were eager to head to the beach, and a little surprised when they heard that Flint and Pam would be there. It wouldn't be the first time that Greg had seen Josh's parents naked–living had been very close on the catamaran and they got over clothing inhibitions very early on–but this time there'd be obvious sexual implications as well. Oh, well, they'd just have to see what shook out.
Thursday came, and everybody crowded into the four taxis Perry had hired for the seventeen (ten support, six sailors, and Lynn–Arndel's and Goose's partners had headed home from China and would join us again at our next port of call after Sydney) to get to the beach. David and Millie led the crowd down along the cliff path that overlooks the beach and then heads down to the beach. Since it was a weekday it wasn't crowded, but it certainly wasn't deserted. This wasn't going to be private nudity; everyone was going to be very much in the middle of things. What's more, people could look down from the edge of the cliffside above. David found a place that would hold all of us (in two rows) and suggested that we spread out our big towels–we had two each, very big, furnished by our hotel at Perry's request. We never ceased to be amazed at Perry's foresight. Millie had suggested that we all bring swimming suits, as we might like to start that way. She and David, however, simply took off their clothes–all of them–and stretched out on their towels face up. Josh, Greg, and Flint were amazed that David was completely at ease and limp. They were sure that they wouldn't be. About half the group followed Millie and stripped. The rest, including the four newcomers, quickly slipped into swim suits, called swimmers if you were local, showing very little in the process.
One by one swimmers were shed, and Greg was the first of the newcomers to lose his. As he'd predicted he was as hard as a rock, and that led to a crucial decision. Would he lie down face down or face up? He decided that how he answered that question was going to send a message, and he wanted to send the right message. He lay down on his back, and let it all hang out. He was definitely observed! One of those observers was Flint, who would soon have to make the same decision. Likewise Josh, who had the added problem that his parents were right there. Flint later told Pam, "I was Goddamned if I was going to let Josh best me on that one, even if he is a horny teenager." Flint, and Pam, beat Josh but only by about half a minute. Lynn was the last one naked, but only because she wasn't in a race and was enjoying watching the others.
Nudity, without the opportunity to do what should come naturally when you're naked, gets ordinary, even boring, very fast. They swam, walked along the beach to see and be seen (led by Millie), put on swimmers to walk to the nearby kiosk to get something to drink, went through the stripping process a second time, finding it much easier on the second time around, and were ready to head home in about two hours. Perry, one of the first to strip, had watched the whole process, and decided that it had served the purpose for which he'd intended it. Barriers were clearly broken down.
Were they ever? That night Flint and Pam had better sex–one used the adjective glorious, the other fabulous–than they'd had in a long time. They decided that they were definitely ready to spread their wings. Where first? Pam suggested that they might as well start at the top: either Perry and Norman, or Auggie and Lynn. She asked Flint, "Are you ready to be a little gay, or should we stick to our own kind?"
Flint replied, "If I'm going to spread my wings, as we've said, I'd rather be an eagle than a wren. Do you think Norman and Perry might be interested? And just what do you think we might actually do with them?"
"Flint, I think Perry set this whole thing up. He was very quick to talk about arranging transportation, quite agreeable to an afternoon without sailing–that's not the pattern for this group. He and Auggie're always talking about love and support; I think this afternoon was set up to encourage the love side of that pair."
"You really think that?"
"I'll bet Perry'll admit it, if we seem to be responding in the way that he wants."
"So what's our next move?"
"We have two keys to this room, right?"
"Tomorrow at lunch drop one of those keys in his pocket. He'll get the message."
"Lunch, not dinner?"
"He needs some warning; by dinner he may be booked."
When the key dropped into his shirt pocket, Perry looked down to see what it was, and a big grin came across his face. Flint instantly knew that he and Pam had guessed correctly. About half an hour after dinner that evening, the key turned in their door lock, and Flint and Pam had the visitors they expected: Perry and Norman. Perry said, "We've been sort of wondering for almost a year whether we might be welcome here. It seems we are."
Pam asked, "You set this whole thing up, didn't you? The beach, the nudity, everybody all together."
"Dumb, you aren't. I wondered what it would take to break down your reserve, and I guess I found out. Now, what're you folks up for tonight? I assume, Flint, that you're thinking in terms of new sexual vistas, since both Norman and I are gay men. However, Pam, you don't need to worry. The mantra in our group is that there's at least a little gay and a little straight in everyone. Flint'll learn that tonight, and both Norman and I have already had that lesson."
Flint said, "Look, we're innocents abroad. If you and Norman don't lead, nothing's going to happen. Push us a little."
Pam interrupted, "No, push us a lot. If you push too hard, we'll let you know."
Norman started taking off his clothes and said, "Well, getting naked isn't new for you after yesterday afternoon."
Perry saw Flint hesitate, obviously because he had a stiffy. He walked over to Flint, took hold of his boxers, and pulled them down. Then he cupped Flints balls with one hand and wrapped the other around his very hard dick. "You said to push. Norman and I didn't want to wait all night for another view of your equipment, nor for the opportunity to feel it a little." With that, Norman replaced Perry in feeling Flint, and Perry moved over to Pam. His first action was to kiss both her tits and then kiss her on the lips, pushing in with his tongue. It took her a minute to collect her thoughts, and then her tongue started fighting with Perry's. After a while Perry pulled back and whispered, "I'll bet fucking is rather routine for you, but that having a tongue in your cunt is a more rare experience. Would you like that?"
"I've never had a tongue in me, and yes I'd like that." Perry was slow and gentle, but finally brought Pam to a climax alternating his tongue between her vagina and her clitoris. Finally she said, "Oral sex is new for me, and I'm not sure I'm up to it with you."
Perry said, "Use your hands, tickle my balls, rub my dick. I'll come and I'll enjoy it."
She did, and he did, but she felt she'd let him down by not being willing to suck his dick. Norman came to her rescue saying, "Pam, he often gets exactly that from me, and I assure you he likes it. There's no law about who has to do what to whom. You do what you're comfortable with."
Norman and Flint traded hand jobs, and it was very clear that Flint didn't want to be pushed further, which was fine with Norman. Flint suggested that Perry and Norman might exchange visits with Josh and Greg, since they were much closer in age. Perry laughed and said, "That was last night. Our afternoon at the beach broke down a lot of barriers."
Pam asked, "Now that those barriers seem to be breaking down, just what does go on among this team at night?"
Perry answered, "Honestly, not as much as you're going to think. Most nights everyone's tired and knows they're going to be getting up early. Sleeping with one's partner is the norm, and if Norman and I are a good sample, a lot of nights sex is quite minimal. But just so you know, Norman and I are more likely to join Auggie and Lynn than anyone else. Trevor and Angus're likely to join Goose and Arndel, and when they're with us, their partners Kelin and Nidal. David and Millie join whoever's available, but they like to join Auggie and Lynn to satisfy Millie's lesbian urges. You may want to think about that a little. Curtis and Gene're happy with each other, but will join with the rest of us when asked. They seldom do the asking. As for Josh and Greg, they've only had the one night with us. However, they're just four years younger that Angus and Trevor and I think those four will enjoy each other. Norman and I are about seven years older than Josh and Greg. But, just so you understand, nobody worries much about age."
Flint said, "That simply takes my breath away. As the father of a teenager...."
Pam interjected, "He ceased to be a teenager on his last birthday."
Flint went on, "As the father of a twenty-year-old, I should be shocked that he's getting involved with all of this. Oh, Hell, I should've been shocked when he and his best friend and his sister got sexually involved–and they have been for years. On the catamaran they shared a cabin, and nobody was trying to keep their activities in that cabin much of a secret. You can't have secrets on a little boat in the middle of the ocean. But it's all led to this fabulous opportunity for Josh and Gene to travel the world, handle seriously adult responsibilities, and grow into fine young men. I can't condemn all of this; the results are simply too good. I'm glad we're aboard, and I'm pretty sure that Pam agrees with me."
"I certainly do. I think maybe I got to that point a little ahead of you, but welcome aboard."
"You're right, and I'm glad to be part of all this."
Pam finished the conversation with, "I hope you're going to enjoy sex with Auggie, because I'm looking forward to a night with Lynn. Millie too."
The next morning Millie and David surprised everyone with an invitation. "On our next day off we're going to explore two or three other nude beaches around Sydney. If Perry can arrange for four of us to have the same day off, is there another couple that would like to go?"
Perry said, "We could arrange that if your date's flexible. We aren't in racing mode here."
Greg spoke up, "I'd like to go, would you Josh?"
Perry asked, "Anybody else?" There were no takers.
Millie said, "We can rent a car and visit several different beaches. We don't have to decide now. And, Perry, we'll go with whatever day works for the team."
That night as they hugged each other and drifted off to sleep, Josh asked Greg, "Just what have you gotten us into?"
"Hey, I don't know about you, but the visit to Lady what's-her-name Beach was fun and erotic. I'm up for more."
"I guess I am too. I'm sure that it'll lead to spending the night with David and Millie. Are we ready for Millie?"
"I don't know about you, but I'd like to experiment a little."
"I guess that's what we'll be doing."
They ended up visiting Armand's Bay and Cobbler's Beaches. At the end of the day they pretty much decided that if you've seen one nude beach, you've seen them all. But they admitted that they were certainly erotic, even though while you were on the beach you had to pretend that they weren't erotic. On the other hand, David and Millie liked to "collect" nude beaches, and they kept a little black book of their adventures. As for that night, they did spend it with Millie and David. David figured out that both boys would like to "experiment" with Millie, and he encouraged them. Josh used his tongue, and Greg fucked her. She told them, "I hope you liked it, because I sure did. Now Josh, you go and fuck David, and then Greg'll give him a blow job." The boys agreed afterwards that in no sense of the word could they be called sexual novices after than night!
The Fred's Sports Sailing Team, having pairs qualified on the sailing teams of three nations, was quickly viewed at the ones to beat, in races leading up to the Olympics, and certainly at the Olympics. Auggie and Perry conferred and decided that it was only fair to the other teams to have the three Fred's Sports boats in all of the major races leading up to the Olympics. This meant staying south for summer in the Southern Hemisphere, with races in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, South America, and Hawaii, and heading north for races in Japan, Europe and North America. They'd be busy, moving fast, and, since this group all loved what they were doing, having a ball. Sex was but a small–but important–part of their excitement.
And, Auggie pointed out that since all of them were fairly new to the 49er racing circuit, they'd be improving their sailing as the year went on, and most of their competitors would simply be holding even. In Auggie's, admittedly prejudiced, view the obvious conclusion was that they were a shoo-in for three medals in Qingdau. He refused to discuss order, but it was sort of the general assumption that Auggie and Freddie would be first, Goose and Arndel would be second, and Angus and Trevor would be third. If that was the order, everybody would be wildly happy, since, except for Auggie, all of them were simply delighted to be in the Olympics, much less medal. Auggie was sure that he, and he hoped Freddie, would be happy with a lesser medal, but he worried a little about Goose and Arndel being able to accept being beaten by their students. Well, that wasn't likely.
Now they had almost a year of sailing ahead of them before they assembled in Beijing for the Opening Ceremony and then flew to Qingdau for the sailing.
It was warming up in the southern hemisphere and cooling in the northern, so they'd be staying in the south for quite a while. The first major race of the season was in Auckland, New Zealand. Any move meant major work for the support team. The three boats had to be crated, and Perry wouldn't allow anyone but his support crew to do that task, A fourth crate containing their parts inventory, personal gear, and all kinds of miscellaneous stuff that either Perry or Auggie deemed important had to be checked and closed. The crates had to be trucked to the airport and receive a customs seal, delivered to the air carrier, and shepherded aboard a plane. If the shipment was time critical, Perry insisted that a member of the team actually see the crates go aboard, and then wait until they were airborne. A member of the team would pick them up at customs and travel with them to whatever marina would be the next base for sailing. In Auckland that would be the Royal Akarana Yacht Club.
The three sailing crews had established their credentials as top sailors, and were the boats to beat. In the Auckland races Auggie and Freddie came in second, Goose and Arndel fourth, and Angus and Trevor fifth. Interestingly first place was held by another English boat that wouldn't be competing at Qingdau because they'd come in behind Angus and Trevor in the Trials. Third place was taken by a New Zealand boat that hadn't competed for an Olympic slot. That meant that the three Fred's Sports boats had beaten all Olympic competition that sailed in Auckland–and most of the boats headed for the Olympics were in the Auckland races. Things looked good for our three boats!
The next big race would be at Melbourne in a little less than a month. Perry didn't see any reason to leave that part of the world, and he decided to take the team sailing inland in New Zealand; they were off to the town of Rotorua about a three-hour drive from Auckland–of course, that meant crating the boats and everything so they could be trucked to a marina on Lake Rotorua. In addition to being on a large inland lake, Rotorua was known as a center of geothermal activity in the form of hot springs and geysers. Virtually every motel room came equipped with a huge two person tub that could be filled with thermal spring hot water, which was piped into town. I don't have to draw a picture for you, do I? The town was also a center of Maori culture, with a good museum and cultural displays.
It was, in Auggie's opinion, lousy sailing. While assuring us that it was quite unusual, the folks at the marina were so sorry that there was so little wind. It was still possible to sail, but at a very boring and frustrating speed–especially to Auggie. However, by the end of their stay in Rotorua, the team was convinced that one chapter in the gospel according to Auggie was in error. He'd always argued that winning a race in very low wind conditions was mostly a matter of chance. However, when Angus and Trevor beat Auggie and Freddie eight times out of ten, and by a much greater margin than Auggie had beaten them the two times they lost, it became clear that more than chance was involved.
By the fourth time Auggie'd been beaten Perry had put his finger on the problem: it was Auggie's personality. Auggie was the man of, "Push it, push it, push it." Well, you simply can't push it when there's only a slight wind. You have to have patience, a quality which was fairly alien to Auggie. Watching Angus and Trevor it was clear that the way to get maximum speed out of your boat in a very light wind was to find the best balance of angle to the wind to trim the boat, set the boat that way, and lay back completely still. Human movements that the boat wouldn't even notice in a medium or high wind, disturbed its performance in a very low wind. So, while Auggie would strain at this, and try that, Angus and Trevor would seem to sunbathe their way to victory. Even as they came about, they moved slowly and fluidly, disturbing the boat as little as possible. A fast pace coming about, which was essential in a decent wind and could make the difference between winning and losing, could be a hindrance in a very low wind.
Auggie conceded the point, and enthusiastically congratulated Trevor and Angus for their victories in Rotorua, but he seemed incapable of the changes needed to be a top light wind sailor. Freddie, with much the same personality, wasn't any better.
Melbourne, Capetown, Rio, Buenos Aires, Hawaii, and they were through the southern sailing season, and they were ready to head to Europe for the races that would lead up to the Olympics at the end of the northern summer. There'd been very few racing days where there wasn't a good sailing wind. Auggie and Freddie, while not winning them all, had dominated the southern sailing season, with the other two Fred's Sports teams not far behind. Capturing the one, two, three positions seemed within their grasp.
But Perry was concerned about light wind sailing. Just as Auggie insisted that everyone be prepared to right capsized boats, even boats turned turtle, Perry thought they needed much more practice in light wind sailing–and he knew just the place: Lake Garda in Italy. He remembered from sailing there with Tim and me, that the north wind fades about nine in the morning and the south wind doesn't come until noon. The Fred's Sports teams would take to the water about eight every morning, sail through the calm of the later morning, and continue into the afternoon as the wind picked up. But Perry made it clear, it was the calm of the morning that was to be the focus of their attention.
Perry believes that it was the only time in the two years when Auggie would've liked to have told Perry to stuff it, but he'd agreed that Perry was to be the team leader, and he obeyed without saying a word. Not saying a word meant no affirmative words as well as no negative words. Much later, Auggie admitted that he wouldn't have gotten a medal in Qingdau without the intense light wind practice that they had on Lake Garda. Auggie also learned that Trevor and Angus could pretty consistently beat him in a very light wind. Goose and Arndel found themselves in the middle between the two boats in a light wind. Their time at Lake Garda ended with the first major 49er race in Europe of the season. Races on Lake Garda took place in the early morning and late afternoon when the winds were dependable. In that environment, Auggie was rarely beaten, and the races at Lake Garda proved no exception.
May, June, and early July were spent racing in Medemblik, the Netherlands; Portsmouth; Dublin; and Palma de Majorca, Spain. Norman enjoyed a nice visit with his parents in Portsmouth, but since it was racing time, he couldn't take the time off that he could on previous visits when the team was just practicing. So his parents arranged a week off to join them in Majorca, to have some additional time with Norman and Perry. The racing in all of these ports ran about the same. There were good winds, and Auggie took way more than his share of first place finishes. The other Fred's Sports boats did well, sometimes beating Auggie, but not often.
The Pacific Rim is certainly far away from the centers of 49er sailing. Qingdau is the only Pacific city, outside of Australia and New Zealand, to host a major 49er race, unless you count Sonora Bay, Mexico, on the Gulf of California. Asian nations were not major 49er players. In the 2008 Olympics the only Asian nations competing were Japan and China. The last major race before the Olympics is generally in a locale near to the Olympic venue. While a number of Asian nations were closer, no Asian site had the infrastructure in place to host a major 49er regatta. So that fell to Sydney, Australia, and that's where almost all of the Olympic competitors headed in July of 2008. It was an unexciting regatta, with decent, but not heavy, wind and little controversy. Much to the chagrin of the rest of the fleet, Auggie and Freddie took first place, Goose and Arndel took second, and Trevor and Angus took third. Andy had joined them in Sydney, and he was ecstatic at the idea that the three Fred's Sports teams might all get medals. That doesn't accurately describe the frame of mind of the other Olympic competitors, but they had to admit that the three teams were very, very good, and deserved any medals they won.
It was time to head to China. For the sailors, the first stop was Beijing for the opening ceremony. For the support team it meant going first to Qingdau with all of the boats and equipment, and then heading to Beijing. Perry insisted that at least one member of the team had to remain in Qingdau and he would be the one that stayed. Everyone else insisted that he deserved to see the Opening Ceremony, but Perry noted that he'd seen them before and could miss this one. Perry considered it a real compliment that every single member of the team offered to stay behind–it was a team that functioned just as it was supposed to. And as head of the team it would be he that stayed behind, and Norman insisted that he would too.
In Beijing the rest of the support team joined with the huge group of us from North Dakota, and led by Fred, Andy, and Marty, everyone had a grand time. Leave it to the Chinese to put on a really good show for the Opening Ceremony. The only low note was that Chet felt really bad that Jimmy couldn't march with him and the other athletes. Jimmy would march next month with the parathletes, but it wasn't the same. I don't think Jimmy felt bad at all; he was thrilled to be in the audience watching Chet march. Tim's comment was, "Good for Chet that he feels bad for Jimmy. And good for Jimmy not to feel bad. It's a perfect example of love and support. I love 'em." And I love Tim.
Tim was faced with a difficult dilemma: would he go down to Qingdau and watch Auggie and the others sail, or would he stay in Beijing and watch all the other athletes? He didn't think he had a choice: his support of Chet, who he pretty much personally sponsored, and all the others was too important to sacrifice for just Auggie. Auggie knew it, and insisted that Tim stay in Beijing. Auggie'd supported me equally with Tim when we sailed, so I decided that I'd go down to Qingdau with the sailors and watch the Olympic regatta.
There would be thirteen races, including the final medal race which counted double. There were nineteen boats from nineteen countries entered. All would race in the first twelve races, and the top ten boats (after discounting each boat's worst race) would compete in the medal race. There was concern going into the regatta that winds might be light in Qingdau, and you can imagine that Auggie viewed this with trepidation. Rightly so. Winds were light, and in fact races were postponed one day because of light wind. And exactly what might've been predicated happened. In the light winds, Trevor and Angus gradually pulled ahead of Auggie in points. They had one race when they crossed the starting line ahead of the signal, and they did very poorly in that race, but it became their discounted race.
The medal race arrived with Trevor and Angus three points ahead of Auggie and Freddie. The Bahamians were three points further back, and the next competitor, Denmark, was two points further behind. There was so little wind on the medal race day that Auggie was convinced that all was lost. But the measured wind was less that what the rules required to race, and the medal race was put off a day.
What a difference a day makes! The next day was a beast of a wind, with wild cross waves in the course. There was controversy for some time afterwards as to whether the race should've been postponed again. But the winds were topping out at twenty-two knots, a speed well within the racing limits. But with the wind added to the waves, boats were capsizing all over the course. Every boat capsized at least once, and two boats didn't finish. It was Auggie's kind of weather. When the announcement was made that the race would take place, he was grinning from ear to ear. The wind, the waves, the cold, it was all made for Auggie. Freddie didn't have that big a grin on his face, because he knew that it was going to be a very tough race. But he was ready; he's spent enough time with Auggie to not be discouraged by bad weather.
The waves were incredible. You could look out at the course and see ten sails but only five boats, the other five being hidden in the troughs of the waves. The race wasn't two minutes old before the first boat went over. And righting boats in rough seas isn't easy. Luckily, both Perry and Auggie had insisted on extensive drilling in righting a 49er, and did it ever pay off. The waves were very cruel, and upon going over, the waves seemed to have a mind of their own, determined to keep the boat going to a turtle position. For most of the boats it wasn't so much a race as a survival test: can you at least finish? But for the Fred's Sports boats it was a race, and a very important race at that. To get a gold medal (and nobody was kidding anybody that all three boats weren't trying their damnest to get gold) Auggie had to finish two positions ahead of the English. If they came in just behind him they'd lose two points (the medal race counted double), but they started three ahead. If they came in two boats behind him, they'd lose by a single point. That meant that the race wasn't really between Auggie and Freddie, and Angus and Trevor, but between Angus and Trevor and whoever was the closest boat to them. That boat was the Spaniards.
Auggie took the lead quickly, and despite capsizing twice, easily managed to regain the lead each time and hold it. The British and the Spaniards were well behind, but in close competition. Freddie swears to me that Auggie was watching carefully, and rooting for all his might for Trevor and Angus, even though it would cost him a gold medal. Auggie told Freddie later, "You always root for your teammates. If they could beat the Spaniards, they deserved the gold medal. And, by God, they got it."
Not too far from the finish line the wind shifted a little, and blew a strong gust. It was the perfect storm, and everyone expected several boats to go over, and there were about five quite near each other pushing for the finish line. Three, including the Spanish boat capsized; most turtled, but it didn't make any difference; they had no chance of catching up before the finish line. The English and Bahamian boats somehow managed to stay right side up, and came in second and third behind the Americans. Angus said later, "Trevor and I were determined not to capsize. We almost drowned holding onto the sheets as the waves rolled over us. But by God we knew we had to keep that damn boat up to get the gold medal, and there was no way we were going to let go." The rope burns on their hands, acquired right through their gloves, told the story.
And what a story. The Fred's Sports boats finished the race one, two, three, which meant that they were one, two, three for the whole Olympic regatta, except the order changed. Angus and Trevor would stand on the high podium and hear "God Save the Queen," while Auggie and Freddie stood on the middle podium and Goose and Arndel stood on the lowest one. They all glowed as the medals were placed around their necks, and when the anthem had finished, all hugged each other with incredible gusto. To this day Auggie swears that he was thrilled to see Angus and Trevor get the gold. "Face it, they won it. They're better low wind sailors and it won them a medal. I'm proud of winning the medal race, but one race does not a regatta make. Now, screw the 49er; I'm going back to A-boats."
Goose and Arndel seemed as proud as punch of their pupils, Angus and Trevor. Goose told Perry, "Now everybody knows were to come to learn to sail a 49er. We've got the best school around. I think it's wonderful that we all got medals, and the fact that the two kids beat us all is just fine. They won their medals fair and square." Perry's concern about how Goose would take losing to his students disappeared. He hugged Goose and Arndel as tight as he could.
I could tell you that Auggie never again sailed a 49er, and it would almost be true. As you've guessed, Perry and Norman would race for the United States four years hence in London. Auggie would head their support team. While he didn't sail regularly, he did, from time to time, climb aboard the Freddie and lovingly set it skimming across the water (he never touched it in a low wind!).
There were other spectators impressed by the victory. Trevor and Angus' parents were in a state of shock. They could hardly believe it when their sons made it into the Olympics, and then to walk away with gold medals was beyond their imagination. And, if they weren't prepared to see the gold medals hung around their sons necks, they certainly weren't prepared for the reception their boys would get back in England, including the inevitable trip to Buckingham Palace to be thanked by the Queen for so gallantly serving their country in Olympic sport.
Of course, Trevor and Angus had a problem. Where would they go from here? Despite being recognized as truly top level sailors, they weren't at all sure that they could or wanted to make it a career. At this point Perry, who'd gone with them to London for all of the pomp and ceremony, suggested, "Look, Fred's Sports is now well established in the United Kingdom as a major purveyor of sporting goods. I'm quite sure that Fred's Sports would have a job for you over here, and that you'll do well, and will move up the career ladder very quickly. On the other hand, if it turns out that selling sporting goods isn't your cup of tea, it'll make a good transitional move."
Trevor's father, Seymour, asked, "Do you have hiring authority with Fred's Sports? I thought you were just the sailing team leader."
Perry smiled and said, "I don't have direct hiring authority, but I can assure you, Trevor, and Angus, that I can have job offers ready at Fred's Sports headquarters here in London by three o'clock tomorrow. I'd say earlier, but we have to allow for the time difference."
The next afternoon Perry, Norman, Trevor, and Angus visited the Fred's Sports headquarters. It wasn't the big posh office that you might expect, but was in a comfortable but unpretentious office complex in the west suburb of Ruslip, a straight Underground run from downtown London, and as long as you lived west of the city a very convenient place to work. Exactly the kind of accommodations you'd expect Fred to have wanted, except that in this case it'd been Gary that found these digs. The UK manager, Mr. Frederick Daily, met them at the reception desk and invited them into his office. Perry introduced himself and the others, and Mr. Daily said, "I'm very glad to meet you all. Needless to say we were impressed with your sailing success, and are delighted that you're interested in working for Fred's Sports. I have a couple of questions before I can offer you a specific job. First, where would you like to work, London, or where? Second, would you like to work together in the same store, or go your separate ways?"
Trevor had feared, when questions were mentioned, that perhaps the job wasn't secure and this was more of an interview, but evidently not. He and Angus exchanged looks, and both started to speak. The gist of what game from both of them was London, and together. Daily smiled and said, "The Uxbridge store, very near here, would love to have you. We have two full-time sales positions open there, and it's a large enough store that moving up the ladder won't be difficult, assuming you're as good at selling as you are at sailing. Mr. Oldfield assures me that you will be."
Angus had to ask, "Who is Mr. Oldfield?"
Perry jumped in. "You met Mr. Oldfield in Beijing and again in Grand Forks, but he was always Andy to you. The Brits are a little more formal."
Mr. Daily got the very clear message that the men he had in front of him were very much a special case. He hoped to God they were as good as Andy Oldfield thought, because he didn't want to be the one to bring different news to his boss. He needn't have worried. Trevor and Angus were as good at selling as sailing, and the store knew how to take advantage of two Olympic gold medalists on their staff. Rather than use them on the sales floor, the Uxbridge manager sent them out as community ambassadors to all kinds of local sports groups and programs. It wasn't long before the success of this program caused it to be expanded to other London stores. Trevor and Angus were, as they say, in like Flynn, and as the storyteller might say, they lived happily ever after, but not in the Gang.
There was a large contingent from the Bahamas watching Goose and Arndel win a bronze medal, the first sailing medal for the Bahamas since 1964, and the first won by native Bahamians rather than transplanted Englishmen. The contingent included Goose and Arndel's husbands, their parents and parents-in-law (except that Goose's mother was no longer living), and as many people from the Sailing Federation in the Bahamas as could wangle the trip. I'll also note that the presence of the parents of Goose and the others indicated that they'd come to terms with their gay children, and even with their marriages, which were still not public in the Bahamas. The excitement surrounding the twelfth Olympic medal in Bahamian history and the third sailing Olympic medal was infectious. They were a wonderful and exuberant bunch, and we all gleefully joined in their celebration.
My little kid insists upon a score cards. Our North Dakota Olympians had achieved one gold medal, four silver medals, and four bronze medals. In addition, the international contingent from Fred's Sports had received a gold medal and two bronze medals. This made a grand total of twelve. Jeff was quick to point out that Camp White Elk alums had captured two silvers and a bronze. Nobody had been thinking in those terms, but Jeff reminded us that both Auggie and Chet were former Camp White Elk campers. The string of Camp White Elk Olympians was continuing! Just a note: at the time we were celebrating we still thought Tom had won a bronze medal. It would be months before we learned it would be silver, but the count above counts it as silver.
Three days after the closing ceremony, the group headed home. Chet, Billy, Larry, Fred, Marty, Andy, Tim and I stayed with Jimmy and the families of both Jimmy and Chet for the Paralympics. We had about a week between the two, and a number of us decided to go walking along the Great Wall. We got a Chinese guide, who spoke remarkably good English (it turns out he was a graduate of Grinnell College in Iowa) and we hiked along the wall for a week, stopping at small guest houses or hotels along the way. I still marvel at how well Jimmy walks. We had to slow a little for him, but he wasn't a drag at all. In fact, I think some of the group were glad that the slow pace was credited to Jimmy, so they didn't have to take the blame–they shall remain nameless. We were back in Beijing for the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympics, and Jimmy's exhibition was the next day.
We were sure that it was going to be a sensation, and it was. Instead of Tim as the master of ceremonies, the job was shared by three, a Chinese, an American, and a Frenchman, each speaking in his own language. They used a script prepared by Tim, which was essentially what Tim had said in Grand Forks, but without the local references, but you can be sure that the University of North Dakota got full credit for encouraging Jimmy, and providing facilities suitable for him. Of course, in the Beijing National Aquatics Center he was able to ride up to the ten-meter platform on an elevator. To get to the three-meter springboard he had to climb the ladder. After some discussion, led by Tim, it was decided that he should just climb the ladder the best way he could, which was very awkwardly and slowly. Nothing would define his disability better, and nothing would show his determination better. It was painful to watch him struggle up the ladder, but when he got to the top and displayed his diving prowess, it was doubly impressive. Jimmy came home from China as much a hero as the Olympic medalists.
And we did come home. Not in the charter jet that Marty had arranged but in first class seats on United Airlines, with a single stop in Chicago and arriving in Fargo; we could've flown to Grand Forks, but it would've meant a stop in Minneapolis, and it was easier to be picked up in Fargo by a university bus. Chet had missed the big welcome that the other Olympians had received, in North Dakota, Washington, and national TV. He didn't mind; he was in love with Jimmy and being with Jimmy in Beijing was far more important to him. He got a huge hug from Tim when he'd announced that he'd stay in China with Jimmy rather than head home to a hero's welcome.
It can be tough returning to a routine following an adventure like the Olympic Games in China. But Tim and I had faced that challenge many times, and we were beginning to get used to it. So were our secretaries, who had forwarded urgent matters to us via email, and who presented us with piles in our in-baskets that were carefully sorted as to priority. The first noon we got back the two of us took our secretaries to lunch, at Jerry's of course. Our intent was to thank them for "holding down the fort" while we were off pretending to still be Olympians–for the umpity-umphth time–and we did that quite sincerely. We had, of course, done this in many ways, many times. But we felt that it was time to do a little more. Tim's secretary of many years, Irene, and my secretary of almost as many years, Becky, were good friends. Becky had never married, and Irene's husband had died about four years before. Over the last four years they'd become very close friends and do a lot together. They'd never done a lot of traveling; Irene's husband had disliked travel, and Becky hadn't been interested in traveling alone. They'd taken a few trips together, to New York one summer and San Francisco another. But they were, essentially, homebodies.
As we ate, I asked them, "In your wildest dreams, where in the world would you like to visit?"
Becky said, "I really have no idea. I guess, if I were going to travel somewhere, it'd be Europe. Somewhere in Europe."
Irene said, "Nuts to Europe. I'd like to go traipsing along the Great Wall of China like you two guys did while you were waiting for the Paralympics."
Becky said, "I wish I'd said that. It's a great idea. Now I wish I could afford it."
Tim smiled and said, "Charlie and I want you to visit the Happy Travel office right here in Grand Forks. We've arranged for both of you to have a month's leave from the university. Happy Travel will make all of the arrangements for you to travel. I think October is a good time on the Wall, but if I remember what we were told when we were there, you need to avoid the first week of October because of holiday crowds. How about this? Head to Japan, spend about ten days there, then head to China. Happy Travel can make really good suggestions."
Irene said, "The appropriate response to that suggestion would be, 'You can't be serious,' but I know you too well. You're serious. And you aren't even going to pay any attention to any protests or saying, 'No,' from us, are you? Nor would we score any points with you guys by trying to decline this generous offer. Am I right?"
I said, "You know us pretty well. Happy Travel is expecting you. They don't know where they're going to send you, but I'll call them in the morning and fill them in. Have a great trip. And don't worry about things back here. If you can carry us for months, or even years, away from campus, we can do the same for you."
Tim said, "Look, Charlie, they're speechless."
Becky said, "He's right, but I will get out two words, Thank You."
They had a fabulous trip.
The six Olympic sailors returned home with their national teams. The support team assembled in Qingdau to collect the boats, pack them up and arrange shipping. As they discussed where to ship them, Perry surprised them, saying, "They should all go to the Bahamas. The Maddie II belongs to Goose, the Perry was made from his parts, the two backups can be used by Goose and Arndel's school, and the Freddie needs to go to the Bahamas, because next spring Normans and I will begin our quest for an Olympic medal right there in Freeport. Marty has already committed Fred's Sports to sponsoring Norman and me, and we're ready. This entire team has just earned a seven month vacation, and will assemble again in Freeport, next April first. We are going to need two 49er sailors to be a competitive boat for Norman and me, and if whoever those are manage to beat us in the Trials for London, well, they'll get full support as they go for the gold. Honestly, I am thinking that Josh and Greg might like to become sailors. As for the support team, David will be the new chief, except when Auggie finds time to join us; we all know he's the boss whenever he's around."
This was met with gasps and other expressions of surprise. Finally Millie said, "You mean, four more years?"
"If you want."
"My two times on this team have been the best times of my life. Of course I want. Don't we all?" That seemed to be directed to the rest of the group.
David said, "Millie doesn't give me much of a choice, but I'm in."
Flint looked at Pam and said, "Well, we wondered what would come after this; I guess now we know." Pam just grinned.
Gene and Curtis looked at each other and Gene said, "Pinch me, Curtis, I want to make sure I'm not dreaming."
Josh said, "Well, Greg and I have sailed one of the spare 49ers in our time off. But I don't see us being world class sailors."
Perry said, "We need two sailors so that we always have a second 49er sailing with us. You'll have plenty of time to hone your skills. Are you aboard?"
Greg said, "right we are."
The only people who would regret all of these decisions weren't there. But as the worldwide sailing community slowly learned that Fred's Sports would again be sponsoring an American 49er in the next Olympics, there wasn't a lot of enthusiasm.
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