Recently, there was something that was intimidating me. A coach asked me, “When did you do something well despite being intimidated?” All of a sudden, I remembered standing on a dock facing a boat full of crew that had no idea who I was.
I wanted to do my first ocean race. The 1991 edition of the Annapolis to Newport Race was a perfect opportunity. Because I was being picky, by mid-May, I had not found a ride. I was scheduled to lead an Outward Bound course during the two weeks before the race. I told my good friends I was still looking for a ride, but it had to be a “good boat,” and headed off for my course.
To my surprise, when I got home the afternoon before the start, there were four messages on my answering machine, all from different people telling me that the same boat was looking for crew. It was a “good boat” from New York Yacht Club that really wanted some local knowledge to help them navigate Chesapeake Bay well. After multiple “Down the Bay” races to Hampton and St. Mary’s City, as well as my Outward Bound courses that forced one to more leisurely explore all the nooks and crannies, I felt very qualified.
After washing all my gear, I repacked my bag. The next morning, the day of the race, I headed down to the dock where everyone had said “Airborne” was berthed. A few crew were on deck when I asked if they were still looking for an additional crew. They looked around, unsure and uneasy, and called for more people to come on deck.
When enough men had assembled on deck to form whatever quorum they deemed necessary, I was asked to repeat myself. I made my pitch. They asked me a few questions, which I answered honestly. After a few glances around, they told me they did not need crew. I was pissed.
And then, in the next breath, one of the leaders of the pack asked me what I knew about sailing down the bay. I probably glowered at him. I was ready to tell him to shove it and storm off the dock. But then, as I inhaled, I remembered my goal of doing an ocean race, and their need for someone with local knowledge. As I exhaled, I began the most intelligent description of the Bay I could deliver, with shoals, currents, rhumb line and prevailing breezes thrown into the mix. They didn’t interrupt me.
When I was finished, they asked if I wouldn’t mind walking to the end of the dock so they could confer privately. Still a bit irritated, I complied. After a quick huddle, I was invited to join them for the race – as the cook.
I was offended once again. But they had already said yes. I remembered two things: I would achieve my goal of my first ocean race; and if I proved myself, I wouldn’t be in the galley the whole time.
It worked. I even made the race write-up!
From now on, I’m ready to face those intimidating situations. I picture myself with my bag packed and my feet firmly planted on the dock, and I say, “Bring it!”