Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Friday, June 7, 2002

No fuss, just smooth sailing
at Keehi Lagoon

Planes nearly scraped their sails. The sun was warm, but forgiving, and the wind was gentle, but steady. Light danced on the water, flashing, like the thousand points of light that sparkle across every stadium at the kickoff of every Super Bowl.

But this was a different kind of Super Bowl.

The "Super Bowl of Sailing," so they say. And on a beautiful day in June, who in the world could resist the allure of the Super Bowl of Sailing?

Many of you. But I gave it a shot.

The sidelines, in these collegiate sailing championships, were covered in tarps. Young men and women -- sailors, competitors, friends, the odd grownup and assorted family member -- were slathering sunscreen on each other. They had come from all over the country -- yes, even Paul Arnett's Texas A&M "Sea Aggies" -- for this contest. They were camping out on the removable seats (as seen on TV) taken out of the rent-a-vans, idling as only MTV's target audience can.

I joined them. The excitement would begin soon. I could feel it.

We waited, by the shores of Keehi Lagoon.

Boats on the water, sails on the wind.

A kite cavorted in the sky. The boats zigged, and zagged, and circled. We waited.

And waited.

And waited.

There's a lot of waiting involved in sailing.

(It's tough to get all those boats lined up at the starting line just right.)

But finally, they're off! And now the excitement builds to a fever pitch, so much so that a few of us even notice that the boats appear to be getting closer. The sails, lined up together against the sky, are captivating, a postcard come to life.

The Harvard fan next to me sounds exactly like deliciously creepy movie guy Christopher Walken. And so I close my eyes and hear Christopher Walken give sailing play by play:

"I like ... boat No. 6."

Mostly, we do nothing. "I want to get a tan," a young lady says, and strips down to bikini bottoms. Even as the lead boats come down the stretch and the winner crosses the finish line, there is but a handful of applause, a few odd hoots, a yell or two of encouragement.

In the distance, someone is playing the bongos.

The Super Bowl of Sailing.

This is the most laid-back sport of all time.

The college youngsters break out their party tape. Someone, somewhere, is still playing Bon Jovi.

God help us all.

Maybe the uproars come later, when the scores are compiled and the totals are tight and everything's on the line. Maybe the sweat and the strain and the stirring nuances of the sport are more visible if you don't forget your binoculars, like I did.

Christopher Walken gets it, shaking raised fists, scurrying back to translate events to his compatriots in the crimson T-shirts.

But here, with the rest of the audience, I must be missing something. Binoculars, probably.

The competitors, between competitions, lounge in the removable van seats, telling tales of last night's hotel revelry.

Soon they would don life jackets again, and funny shoes, leaping from one end of the boat to the other, zigging, zagging, manipulating the sails, hanging off the side. There the action is fierce, vigorous and intense, if only we had any idea. Then, one vessel finally cruises home to victory, serenaded by golf claps.

Super Bowl? No. But a slow, soothing afternoon.

And the bongos played on.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at

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