14 (Snipe) Questions to Alex and Lisa Pline

Appearing in Snipe Today, April 7, 2015

Alex and Lisa say: “We were a fission of two separate Snipe circles and still maintain our own “identities” in the class so we have answered separately, just the way we roll!”

1) Your first time in a sailing boat?

Lisa: Although I was too young to remember, my first ride in a sailboat would have been on a Butterfly (12′ scow) on Lake Lotawana, MO.  I do remember crewing in a “double handed” nationals at age 4 in a terrifying stormy race and skippering on my own at age 6.

Alex: When my parents moved to Massachusetts when I was 2, my father bought a Bullseye, a 12’ local keelboat (after having had a wooden snipe a number of years earlier).  I don’t remember it, but that summer they took my sister and me sailing a number of times and tell the story of our sleeping the whole time under the cuddy cabin.

2) Your first time in a Snipe?

Lisa: Bermuda Race Week 1986.  I had met James Jacobs Laser sailing on the Potomac a few weeks earlier when I get a call: “I need a crew for Bermuda Race Week.  It’s as important to win the party as winning the race.  You have 24 hours to decide.  Click.”  Now THAT’S an introduction to Snipe Sailing!  No place/event on earth personified “Serious Sailing, Serious Fun” as much as Bermuda Race Week did.

Alex: It was in Cleveland in 1988 when Bill Buckles let me try the boat. There was no wind, but on an impulse I bought the boat when Bill said if you buy it, I’ll take it to Florida for this new regatta they are starting up (the first annual Dead of Winter); you just show up and sail. How could I refuse? It was a done deal!

3) The most bizarre thing that happened in a regatta?

Lisa: 1996 Women’s World in Spain:  Sherry Eldridge and I were in position to win the regatta in the last race – all we had to do was maintain the 2nd place we had approaching the finish, when we tacked to cover and the rig “flopped”.  Luckily it was light enough air that in the 5 seconds it took me to realize that the weather shroud was no longer attached at the deck. We were able to tack back over without the rig breaking and limp across the line, but lost the places needed to win the regatta.  Nothing had broken.  The pin had just come undone. Bizarre.  Or possibly the worst luck ever!

Alex: Not really bizarre, but scary was the 1996 Midwinters in Clearwater, the year of the “big blow”. After the second triangle, going by a number of people capsized thinking we are on the edge of control, we went around the leeward mark with he main and jib ragging and barely able to control the boat. We were the last boat standing I looked at Lisa and said this is not worth it for 11th place so we took the main down and planed in under just the jib. We had to jibe in the channel, a notoriously sketchy spot and was anticipating a problem, but since the main was down, it might have been the smoothest jibe we had ever done.

4) What is the thing that angers you most in a race/regatta?

Lisa: If I’m angry at a regatta, I need to find a new way to spend my leisure time.

Alex: Drama queens. This sport is supposed to be fun and when people just won’t let something go or use issues for some personal gain it makes life very unpleasant. Sure there are things that make us upset, but have a drink , make a joke and get on with life. Otherwise, it’s too much like work and who needs that? See life lessons learned in #6.

5) Which is the race/regatta you remember with the most pleasure?

Lisa: There are so many, it is hard to choose!  Any one of the Bermuda Race Weeks (1992 when I met Alex, 1993 when Alex proposed, 1997 when we sailed won with me being 4 months pregnant, giving our new Snipe the name “Hike Like A Mother”); any Winter Circuit… basically any regatta in the late 1980’s/early 90’s.  Lordy, the Snipe Fleet knew how to throw events back in the day!

Alex: Definitely it was Bermuda Race Week 1997 when Lisa and I won with her being pregnant with Lexi. With a different crew it was the 1999 NAs in Boston where Sherry Eldridge and I finished 5th and qualified for the Westerns in Rosario Argentina.

6) And the race/regatta you would like to forget?

Lisa: The one in Atlanta where that god-awful picture of me crewing for Alex in righteous 80’s attire, dorky glasses, and goofy hat ended up on the cover of the Snipe Bulletin.  I think I’m even holding the shroud.  Please make it go away!

Alex: Haha, Lisa keeps complaining about my posting that picture on Facebook. For me, it was the Columbus (Ohio) Open in 1994. Typical light air lake regatta and were winning going into the last race when I made the tactical mistake of squeezing out someone at the start (not naming names) who returned the favor at a weather mark later in the race intentionally pushing us back to the middle of the fleet. Going up the last beat, I knew it was lost and as Lisa tells the story, she could see the top of my head starting to blow off, so she grabbed me by the ears and said “Don’t be a dick!” Advice that has served me well for the last 20 years!

7) Your “dream in the peak” (your sailing dream)?

Lisa: My “dream in MY peak” would have been to win a Women’s Worlds (see #3), but my current dream would be to win a Women’s event sailing with Lexi.  I think we might be the only Mother/Daughter team for the record books 🙂

Alex: I’d like to win a national level Snipe event, especially with Lexi. I think it would be cool for her to get her name on a trophy like the DonQ Rum Keg for posterity’s sake.

8) Sailing goals for 2015, and beyond?

Lisa: See #7, but more broadly getting back in the boat with Alex and encouraging Lexi to continue sailing in the class.

Alex: I’m just glad to be back sailing competitively with family and enjoying the Snipe community again. Like I said in my SnipeToday article, it really is like waking up from a long winter’s nap, and in that sense just being back is enough. Also not having any real results expectations makes doing reasonably well even more enjoyable. As Lisa always jokes, the key to happiness in life is low expectations. Not sure what that says about her marrying me though…

9) The most important people for you in sailing, and in the Snipe?

Lisa: Alex, of course, but also Peter Commette that he came back to the Snipe after “lapsed” years with back issues and family – certainly a role model for us.  Also Old Man – how can I ever whine that I’m too old to hike when I see Old Man still with the energy for the Snipe on and off the water?  Gotta also mention Phil Richmond here for recruiting me to skipper his boat (Phil crewed) when I was too young to be able to afford my own boat.

Alex: Lisa no doubt, but I also agree Peter’s return to the Snipe was inspiring and he was prescient about how enjoyable sailing with Lexi would be after relaying his experiences sailing with his daughters. Although never involved with Snipes, Bill Ragg with whom I sailed on his big boat in Cleveland, had a huge effect on me because he was the kindest and most loyal skipper anyone could ever imagine. A real class act.

10) Why the Snipe?

Lisa: By now it just feels like “home”, but originally the small boat, tactical, awesome people, awesome events is what snagged me out of college.  What has lured us back are the friends that we have across the country that we look forward to re-connecting with.

Alex: I came into the Snipe on a whim from Lasers, but now that I am here, I could not imagine sailing any other boat (regularly anyway). While I am a bit of a gear head and certainly could enjoy a boat like the 505 from that perspective, I like the Snipe because there is just enough adjustability to make it interesting and challenging technically, but not overly complex where technical understanding is a key success factor; there are many people who are not technically inclined but do very well in the boat (I married one!). I think the heavier weight of the Snipe is a real plus for the class because it makes the boat much less sensitive to overall crew weight. These characteristics of the boat result in a very heterogeneous group of the people sailing it. This mix of people is one of the gems of the class that makes the social aspect so good. Also, after trying to be competitive in the cycling world where I didn’t pick my parents well enough, it’s nice to come back to a boat that physical ability is not the limiting factor. The Snipe is a quirky boat and having a lot of experience to know how to make it go can overcome a lot of brute force.

11) Your perfect sailing venue and your perfect conditions?

Lisa: My perfect conditions (8-10, light chop) would indicate Biscayne Bay or the Chesapeake, but best venue ever was Spanish Point Yacht Club.  Two minutes to the race coarse, the most hypnotizing warm blue water, awesome bar/club to hang out… often too windy for my “ideal”, but no place was more perfect for a Snipe regatta.

Alex: Spanish Point Boat Club in Bermuda for all the reasons Lisa mentions, but I have to say this year’s DonQ was about as perfect as it gets. Leisurely, warm mornings and races after noon in 8-12 knots is about as good as it gets!

12) Besides sailing, what other sports do you practice?

Lisa: Walking.  I subscribe to the motto: “No pain, no pain.  What’s the problem?”

Alex: Competitive cycling.

13) Are you superstitious?

Lisa: Not at all!

Alex: NO!

14) Your perfect holiday?

Lisa: Bermuda Race Week where after your last race there were still 4 cocktail parties left!

Alex:  Bermuda as Lisa mentions (that cocktail party quote is a Bill Buckles classic), but what would make it even more perfect is if the kids were there and either also sailing or hanging out and enjoying themselves with friends.

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