IN THE DRINK 460 WORDS

The race was scheduled well ahead. Ten boats were taking part.

All the regular crews signed on with some rookies keen to start.

Skippers knew this race would test both boats and sailing skill

A grudge match for Norm on Reckless, and Charlie on Annie Jill.

Norm was top of the point score and bragged to all who would hear

How Charlie should give up the battle. Reckless would win this year.

The boats milled around the start line that ran out from the pier

And skippers coached their crew with language colourful and clear.

Showers came through on flukey wind. The sky had a dull grey hue

As they tacked and jostled to the sirens blast and the start flag flew.

The race was on, out to Mission Bay and back to the red buoy twice

But nobody knew as they sailed that day that they raced to save a life.

Two big boats sailed out wide to tack back in towards the shore.

Annie Jill skimmed past False Cape followed close by seven more.

The wind picked up, a squall came through, the fleet was tossed about.

On Annie Jill Charlie yelled ‘Jibe!’ but Johnny failed to heed the shout.

Hit by the boom Johnny slid down the deck and into the swirling drink

Charlie screamed ‘Bill you just watch him and don’t even blink

And Mary! Throw out that life ring and anything else that will float

For God’s sake get that jib in! Johnny’s dead if we can’t turn the boat.’

Then the Mayday call went out to vessels sailing far and wide

Man overboard! Sailors knew how much those white caps hide.

Race forgotten as skippers heard and sped toward Mission Bay.

Many eyes scanned the churning water in fading light that day.

The chop was up, white spray flew from each waves churning crest.

‘Johnny can’t last much longer’ Norm said, ‘a few more minutes at best.

The chopper won’t make it in time and the coast guard don’t have a crew

The Fitzroy ferry’s changed course to help but what can the tourists do?’

Thirty precious minutes had passed since Johnny was last seen afloat

And on Annie Jill Charlie despaired for he’d lost a mate from his boat.

Then the shout came over the radio from the little cat Four Wind Fair

‘I see him off starboard! Everyone ready. I’ll go as close as I dare.’

The cheers told the news. ‘We have him. We recon he’s doing OK’

And that night they drank to Four Wind Fair who saved a life that day.

‘A rematch is needed’ Norm said. Reckless would challenge once more.

But Charlie was all over racing. ‘Annie Jill’s just for cruising’ he swore.

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