RACING ON WATER A PLEASANT DIVERSION
Dario Franchitti, Boston.com
There is racing, and then there is racing.
After the race in Toronto earlier this month, I jumped on a plane and headed back home to Scotland for some vacation time – and some racing of a different sort. My buddies and I went sailing. Not just sailing leisurely as we normally do, but racing. Don't get the wrong idea here, though. It was just a local event, not the America’s Cup.
There is a group of us in Scotland that grew up and went to school together. Whenever we can, we get together, either in Scotland or in the States. Every year they come over for the Indianapolis 500, so if you ever see a group of Scotsmen at Indy, it's highly likely that I know them.
One of the guys in the group, my buddy Alan, has a boat, so sometimes when we’re all together we go sailing. It’s a good way to get away from everything. My first time on a sailboat didn’t occur until 2008, so I’m new to it, but I’ve fallen in love with it. It’s a great way to recharge the battery.
This trip was different in that it involved two days of organized racing. The first day took us from Glasgow to the start of the Crinan Canal. We then spent a leisurely day going through the canal’s series of locks and dams. They're pretty much all manual, so I got a pretty good workout in there. One of the guys who works the canal is a huge IndyCar fan; he was disappointed we didn’t have a race that night as he had the rest of the day off. The next day we raced from Adrfern to the Isle of Mull.
The entire race was about having fun, but after a bit of it, my competitive side came through, I wasn't the only one. The boys were very keen for a good result. It got fairly intense out there, and it was fast, which is right up my alley. I know what you’re thinking – 10 or 11 knots can’t compare to 200 mph. But it’s the same concept. And to be honest, 11 knots in a sailboat is honking right along when it's heeled right over.
Alan is the skipper, of course, since he’s been sailing since he was a kid. Stewart would adjust the main sail, and Scott was our spotter. My job was to unwind the rope on the jib when we were tacking. Bruce then wound it on the other side, and I would wind the winch to get the sail in the correct position. We had some pretty good teamwork going, but not quite to Team Target’s level yet. I definitely got a workout. If you ever watch the America’s Cup, you’ll notice that the guys who do that particular job are not built anything like me.
The weather was great for most of the trip. It rained for a bit, but nothing too bad, and we all had a great time. It’s my favorite part of the world, and I was with some of my favorite people in the world. When I was on the boat, I didn’t think much about my other form of racing. But as soon as we got back to the marina, my mind just switched. I was back into it and ready to get to Edmonton.
This happens to me every time I prepare for a race. By the time I get on the plane to go to the racetrack, I’m locked into it. Even after all these years, the excitement and intensity of it comes back every single time. This is my passion, but it’s nice to step away from it for a few days in the middle of the season.
Sunday’s Edmonton Indy was a rather weird race. We hadn’t been delighted with the car all weekend, and I was struggling in a couple of areas, so we made some changes before the race that seemed to help. It looked good early, but then on the second restart I made a mistake and lost two or three positions.
Then I lost a ton more when E.J. Viso hit my teammate, Scott Dixon. Somehow I managed to slow myself almost to a stop to avoid him, and I was so lucky that nobody hit me from behind. I thought to myself later that it was ironic. If I hadn’t made the mistake on the restart, I probably would have been in the same position Scott was in at the time he got hit.
That's one of the strange things about racing. Sometimes it's about circumstance and luck. Scott has been very fast this year, but he’s had a ton of bad luck. Teams and drivers put all of their effort into minute details to get it just right, and then something that’s out of your control takes you out of contention. It’s extremely frustrating.
After that incident, I had some good battles with Tony Kanaan and Justin Wilson. I was held up for a bit, but I was able to save fuel. Then I was able to get the hammer back down on the Target car and came out of the pits in third behind Will Power and Helio Castroneves. I caught them quickly and kept trying to get past Helio, but he made no mistakes at all. Neither did Will. I could tell they were both struggling at times with handling, but they never made any mistakes. They both raced extremely well at the end.
All in all, it was not a bad day. Third place is a solid result. It’s possible that a short break between races to compete in a different form of racing was the perfect vacation.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s 15 mph or 200. The competitive fires are always burning.