Notes from a Jersey Girl

by Lisa G Westheimer

May 2015: Newport Rhode Island

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There was a weekly television show on Universal Sports of the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race. Bill and I were rabidly addicted to it. It is a 9 month long 39,000 nautical mile race with about 9 or 10 stops at ports of call all over the world. Typically each boat has 9 crew members, except for this year when Team SCA, the first boat in its history to have an entirely female crew, was allowed 12 crew members (I forget why, it may be based on strength and weight.) All the boats are exactly the same and made by the same manufacturer, thus a level playing field. Any repairs or changes to the boat while it’s underway must be approved by the race committee.  The boats sail 24/7 sometimes in very treacherous areas and under extreme weather conditions. No fresh food is on board, crew members eat from freeze dried reconstituted packages. Each team has a captain and a navigator and a reporter as part of the crew. One boat actually crashed on an uncharted reef very early into the race. Everyone was evacuated and the boat had to be rebuilt and relaunched towards the end of the race. That alone was worth watching.

Bill and I were both big sailors, but way before we knew each other.  The only sailing we’ve done together were rental dinghies in Wellfleet Harbor and a wife survival test in the BVI in 2013.  Bill had a 48′ steel hulled ketch named The Pamet that he spent a year sailing with his father and various friends and family up the east coast of the United States from the Caribbean. My father had a string of stink pot steel hulled motor cruisers in Cos Cob Connecticut that we spent our weekends on.  I had a boyfriend and with him and various sailboats (no more than 32′) sailed up the coast from New York to Nantucket and back regularly. He eventually became an open ocean single handed sailor. In 1985 the two of us did the Bermuda 1 – 2, a sailing race that leg 1 was done single handed from Newport, R.I. to St George, Bermuda, then back with 2 people aboard. We came in 4th and broke up the next day. Let’s just say like in the song Mandy, “his life, his love and his lady, is the sea.” He went on to sail himself around the world alone and is still doing so as far as I hear.

Anyway, “The Volvo Ocean Race” show re-ignited the flame for sailing in the two of us. We couldn’t get enough of that show and always looked forward to each installment. I went so far as to become besotted with Team SCA, the all female team. When we did the Bermuda 1 – 2 there was a boat entered with a female captain that would have a female crew member in Bermuda. There was alot of hairy eye balls by the men at her and her boat and it just so happened that hours before the start there was some sort of “paperwork technicality involving insurance certificates” that disqualified her from starting and participating in the race. Yes you young ladies, this was not that long ago! Stuff like this happened all the time in every single profession a woman tried to crack into, including my own in the construction industry.

So Team SCA, for me, was the culmination of a success. I won! It took 30 years, but I, and that disqualified captain and her crew, won, because now, in our lifetime, there is an all woman team racing around the world just like the men in the exact same boat. They even won a leg! I hung on every minute of TV footage of them. I got out the rosary beads when Sophie had her back injury.   I subscribed to their blog. I wrote stupid fan things on it. I wore their team colors.  When Bill announced that we should drop everything and go to Newport to see them arrive I almost died and went to heaven. I haven’t been to Newport since that fateful race, and I have never gone to Newport in a car, only by boat!

Newport covers alot of my bases. It is on the sea. It has very distinctive green, fresh smelling water. It has charming Victorian cottages, it has marinas full of amazing boats. People are boat-centric, they sail pretty much daily, it’s in their blood and ingrained in their culture. When we took the launch to the race village a man was making his way across the harbor bare foot, in May on a paddle board.  They have mansions. They have HORSES. They have bed and breakfasts and restaurants full of good food and wine and dessert and no dishes to do or meals to cook or beds to make. Wow!

So off we set.  We tried to get there to view the boats arrive, but they did so in the middle of the night the day before, but no matter, we were on an adventure.  Besotted tourist idiot that I was I brought my trophy plaque from the 1985 Bermuda 1 – 2 with me and whipped it out at every single opportunity.  People looked askance.  I got looks that I reserve for loved ones with dementia when they tell me about their lives.  I didn’t care.  I made a bee line for the Team SCA venue.  I hung around like a dope.  I wrote a message to them on an official SCA company tissue and hung it on a clothes line.  I drank CHAMPAGNE in the Moet tent from a split bottle afixed with a little gold plastic thing that looks like a megaphone.  I swiped the gold plastic thing and have it squirelled away in my “special” drawer.  I bought an OFFICIAL TEAM SCA LONG SLEEVED SHIRT AND HAT! (I am wearing said shirt with pride in the picture of me on Harriet’s horse Gregor as we rode on Ryder Beach in Truro, Mass, shortly thereafter…)  (it is my FAVORITE shirt, ok?!)  The hat, I wear only when I know I will be clean and when I know I will be in company of people to impress, like Donald Trump or the Pope.



There were so many cool things to see in the race village.  OMG.  There were the BOATS and techies crawling all over them like ants, there were the team tech areas where we saw equipment stuff under repair and asked questions and got answers,  the sail loft where repairs were being made, a replica of the inside of a Volvo Ocean Racer so we could lie in the bunks and mess around with the tiller and get sea sick on dry land!  There was a really fun theater with a great performer giving us all kinds of information about the race and interactive games to play.  Even a self driving car by Volvo!  We had a BALL!!!

I will post when I can find them the pictures that were taken by Bill on this trip.  It was such a fun spontaneous thing for us to do, it was really something for us as a couple because it brought each of us back to a time in our youth, way before we knew each other, that we had in COMMON, that we really never tapped into before.  Such fun my dears, such fun!!!

I just got a post from Team SCA that there will be a TV show about them, on August 15th.  I almost peed my pants.  Bill tried to find it on the DVR but couldn’t.  This is the luck I have.  But my darlings, life is long and I am determined.  I will send this post to Team SCA and to Universal Sports.  I know they will listen.  They have my back like I have theirs.  😉



Author: Lisa G Westheimer

I am a ceramic and glass artist living and working in West Orange, NJ, USA. I have a masters degree in ceramics from Montclair State University and teach at the Montclair Art Museum, both in Montclair, NJ. Prior to this I was co-owner of "The Manhattan Expedition Inc" and was a NYC Building Code and Zoning Specialist in Manhattan, my main claim to fame as a Loft Conversion Specialist in Soho and Tribeca in the 1980's and 1990's, and a specialist in Landmarks Preservation and Special Places of Assembly, particularly the Fashion Shows in Bryant Park and any weird sort of thing happening in Manhattan worthy of getting thrown out of the Commissioner's office. But mostly I'm a Jersey Girl, born in Rutherford, schooled in a private school in Montclair, did a stint living in Greenwich Village then Soho before fleeing to Llewellyn Park in West Orange, NJ where I learned how to clean and restore stuffed bald eagles!!!! I can mostly be found in my studio or on the campus of The Montclair Art Museum (where I teach) or on the back of my horse Buddy, either in my backyard or at a farm in Sussex County.

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