One of the potential reasons I was excited about this summer's trip to Lake Okoboji, Iowa, for the 2014 Snipe Nationals, was to search for the Yngling I sailed in the 2004 Olympics. She was built to last by Abbott Boats, so the odds were good that she was still sailing.
I'd sold her to Sally Barkow and team after I retired from Olympic sailing in 2007, and they took her to the 2008 Games in China. So the boat lived through two rounds of Olympic blood, sweat and tears.
Shortly after the Yngling was removed from the Olympic family for the 2012 Olympics, Sally sold the boat to someone on Lake Okoboji, where there was a strong fleet. Now five years later, I was hopeful that she was still there.
Shortly after arriving, I asked regatta organizer Pat Flood how I might track her down. "The boat's not in the Yacht Club register," he told me. "So she's not racing here anymore. It must've sold to someone in Minnesota. The fleet's only about half the size it was a few years ago."
Fortunately, another discussion—sparked by a Yngling photo on the wall of the Yacht Club—was more successful. A local Yngling fleet member knew the boat, "the one with all the Olympic logos," and thought it was still around "unless it was destroyed by that big windstorm we had." When I asked where it would be, he pointed a long finger across the lake, toward the southeast corner. And then, just to make sure I got it, he showed me the exact location on a hand-drawn map that had a number for each and every boat lift along the almost 20 miles of lakefront—linked to the name of its owner. He even called a few people to check, and got a confirmation: Not destroyed... in her lift. Gotta love midwestern helpful hospitality.
So the rest should've been easy.
We drove to the right neighborhood, and if this were a movie, the boat would've appeared right away, beckoning, ready to go sailing. Or she would've somehow called out to me. We did, after all, share a lot of blood, sweat and tears, as well as a few other bodily fluids, over three years of intense sailing. I would like to think this boat remembers me, her first master.
But she remained silent. And the lake bluffs in that neighborhood (a nice collection of well-manicured houses) are high enough to hide everything stored at water level. Since the slip number I had bore no relation to the house numbers on the street, I didn't know which yard to wander into. Even if I had known, I'm not sure I would've had the nerve—though Pat Flood later told me that no one would've cared.
Once we drove back to where the lake front flattened to town beach, I looked back. And there, indeed, was a familiar mast—a distinctive pole towering over the rows of powerboats either side.
Was it my Yngling? I choose to believe it was. Because I like thinking of her enjoying a permanent vacation on Lake Okoboji, living in a lift and getting wet occasionally in clean blue water, no longer subject to all that blood, sweat, and tears of Olympic life. A fitting retirement for an excellent boat.