Two falls or one submission

Those of my readers who have reached the middle of their fifth decade will probably recognise this title as one of the rules, and there were precious few, of Saturday afternoon wrestling on TV back in the late sixties or early seventies.

I remember sitting with my grandmother and giggling as this otherwise respectable lady was transfixed by World of Sport on ITV. Nanna, as we called her, was old even then. I was six or seven and everyone who wasn’t in my class at school was old, but she was my father’s mother, and born in the eighteen nineties which made her a Victorian. That’s old.

I don’t remember exactly when she died but I do remember watching Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy, real name Shirly Crabtree, with her on wet Saturday afternoons. Nanna would shout at the small black and white portable screen as the two combatants threw each other from one side of the ring to the other. They’d bounce off the ropes and come back, often knocking their opponent to the canvas with a forearm smash or a flying tackle. The referee would count; one’a, two’a, three’a, and so on to nine. The injured fighter would then spring up, miraculously recover from his injury, and resume the bout. It was all staged of course, but to a boy who hadn’t mastered the five times table or joined up writing, it all seemed terribly real.

Moving forward to the present day, or yesterday to be precise, I could hear Nanna’s voice as clear as if she was right beside me. I was racing my sailing dinghy, a twelve foot long Comet Duo, in winds that were probably a bit strong to be out. Phoenix is a two person boat but as a sailor with a larger, well padded, frame I prefer to go out on my own. I usually have enough weight that I’m not to be overpowered by the wind and I can put a reef if conditions dictate I reduce the sail area. But yesterday the gusts were so extreme that, even reefed, I was struggling to keep her upright. Twice I failed and capsized, nipping over the gunwale and onto the centre board where my weight was sufficient to bring the mast out of the water and pointing skyward again. 

It was after the second incident that I heard Nanna’s voice coming down the decades. “Two falls ref, that’s two falls.” She’d obviously decided that I should be sent to the changing room for an early bath. As I knelt in the bottom of my boat, half soaked and mostly exhausted, I agreed with her. It was time for me to bang on the canvas and tell the referee that I’d had enough, I was only half way around the course but the elements had won. I was ready for a shower and some dry clothes, I indicated to the safety boat that I was retiring, opened the self-bailers, and set a course back to the club. 

It wasn’t the best race of the season so far, but it was one of the best afternoon’s sailing I’ve had this year. The most exhilarating and physically challenging without doubt. You have to know your limits and I’d had my two falls. Just like the fighters all those years ago I might look beaten but I’ll be back again next week, all recovered and ready for another bout.