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There are fourteen large winches on the decks of Jim Hurlock’s sailboat, White-Jacket, a 51-foot sloop of heroic proportions, with a mast as tall as an apartment house and a boom that could decapitate a Clydesdale. There are a half-dozen thick ropes threaded through pulley blocks and wrapped on the winches, tugging the sails against their natural inclination to turn into giant flags. There are ten people on the deck, plus Hurlock himself at the wheel, tending to the moving parts of this fabulously complex machine that is propelling itself across Block Island Sound at around six knots. Six knots on land would be a brisk jog, but speed as such is not the point of sailing, as Hurlock sees it. The goal is to go just fast enough to beat the other boats.

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