Last Sunday, Sandra Tartaglino was mowed down by a 25-foot powerboat while racing her favorite sailboat, the F18, on Narragansett Bay. High-performance catamarans go very fast, so maybe that powerboat driver misjudged their closing speed. Maybe there was a distraction, or too many cold ones, or a simple lack of understanding that power gives way to sail. All we can be sure of at this point is that the sailing community has lost a great friend.
I first met Sandra a few years ago when she showed up at a Snipe regatta with one of my first skippers, boatbuilder Andrew Pimental. Snipe crewing takes a lot of time and effort to master; with her catamaran background, Sandra had the additional challenge of learning to balance as the boat heeled over. (Boats with two hulls do a lot less of that.) I remember laughing with her after sailing about falling down, pulling the wrong line, getting tangled up in tacks… all the usual newbie Snipe crew issues, plus a few. She asked a lot of questions in her quest to improve—a trait that helped her stand out from most of our age group.
We also talked about fitness, nutrition, hydration, Rhode Island traffic—and, of all things, brownies. They were her trademark in the catamaran world, she told me proudly. This week, reading through memories posted by her many catamaran buddies, I now understand how true that was. At most major regattas, she brought brownies to the boat park to share while everyone unrigged. On one rare occasion when she couldn’t make it to the F18 North Americans, she even mailed a batch to Texas.
Sandra joined the tight-knit Snipe class for only a few regattas, but I was already looking forward to our next discussion. She loved to sail, she wasn’t scared to take on a fresh challenge, and she listened well. “She was such a terrific blend of sweet and tough,” Kim Couranz commented—a perfect description.
We may never understand why Sandra died with so many races still unsailed, while racing the boat she loved most (at a regatta she’d organized). All we can do is remember her. And, maybe, try to catch a whiff of all those brownies baking, up there in catamaran-heaven.