During another winter race, he said, Cook fell into 35-degree water, and could not get out because the three sweaters he was wearing became soaked and weighed him down. He just had to hold onto his boat until a rescue boat could reach him.
"It takes a little bit of craziness," Dunn admitted. "There are times when it's 35 below with the wind, and I wonder what I'm doing on the water."
Although he and Dunn compete fiercely on the water, back on dry land all rivalries are left behind, Cook said. "It's completely friendly. After a race, we always discuss who did better and why, and what we could have done differently."
Sometimes they'll discuss strategy before the race also, Cook said, "but we don't go into it too much; mostly, we sail by the seat of our pants."
Both Dunn, a sophomore at Germantown Friends School, and Cook, a sophomore at Chestnut Hill Academy, are to race today in the semifinals of the Yacht Racing Association's national high school championship. Twenty-two single- handed boats will compete at Kings Point, N.Y., all from the mid-Atlantic region. The top four finishers will go on to the national championship in Annapolis in May.
It will not be an easy race, Dunn said. Both he and Cook have learned to race without the benefit of a full-time coach, unlike many of their competitors, who sail for boarding school sailing teams.
However, Dunn said he felt well-prepared after a week of tough sailing in the Laser mid-winter championships in March in Sarasota, Fla.
"Those were the toughest races I ever sailed in. I learned more that week than in any other race," Dunn said. Not only was he competing against members of the U.S. and Canadian Olympic teams, he said, the wind was blowing hard all week, a big disadvantage for a single-handed racer who weighs in at about 140 pounds.
After five straight days of racing in heavy wind on rough ocean waters,
Dunn said, he was pretty sore.
Some competitors took a day off in the middle of the week, Dunn said. ''When you're in your 20s," he said, "going out at night is a big thing. I guess they did a little too much in excess one night."
But Dunn sailed right through. In fact, he and Cook agreed, the only thing that really gets in the way of sailing is schoolwork.
"It's a challenge to stay ahead on your schoolwork," Cook said.
Dunn said, "I try to get my work done in free periods, and get it out of the way." His parents are quite clear on the issue, he said: "If I don't finish my work, I don't go sailing."