The mind, in all its complexity, has been known to play tricks on us. A teenager with his first car, looks past the chipped paint and dented fenders and sees an object of beauty, a symbol of freedom, and a new level of maturity. A child gazing at her grandmother, who is wrinkled, stooped over and walking with a cane, sees a beautiful woman with a loving smile and twinkling eyes. So, too, it is with sailors and their America's Cup. This silver ewer, the oldest trophy in sport, who some dare to describe as "ugly," represents the best the sport of yacht racing has to offer. When the Cup was so viciously attacked with a sledge-hammer in 1997 in its home at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, the Garrards, who built the silver trophy back in 1848, offered to restore the Cup free of charge, and after three months of work, sent it back to New Zealand in its own first class seat. When Richard Jarvis, the managing director of Garrards, was asked why his firm had undertaken such a massive task at no charge, he replied, "The reason is really quite straightforward. It's the America's Cup."
The Christmas-at-Sea program at the Seaman's Church Institute. Left to right: Debra Wagner, director of communications; Nick Szkodzinsky, volunteer; Barbara Clauson, Christmas-at-Sea director; Ethel Lee and Anne Balmain, both volunteers.
Cowes, England is the place to be in late August as this is the venue for the America's Cup Jubilee Regatta, a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the race that changed the history of yachting. Many of the surviving seaworthy racing boats that have been at some stage involved in the America's Cup competition, will gather in Cowes on the Isle of Wright. One can just visualize the beauty of the horizon as it is populated with the sails of magnificent J Class boats, the modern America's Cup Class yachts and a host of 12 meters sailing on the Solent at Cowes. Over 200 boats will travel to England from the Eastern Seaboard of America, from Australia and New Zealand, from the Mediterranean and from Scandinavia, and from Europe's northern and western coasts, bringing to Cowes the world's finest yachts. The New York Yacht Club and the Royal Yacht Squadron are together planning the most extravagant and spectacular regatta ever. Part of the preparations for this event included a dinner last Thursday, Feb. 22 at the New York Yacht Club. Called the 2001 Jubilee Preview, members of the Royal Yacht Squadron were invited to re-read old letters that revealed the nature of the relationship between these two clubs in the middle of the 19th century. After a dinner in which each of the entries was served at the club's "Welcome Home Dinner" for the owners of the Yacht America in 1851, representatives from both clubs read their respective letters, the Royal Yacht Squadron (dated Feb. 28, 1851) and the reply from the New York Yacht Club on March 26 of the same year. A fun beginning for a regatta that is expected to be the "greatest racing ever seen."
The 2001 Interclub Midwinter Regatta was held at the Severn Sailing Association on Feb. 10-11, with some of the best frostbite sailors in the northeast and mid-Atlantic region attending. For the 24 teams of sailors, the wind offered challenges to both the sailors and the race committee, as it was blowing out of the west 15-25 knots. The shifty gusts make staying upright a priority, and approximately a dozen crews took a dip in the 30 degree Chesapeake waters during the day. The wind died down the next day, but with an early morning start and colder temperatures, ice formed on sheets and hardware, bringing true meaning to the term "frostbite." The winners of the regatta, for the second year in a row, were the Rhode Island team of Ed Adams, Carol Newman-Cronin, Andy Pimental and Monique Gaylor. Ms. Gaylor sails with Ted Toombs in our own frostbite fleet here on Manhasset Bay. To give readers an idea of the competitiveness of the regatta, Mr. Adams coached Mark Reynolds and Magnus Liljedahl to their Olympic Gold win in Australia, and more recently, Reynolds and Liljedahl received the 2000 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Award.
Last Sunday, Feb. 26, four teams of frostbiters completed three races in stormy weather with winds gusting to 22 knots. Races were held off the dock of the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club for safety reasons. As one race committee member noted, the day was "pretty miserable." Ironically, this was the first race of the spring series. The winners: 1. Pedro Lorson/Mimi Berry (#536), 2. Fee Mitropoulos/Amelia Amon (#121), 3. Ted Toombs/David Cornachio (#514), and 4. John Silbersack/Nichols Silbersack (#007).
A few weeks ago, your reporter had the opportunity to visit the Seaman's Church Institute, a not-for-profit organization that was founded in 1834 to improve the treatment of merchant seafarers entering the Port of New York. It is the largest, most comprehensive not-for-profit mariners' agency in North America. Headquartered in Manhattan, the institute serves more than 150,000 mariners from 75 different nations around the world through three main program divisions: the Center for Maritime Education, Center for Seafarer's Rights, and the Center for Seafarers' Services. Readers may recall that this column reported on the institute's exhibit called the Woolies: Sailors Embroidered Folk Art. In addition to the above, the institute is a terrific place to visit, with its maritime art, boat models and sailing history. There is also an on-site café.
One of the most beloved programs at the institute is Christmas-at-Sea which supplies gift packages to deep-sea and river mariners working on Christmas Day. The highlight of each package for deep-sea mariners is a hand-knit vest, watch cap and scarf set, or socks. Volunteer knitters donate all knitted items to the institute. And like most good things, demand is always greater than supply. Barbara Clauson, the director of the program, and her volunteers provide a wonderful service to the men at sea during the holidays. Your reporter was so impressed with this program (and who has not picked up knitting needles in over 30 years) that she has started knitting a scarf. Interested readers are invited to join in - it's very easy. The institute provides simple knitting patterns and instructions, and you can purchase the yarn from the institute. Locally, Dina Mor, the owner of The Knitting Place, Inc. at 191 Main Street (944-YARN), will provide patterns and yarn and help, if needed. The institute is located at 241 Water Street, New York, NY 10038, (212) 349-9090.