Maka Batsaeva, aged 8, at the Knickerbocker YC at the Gift of Life Regatta. KYC raised over $90,000 to help children like Maka receive life-saving surgery.
The Gift of Life International, Inc. is a non-profit organization founded in 1973 when a young Rotarian from Manhasset Rotary Club responded to a plea for help from a Rotary Club in Uganda. The plea was for help in saving a young Ugandan who needed life-saving open-heart surgery. Through the generous efforts of the Manhasset Rotary Club, Grace Agwara was treated at St. Francis Hospital to close a hole between the lower chambers of her heart. This first venture in helping save lives led to another child receiving help, then a third. Thus began the Gift of Life, focusing efforts on children from all over the world with heart problems. Knickerbocker YC decided to join in these worthy efforts, and held their second Gift of Life regatta on Saturday, August 21st. Little Maka Batsaeva, aged 8, attended the evening dinner and auction, along with her mother. This brave young child captured the hearts of the crowd who gathered on the lawn of KYC. It is hard to imagine how a young child can absorb the new world she has entered. Just a short while ago, she and her family were living in a hole in the ground, trying to shield themselves from the bombs that struck her village during the Chechnyan uprising. And then, on a Saturday evening in late August, she is transported to KYC, and is standing on the steps, surrounded not by bombs, but by a sea of friendly, smiling faces, with Manhasset Bay and the setting sun as a backdrop. Mata has traveled a long road in her short eight years, and has another surgery scheduled on August 31st, this time a major one, at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. Because of the generosity of the folks over at KYC (they raised over $90,000), she has a second chance to have a normal life. This little Chechnyan, who has been through so much, is just one example of the good that is being done for children around the world. Dave Kass, the Chair of the Gift of Life regatta, said they are already have found another child to bring over the United States, a child who was left abandoned on a street in Iraq, and was in need of another miracle. And so the story goes, one child after another, receiving the best gift ever, the gift to grow to adulthood and live a healthy and productive life.
Those who gathered to raise money for Mata's surgery, and to celebrate her chance at a normal life, spent the day sailing in Manhasset Bay and Long Island Sound. Normally that would be a wonderful way to spend an afternoon and also raise money for a good cause. But on this Saturday, the effects of Charlie came into play, and the Sound and Manhasset Bay had some of the worst weather seen in years. Robbie Lager, Race Committee Chair, reported that there were 25 boats on the starting line, with 4 PHRF divisions with two racing classes and two classes of cruiser/racers, plus four Knickerbocker One Designs. The course for all divisions was D, S, D, S, finish, and at the start the wind was SW at 12-15 knots. But during mid-race, a storm cell arrived, the skies darkened, the wind picked up, and there was very little visibility due to the heavy downpour. After about ten minutes, another storm cell, with even higher winds, arrived on the scene, and the RC abandoned all racing, except for the KODs who could round the last mark on their way home. RC is pleased to report that all sailors arrived on shore safely. There were some harrowing moments out there, and, as sailors are wont to do, had stories to tell. Just imagine how these can grow over the years, as skipper and crew relive the 2004 Gift of Life Regatta. Results: Class I, Division 1, PHRF: 1. Grace, Swan 53, Gene Gold, 2. Promise Kept, Beneteau 36.7, Sandy Lindenbaum. Class II, Division 1, One Designs, KODs: 1. Dybbuk, Roy Israel, 2. Circe, Silverman/Christie, and 3. Phoenix, Tom Powers. Special mention and special awards to: Double-Handed Father & Son J/105 Trophy went to PC Norm Schefer and his son Ronnie. Double-Handed Father & Son Pearson 30 Trophy went to Joel Ziev and his son.
It seems that the Meltemi winds got the best of our Star sailors Paul Cayard, Kentfield, California, and Phil Trinter, originally from Lorain, Ohio, and now living in Port Washington. After coming in first place in the first race of the Olympics, these two fine sailors had mixed results on the race course, and on the final day, ended up in 5th place overall. They had a long-shot chance for a medal, if they could sail a perfect race on the last day. But that was not to happen. The Star class, which can arguably be considered the most competitive of all the Olympic fleets, just outdid them. Highly funded, highly trained and highly experienced, the competitors in the Star class had no fewer than eight Olympic medals, multiple World Championship titles and a host of America's Cup campaigns, Volvo Ocean Races and a huge amount of sailing time between them. Only four out of the seventeen have never represented their nation at an Olympics before, as was the case for Cayard/Trinter. Brazil won the gold medal even before the competition was completed, and Canada moved past France to capture the silver medal. To give readers an idea of how difficult the wind conditions were on the Saronic Gulf during the eleventh and last race - the race that determined a medal for Cayard/Trinter - the wind started from 305 degrees at 8 knots only to turn later to the left at 290 degrees and 6 knots, and then turned to 295, 305, 340 and 290, changing either to the left or to the right at every mark rounding. Even though the committee boat changed marks, the race favored the leaders, who ended with a considerable lead. "We tried to make it work, but it almost seemed like a bad joke," said Cayard, who accompanied the Olympic Sailing Team to the Los Angeles Games 20 years ago as an alternate and has since established himself as one of the most recognizable sailors on the planet. "Everything we tried didn't work and we got a serious distance behind. Right now it's hard not to focus on the opportunities that were there throughout this regatta and the unfortunate fact that we didn't take advantage of them." Cayard figures that only half the races they sailed were in conditions for which they had trained and the "difficult" random winds were what got the best of his team. "We started off in the groove but then the third race it started unraveling. I'm disappointed I didn't sail the regatta of my life. I'd rather have a gold medal. But I'm old enough and have been through the emotional part of all this in sailing, with the America's Cup and other events, that I know that in a week, a month, it slowly fades away." Trinter considered the emotional letdown to be a natural part of being an athlete, and said, "You've got to remember, it's still the greatest thing in sailing to be here," he said. "The Olympics are something special, and to get here is a great accomplishment and honor."
And on the 470 course: Going into the final days of racing, Kevin Burnham, of Miami Beach and Paul Foerster of Rockwall, Texas, in the men's 470 class, were in line to capture the gold, if they could fend off the British team, which they did by outmaneuvering their rivals in a classic match race. "We were able to get on top of them and there wasn't enough time to get to the starting line. I knew we just had to stay in front of them. We just drove them back," Burnham said. Ignoring the rest of the 27-boat fleet, Brunham and Foerster matched the British tack for tack during a fierce duel and let all the other boats get away. The Americans and British tacked 12 times in the final minutes before the starting gun, then tacked nearly 30 times on the upwind first leg. The Americans followed the basic rule of match racing by keeping their boat between the British and each mark. (The two boats finished nearly a minute after the other 470s.) Foerster and Burnham won the gold by three points. For complete sailing results , go to www.sailing.org/olympics2004.
Speaking of match racing, don't forget to come out and watch the 2004 Knickerbocker Cup, an international match racing event that attracts sailors from all over the world. Call the club at 883-7655 to get on a spectator boat.