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One would have thought that the America's Cup had moved from Valencia to the Mill Pond for just one Sunday morning in early June. There were "high tech" boats, crowds of people, spectator boats (well, kayaks, really). And tons and tons of enthusiasm, expressed vocally by participants. The only difference was the cost of the boats, and the ages of the skippers. For on this particular Sunday morning, June 3, students from all five elementary schools gathered at the pond to test their newly built and decorated boats against their fellow classmates in what has become an annual event - the Chamber of Commerce HarborFest Model Boat Regatta. And while this regatta, as with all regattas, are to pick winners out of a pack, this particular regatta is mostly about school spirit, having fun, and learning a little bit about wind direction and how a boat sails.

Years ago, the Nautical Center of the Port Washington Public Library thought it would be a good idea to get kids involved in HarborFest. The idea of using recycled materials to build a boat and having youngsters from the Port Washington Schools build and sail these boats appealed to the group. Thus the model boat regatta was born, and as they say, the rest is history. Each year a squadron of volunteers teach all the third-grade school children how to build a boat that can actually sail. Each boat has a few "go fast" adjustments the skipper can use, for example, trimming the sail with the mainsheet. The third-grade was chosen because building a boat fits in nicely with the third-grade science unit on buoyancy. Over the years, many Port residents have taken the lead in making this regatta a reality, with the most recent being Eli Schefer.

Eli Schefer, fondly called the Admiral of the Fleet, was instrumental in providing materials and the know-how to make each catamaran. Just think of it. There are just under 400 third-grade students in the district, each of whom was supplied with all the parts needed to assemble a boat that really sailed. Because of Eli's hours and hours of work, each child was able to build what was for most their first boat. Just before the beginning of the regatta, a little ceremony honoring Eli took place, giving everyone a chance to express their appreciation of his devotion to the regatta. And the crowd responded with much applause (adults) and hoots and hollers (the kids). Then Bill Palafox and Andrea Watson presented Eli with a beautiful wood plaque to recognize all his efforts over the years to make the regatta a reality. After saying a few words, Eli then started the regatta by saying, "Let the games begin."

Now the fun really began! After registering their boat, where each skipper received a colorful participation certificate, and a cheery, "good luck, skipper," the children went to a holding area to wait for their school to be given a start. What fun it was to see these enthusiastic children, who could hardly contain themselves as they waited for their "big moment." The crows got louder and louder as the tension reached a pinnacle. Then the catamarans from Sousa were placed in the starting blocks and they were off! Just when one thought the crowd couldn't get louder, the children started chanting, "Sousa, Sousa, go Sousa" and other such encouragements. Camera clicked as parents proudly captured the moment for posterity.

This year there was actually some wind on the racecourse - so much so that some of the boats capsized. While some may have thought that this was a design flaw, it really was that the main sheet was too tight for the wind conditions. Not being remote-controlled boats, the skippers could only watch from the bank of the pond as their boats "turtled." Much to the relief of many skippers, capsizing did not disqualify any boats, and some of the winning boats crossed the finish line with their centerboard in full view. As the boats from Sousa were returned to their skippers, the Race Committee gave starts to the rest of the elementary schools: South Salem, Manorhaven, Guggenheim and Daly.

The top boats in each division were given the opportunity to sail in the finals to declare the top three boats. And while there were three skippers awarded a trophy, all skippers were winners. Every child who built a catamaran received a participation certificate, and those who came to the regatta received an offer for a free kayak lesson from Atlantic Outfitters. The top 15 skippers received a HarborFest T-shirt and the three overall winners from the finals took home a small trophy. The top 15 boats: Daly: 1. #104, Dyanna Wrobel, 2. #101, Jane Fetherston, and 3. #116, Carolyn Blumberg. Manorhaven: 1. #243, Kevin Hazen, 2. #249, Alex Grossman, and 3. #242, Rebecca Hirsch. Salem: 1. #308, Keisuke Saji, 2. #309, Phoebe Miller, and 3. #312, Kelton Wong. Because there were so many skippers from Guggenheim and Sousa, additional heats were added to accommodate all the sailors. Guggenheim had two heats, so the top two boats from heat 1 and the top boat from heat 2 qualified for the finals. These skippers were: #193, Jake Finkelstein, #192, Madison Cohen and #184, Rekito Kikuchi. Sousa had three heats so the top boat from each heat qualified for the finals: #044, Jesse Moskowitz, #055, Lindsay Dalimonte, and #041, Nicholas Lupoli.

The winners of the 2007 Chamber of Commerce HarborFest Model Boat Regatta: 1. #243, Kevin Hazen, Manorhaven, 2. #116, Carolyn Blumberg, Daly, and 3. #055, Lindsay Dalimonte, Sousa. This is the second year in a row that Manorhaven has taken top honors. Congratulations to all.

Thanks are due to Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Geoffrey Gordon, and the principals of all five of the elementary schools who supported the regatta. Special thanks go to all the third-grade teachers who not only lent their supported but patiently helped their children build the catamarans. Thanks to: Daly: Mrs. Elaine Ajello, principal, Ms. Joan Andors, Mrs. Kathy Mattia, and Mrs. Laura McLaughlin; Guggenheim: Mrs. Barbara Giebel, principal, Ms. Erin Fealy, Mrs. Kim Grennan, Mrs. Debbie Hart, and Mrs. Kerri Tarasenko; Manorhaven: Dr. Linda Welles, principal, Ms. Diane Haut, Mr. Dwight Benedict, Ms. Jennifer Kim, Ms. Andrea Scannell; South Salem: Mr. Christopher Shields, principal, Ms. Alison Madden, Mrs. Gail Martin, and Ms. Jodi Taranto; Sousa: Dr. David Meoli, principal, Mrs. Emily Baxter, Ms. Mary Ann Leonard, Mr. Charles Mellen, and Ms. Jennifer Parendo. Thanks also go to all the administrative staff at each school that was so very supportive of the regatta.

Additional thanks to all the volunteers who made the Chamber of Commerce HarborFest Model Boat Regatta a success. A big thank you to: Eli Schefer, Bill Palafox, Mary Lu Dempsey, Andrea Watson; plus Lynda Lees Adams, Barbara Becker, Gerry Borell, Bill Brakman, Herman Cardonna, Leo Cimini, Eleanor Cox, Ben Cotillera, Kathleen Cotillera, John DeFeo, Arthur Donovan, Barbara Faticone, Tom Faticone, Dave Goldsmith, Helene Goldsmith, Phyllis Govan, Dave James, Arlene Kase, Carl Lalena, Frank Lo Presti, Ken Magida, James Macedonia, Bob Maslow, Jeanne Miller, Kyle Ondrey, Tim Ondrey, James Rolston, Jerry Rudnick, and Burnett Rudolf. And hats off to Chamber of Commerce Co-Presidents, Warren Schein and Richard Strautman, and to Bobbie Polay, executive director, and all the folks at the Chamber and the HarborFest Committee, in particular, who helped in the planning of not only of the regatta, but the entire HarborFest celebration.

Major sponsors of the 2007 Chamber of Commerce HarborFest Model Boat Regatta at the Benefactor level: Manhasset Bay Sailing Foundation and the Nautical Center of the Port Washington Public Library. Additional sponsors included Atlantic Outfitters, Knickerbocker Yacht Club, Manhasset Bay Yacht Club, North Shore Yacht Club, Port Washington Yacht Club and Port Sailing School. There was also financial support from Chamber of Commerce members and from the Sousa Home and School Association.

Note to next year's third-graders: Plans are already underway to design a new starting line to accommodate the larger number of boats from each of the schools. And rumor has it that there may be another boat design upgrade coming for next year's regatta. And there is still another rumor floating around that there may be a really big trophy awarded to the elementary school that brings the most catamarans to the regatta. So start thinking of boat names and how you will decorate your boats.....


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