The annual event that takes place every New Year's is not only a regatta that attracts great racers from around western Long Island Sound, it is a gathering of like-minded people who enjoy each other's company. Thus, after racing on New Year's Day, skippers, their crew, family and friends gathered at Manhasset Bay YC for the Frostbite Yacht Club Annual Meeting and Awards. One might think that the annual meeting is a serious affair, as most meetings of this type usually are. But anyone who knows frostbiters, understands they don't fit what might be termed "normal," for after all, they are out sailing in all kinds of weather, be it rain, snow, and sleet in small dinghies. So, except for a few serious moments, the frostbite meeting is just a lot of fun.
One of the serious moments came right at the beginning of the meeting, when Commodore Steve Benjamin called for eight bells to remember Peter Lorson, who died on New Year's Day last year. It was with mixed emotions that the sailors sat silently with their thoughts of Peter - a kind of sadness that comes with the passing of a great sailor and friend, mixed with personal memories of a man who touched so many people, sailors and landlubbers alike.
As with each annual meeting, from the beginning of time (it seems), young people are pressed into service to bring cups of cheer from the Wassail Bowl to all in attendance. This year was no different, and the future sailors included: Madeline Simms, 6; William Simms, 4; Nicholas Patin, 5; Sabrina Lorson, 9; Courtney Berry, 8 and Laura Berry, 10. Once the refreshment was dispensed, the fun began. Rich du Moulin, Larchmont YC, was asked by Commodore Benjamin to report on frostbiting from a master's point of view. The commodore picked wisely, for du Moulin's Express 37, Lora Ann, carries a sign on the transom that reads Team AARP. So Rich knows what he is talking about! After entertaining the sailors, Rich concluded with, "Recommendation 3: For every two races sailed, a master will get a throw-out. Recommendation 2: If Recommendations 3-10 don't achieve the result to help to move the masters to the front of the fleet, score the fleet from back to front. And Recommendation 1: Each master will receive a whistle and when the fleet hears the whistle, all racing stops while the master visits the Port-a-Potty on the Race Committee Boat."
Not to be outdone, it was Steve Moore's turn to present the "Special Awards." Several awards were given to somewhat reluctant recipients, but it was all great fun. One award was the Royal Order of the Bath with Triple Clusters and it goes something like this: On a Sunday this fall there were three hardy frostbiters who coveted recognition here today at the annual meeting. Rather than braving the frigid waters at New Year's, these three wimps decided to take their swims earlier in the season, all on the same day. In fact Captains Lorson, Kelley and Silbersack all decided that it was time for a refreshing dip in the Bay. Fortunately for Pedro (Lorson), his little daughter Sabrina was not crewing that day. One suspects that Captain Lorson's life might be a little more difficult if Sabrina had earned a Junior Order of the Bath. As for Captain Kelley, he ducked out of last year's annual meeting to avoid the shame and ridicule. This year we have found photographic evidence of his swimming prowess. Captain Silbersack decided there is safety in numbers, but not for frostbiters. John got close to the dock before fate caught up with him. Therefore, on this first day of January 2008, Captains Lorson, Kelly and Silbersack are awarded the Royal Order of the Bath jointly. May they swim and shiver together for years to come.
The awards ceremony began at the conclusion of the "fun stuff" and this began the serious part of the meeting. In addition to trophies handed out to the winners in each division (listed last week), there were perpetual awards presented to deserving sailors, the first of which was the Edward I. du Moulin Memorial Trophy. Ed, who died in March, 2006, was an honorary member of MBYC, and his major connection with the club was through frostbiting. In addition his birthday is Dec. 31, so it made sense to convert the half model of Stars and Stripes, the boat that will forever be linked to Ed as he was her syndicate manager for so many years, into a perpetual frostbite trophy. Rich du Moulin, Ed's son and a competitor in this year's regatta, read the deed of gift, "Awarded to the frostbiting participant who in the opinion of the MBYC Frostbite Committee best exemplifies the spirit of the Annual New Year's Regatta and the traditions of the Frostbite Yacht Club of America. This memorial award, dedicated to the memory of Edward I. du Moulin, lifelong sailor, racing proponent, and dedicated crash boat skipper in Manhasset Bay's Frostbite series, is purposively inclusive of any person whether skipper, crew, Race Committee, or enthusiast who has advanced the cause of Frostbiting Racing in America. This year's recipient is Steve Benjamin." Benjamin was a natural choice for this award, as he and his wife, Heide, are die-hard supporters of frostbiting. Last year, the couple, three-time winners of the IC Dinghy Nationals in their boat Wharf Rat, founded the Wharf Rat Trophy, to be awarded to the skipper who received the highest points over the frostbite season. As Benjamin explains, "We wanted to generate interest in the IC dinghies. Each team competes in three of five regattas to earn high points. The five regattas are the Massachusetts Bay Championships, the MBYC Frostbite Annual New Year's Regatta, the Mid-winters in Annapolis, the Stanley Bell at Larchmont, and the IC Dinghy Nationals."
By a voice vote, the following officers of the Frostbite YC have been elected: Commodore, Stephanie Baas; Vice Commodore, Matt Kelley; Rear Commodore: John Silbersack; Fleet Captain, Ralf Steitz; Dock Captain, Lynne Whipple; Harbor Master: Claude Chazotte; Treasurer: Bob Mitchell; Measurer: John Browning; and Secretary: Kevin Morgan.
And thus another tradition is concluded. Catryn Silbersack, who sails with her father, John Silbersack, on IC dinghy 007, said "It was freezing and I don't like the cold that much but I like sailing. I've been sailing with my dad for 2-3 years, but this year it was special. My dad and I talked a lot on the boat." As it has been said many times, frostbiting is a family sport. And what better way to start the new year than to enjoy each other's company in a sailboat out on Manhasset Bay - even if the temperatures hover in the mid 30's.