All of us at UK Sailmakers work to help grow the sport of sailing and sailboat racing. Here is a great example.
By Buttons Padin
When I attended Jacksonville University in the late 60s, I was the only sailor in the student body. Over the years, two things happened: my attention drifted away from my college days and, about six years ago, JU started a competitive sailing program. Last January, I returned to JAX for the first time in decades as one of three to receive US Sailing’s Gay Lynn Memorial Trophy for our work on the Robie Pierce Regatta for sailors with disabilities.
Knowing I’d be in town for a few days, and being aware JU had a sailing program, I contacted JU’s Waterfront Director, Jon Faudree, to see if we could meet. In my “introductory” note to Jon, I explained that, albeit being an old guy, I still race a lot, I have a slew of top-notch sailing on my resume and I’d like to meet him. Turns out, JU Sailing was co-sponsoring US Sailing’s event so we met (appropriately) at a bar the first night. Quickly, I asked why JU hadn’t sent a team to the Storm Trysail Club/Larchmont Yacht Club’s Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta, to which he replied, “We’ve never been asked.” Being the Fleet Captain of LYC and part of the STC’s IOR Committee, I promised to make that happen.
Fast forward to this year past Columbus Day weekend. JU had received an IOR invitation and were coming. I was going to be their safety officer on a borrowed J/109 (thank your Doc Dwyer). Friday afternoon, seven Dolphins arrived at Larchmont Yacht Club ready to go.
If you’re a parent of a sailor, you know what it’s like to have sailors you’ve never met take over your home. Scary? Not in the least bit. Five men and two women found their way to spare beds and couches throughout my home, ate and drank, laughed and guffawed at my 1970 JU yearbook, and even impressed my grown daughter, “Dad, these kids are great!”
Saturday, however, the proof was in the pudding. We went out and practiced for about 90 minutes before the first race. They had prepared on a 30-foot sprit boat at school for the past week, so their maneuvers were well-planned, crisp, and well-executed. After a shaky first start, they managed to climb into the lead at the first mark and the rest is, as they say, history. Light air left the IOR with only three races, but JU’s line score of 1-4-1, it was enough to give them the win.
This was the team’s first “offshore” regatta and their first offshore win! Sure, there were some high-fives after crossing the finish for the final race; but what impressed me the most were the conversations the sailors were having regarding what they learned, what they thought they could have done better, and that they were all planning on returning in 2020 (no seniors aboard this crew).
They also basked in the glow of this amazing regatta held by two iconic yacht clubs. They were seven of 353 sailors from 42 schools racing on 48 borrowed boats. There is no entry fee for this event, the kids were fed and given run of the LYC Clubhouse and grounds. For those in the crew hailing from smaller clubs LYC’s Victorian clubhouse was visually eye opening; plus, they got to meet, talk to and sail with/against many established names in yachting. To say they were inspired is an understatement.
For me, it was a Homecoming on many levels. I’ll be back to JU to see Jon and his team soon. I even went out to Goat Island while in Newport last Sunday and watched their co-ed team sail brilliantly in a showcase regatta finishing fourth. For these particular sailors, and perhaps others in the future, the IOR was a first glimpse at serious big-boat racing and the opportunities that blue water sailing represents.
The day after the regatta with the sailors back at JU, I texted Jon saying I’d like to have the same team next year. His response, “Love it.; but I think we will have a lot of kids wanting to be part of the team next year!”
Paying it forward, paying it back, whatever! For all of us onboard, we can’t wait until next October to race again in the 2020 Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta.