RACING AND TROPHIES
THE JOHN MAHONEY “MEMORIAL” PICNIC
As early as 1973, the New York Power Squadron held an annual picnic in Oyster Bay. The Sailing Club attended, but of course, SAILED there. It is, after all, a SAILING Club. Most of the members of the Power Squadron owned Power Boats, so they’d get there early and partake of all the goodies – raw clams, hot dogs, hamburgers, etc. The Squadron eventually ceased having the picnic, so the Sailing Club maintained the traditional event. it was originally called the “Mrs. Vanderbilt Eat Your Heart Out” picnic (1977), but in 1978 Dean suggested calling it the “John Mahoney Memorial Picnic”, because that year Mahoney was organizing it – and did so for many years after. It usually works out very well, even though folks are not assigned to bring a particular dish. Contrary to popular belief, there weren’t 16 different kinds of baked beans. In 1985, Mahoney invented an impossible-to-duplicate recipe for “Sand Chicken”. The picnic is a covered dish affair, and it gives the gourmet cooks in the club a chance to show their wares. People can come by either sea or land. In 1979, Matt Lasky “motored all the way in his Toyota 15″ for example. In attendance, are the usual major clouds, thunder showers, torrential downpours and monsoons that have graced the picnic almost every year.
Mahoney use to purchase a keg of beer for the picnic. On the morning of the picnic, he’d pick up the keg from his local distributor in New Jersey, throw it unceremoniously in the back of his car, bounce over NYC potholes to Long Island, drop the keg onto the hot sand, and roll it down the beach, saying to the early arrivals: “Oh, Shoot, I forgot the ice.” When the keg was tapped, nothing came out except warm foam.
THE WINSOME TROPHY
Recognizing that the vitality, indeed, the very existence of the New York Sailing Club depends on the dedication and hard work of volunteers, the 1984 Board established a new perpetual trophy to be presented each year to the member who gives the most outstanding service to the club. The silver trophy, donated by 1984 Commodore John Mahoney and his family, is known as the WINSOME TROPHY. (WINSOME was the name of John’s boat.)
MORE PICNIC STUFF
In 1979, Joe Zorn got the Good Guy Honors and a standing ovation because he arranged for the beer, soda, ice, charcoal, Sabrettes hotdogs and four pounds of mustard (!?!) Matt Lasky thought that there was some large banquet of thousands of people somewhere with two small cups of mustard. (It wasn’t Grey Poupon so it was OK if some got wasted.)
In August 1999 and 2000 the 22nd Annual “Mrs. Vanderbilt East-Your-Heart-Out” (a.k.a. John Mahoney Memorial) Picnic went back to being a real on-shore picnic instead of a Boatnic. It was held at the lovely Hempstead Harbor Club where NYSC was greeted and treated well by its friendly members and staff (led by Dock Master Extraordinaire, Mike). NYSC is hoping to make it an annual event there.
THE ETTA MORTON TROPHY FOR SEAMANSHIP AND SPORTSMANSHIP
Etta Morton was a lovely lady who joined the club in 1979. She was a widow, who’s husband used to do a lot of the crucial stuff on the boat – navigation, engine maintenance, etc. She loved the sport and did not want to give it up, so she joined NYSC to get competent crew. She passed away in April 1985, but not without leaving her mark. The Etta Morton trophy was donated by five members and is called the “Etta Morton Trophy for Seamanship and Sportsmanship,” the award was created to “perpetuate the memory of Etta Morton, a member of several years who always gave inspiration through her keen interest in sailing in all its forms and to its followers.”
Etta loved life, but was not above getting into a little mischief. During one Labor Day Race, on her boat BON CHANCE, she and her crew dropped out of the race because they wanted to go back and read Sunday’s New York Times! On the club cruise in 1980, she arrived late at Milford Boat Works, so when she saw an empty slip, she pulled into it. A little while later, a huge power boat pulled up and said: “Excuse me lady, but you’re in my slip.” She apologized profusely and said she’d move. He told her: Don’t bother, I just want my docking lines”. He was the OWNER of the Boat Works! (Talk about Bon Chance!)
The 1980 club cruise stopped in Newport during the America’s cup trials. Etta and her all-woman crew were on board BON CHANCE. She loved to meet new people and went to the famous “Candy Store” bar, with other Yacht-ee types. She met some people from Sea Magazine, who invited her and her crew out the next day to follow the races on their big power boat. She said: “Well, I’m with several other boats from the New York Sailing Club.” The guy from Sea said: “Invite them all!” During that trip, she also went out on her own boat to view the beautiful 12 meter yachts.
Myrna Truitt describes what happened: “With her blond curls waving in the breeze from under her captain’s hat, she stood on the cockpit seat so she could see over the top of the deckhouse; her all-woman crew were at their appropriate stations. Suddenly, we were hailed by an approaching boat… ‘Ahoy, Captain.’ We turned and there was Ted Turner and the entire crew of COURAGEOUS standing at attention on the rail, saluting.”
One year her faithful crew Edie Kaplan gave Etta cute magnetized potholders for the boat. Looking around for a place to hang them, Etta found that for some reason, they stuck very nicely to the bulkhead next to the companionway. For weeks after that, she couldn’t figure out why her compass courses seemed to be off. She hired a professional compass adjustor who came out and discovered that the potholder magnets were immediately behind the compass, throwing off the compass readings! Yikes!
From Kris Ohlén on the 1983 club cruise: “We decided late in the day to leave Block Island and sail for Newport. The weather was balmy at departure but deteriorated to foggy and windy. By 9 PM, in white capped seas, we were in the harbor channel studying the charts by flashlight. Preparing for the landfall we took down the sails and turned on the engine. Suddenly, the engine died. We raised the sails fast. With the wind drawing the sails, we slid backwards. What was wrong? Etta: “It is awfully deep here”. She called the Harbor Police and they guessed Etta fouled a lobster buoy. Bad weather left no recourse but to stay through the storm with running lights on and evaluate the situation in the morning. The next day dawned chilly and grey, but Etta dove under the boat to assess the situation: “You have to see this mess!” she exclaimed. Jeannette lost the draw and went under with the sharpest knife they had (a kitchen steak knife) and discovered an empty gallon of Gallo, an empty liter bottle of dish detergent, the lobster pot, macramé bundles of wire, hawser line, and wood under the hull and around the prop. After gamely snorkeling to try to cut the Gordian knots, Etta called a diver. She was gratified that it took the diver with extensive cutting tools half an hour to cut it free. He asked if she wanted any souvenirs which she declined with her usual calm. Tight jawed she said: “How can you allow them to set traps here. REALLY!”
After her husband died, she had to take charge of all the messy and tricky details on the boat, and learned engine maintenance, among other things. She became very proficient with that task, but her engine had leaky oil gaskets which had to be dealt with. One time she changed the oil, using a funnel, which she secured to the engine with duct tape. Perhaps she didn’t put it away properly, because when she dressed for dinner in her best whites, she leaned into the oil-slimed funnel and duct tape which stuck onto the front of her white pants, unbeknownst to her. She climbed up the companionway to the cockpit and said to the crew: “How do I look?”
HART ISLAND BREAKDOWN RACE
Fleet Captain Don Bryan kept his boat SAADALSUUD (named after the only navigational star in the constellation Aquarius) at Harlem YC. He figured that about two weeks before Memorial Day was a good time to have a “breakdown” – er – shakedown trip. So. He invented the First Annual Round Hart Island Race in 1974. In the early days, the club’s racing program was informal, so there was no official committee boat for the Hart Island Race. The boats would mill about in the vicinity of the stating “area”, someone would yell: “OK, let’s go!” and the boats would head out, with any and all sails – clockwise, or counterclockwise, around Hart Island, depending upon which direction they were facing at the time. The one to wind up back at the bar first was the winner (or so the legend goes). Some sort of trophy was given to the winner.
In 1982, when John Mahoney was Fleet Captain, it became “a race for a case”. In 1987, there was an official circular, which advised “observe all government marks”. Mahoney (even his wife called him Mahoney) was racing with able crew Betsy Haggerty. They saw Gong “1″ nearby and said: “Yes, indeed, we observe (i.e. see) it and choose to go the wrong side of it, and feel we can do so safely.” At the awards dinner that year, Mahoney was given a pair of goggle glasses and a poster-sized photo of the green buoy (now named, unofficially, the “Mahoney Buoy”) so he could sit at home in his den and “observe” it at his leisure.
In this tradition, in 1989, the Hart Island race had two or more starting lines. Unfortunately, it wasn’t planned that way in the mind of the Fleet Captain, Sid White. Since there were two starting lines, and hence, two races, the club had to spring for two cases of beer for the winners.
CONTROLLED DRIFTING CONTESTS
In 1977, Christine Francis, with her Rhodes 19 named AMANACER (Spanish, for to dawn, to awaken) and Ramon Stewart, with his C&C 38 NINA III (named after his daughter) and other NYSC sailors, entered the July 4th Race series in lower Manhattan Bay. The starting line was near the World Trade Center, and the course went under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, out to West Bank and back. Christine studied the current charts, and knew that if she went back to the finish line via the channel inside of Hoffman Island, she could take advantage of the early current change there. The larger boats perhaps did not study these charts, so opted to go back via the main channel. When they looked to port and saw Christine whizzing by, while they stood still, they thought that she had her engine on. It was only after the finish that they discovered the truth.
The second day, the wind was very strong, and the race committee shortened the course. Ramon was all “psyched up” to go on the inside track on the return like Christine did the day before. He didn’t carefully look at the race course set by the committee, but assumed the course was the same as the day before. Being the larger, faster boat, off he went, hell bent for leather, heading for West Bank. Christine, on the other hand, noted the course change and headed in the correct direction. Since Ramon’s boat was so much faster than a lot of the others, he brought all the bigger boats along with him. “If he is so fast, he must know what he’s doing!” Christine sneaked past them all, again, for a trophy! Amazing what you can accomplish when you pay attention.
Light airs seem to plague club races. NYSC is not alone. All racing organizations on Long Island Sound have the same problem. A typical race of this caliber was held on July 4, 1977. “Can #13 off of Eaton’s Neck pulled away from the fleet during the Sunday race in light air and adverse tide. However, fresh wind late in the afternoon allowed the die-hard race crews to round the mark and head for home. First over the finish line was Sherman Beck’s Bristol 29 ISTAR III. However, there is a little known NYSC racing rule that says: “Them’s that don’t cross the starting line, gets only honorable mention for crossing the finish line.” Sherman and crew were just arriving at the rendezvous.
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, THE MORE THEY REMAIN THE SAME
“Thursday, February 10, 1971 will be our Annual Awards meeting, with awards being given to winners of the Memorial Day Race. (Because of the general confusion about the Labor Day Race, it was decided to forget the whole thing.)” One can only imagine…
THE ANYTHING RACE
In August 1980, NYSC sponsored the Anything Race, wherein Anything Goes. “There were two racing divisions: Division I – Rowing Dinghies. Eligibility: any floatable object 12′ or less that is propelled by oars, paddles, rocking, ooching, or the like. Course: twice around a triangular course. Division II – Sailing Dinghies. Eligibility: any floatable object 12′ or less that is propelled by wind or sail or the like. No manual propulsion allowed. Bedsheets and umbrellas allowed. Course: once around larger triangle. NOTE: Rubber rafts, inner tire tubes, etc. are allowed in either division. No YRA or PHRF certificate needed. These races do not qualify for the Stan Birnbaum Trophy.” Unfortunately, the wind blew a steady 30+ knots out of the Northwest, and the “race” was canceled.
A WORD (OR FIVE) FROM BETSY HAGGERTY ABOUT RACING
“If yacht racing can ever be called low-key or friendly, that’s how one would describe the NYSC racing series. Rhodes 19’s share the starting line with high-tech racing machines; crews range from crackerjack helmsmen to two-year-olds out for a daysail with Dad (sometimes on the same boat); screaming is kept to a minimum and laughter to a maximum. That is not to say the races aren’t serious. They are run in accordance with the USYRU racing rules and scored using PHRF ratings. The competition is often good and the end of season trophies are silver. NYSC racing is challenging and fun, but nothing to be afraid of.”
In 1991 Betsy Haggerty wrote an article “The Ins and Outs of Barnegat Bay” in Offshore Magazine. Betsy’s article was chosen as one of the best published by that magazine in the prior 15 years. Betsy is now editor of Offshore. Betsy’s book: “New York and New Jersey Coastal Adventures” covers whales, beaches, packets, tugs, tall ships, lighthouses, and more.
BAD NEWS TRAVELS…
In Sept. 1985, Paul Woolhiser, on his Olsen 30, BAD NEWS (travels fast), entered the Vineyard Race in some of the worst weather of the season, and lived to tell about it, if not finish the race. At awards dinners, Paul was given a pacifier and an “AirBorne” patch, because when one guy saw him flying off of the waves, he said that the boat looked airborne. In 1980, Paul got the transcontinental award for shipping his boat out to California by truck, so he could race and cruise out there.
In the 1979 Labor Day Race off of Port Jefferson, Van Finn dropped the NYSC marker: anchor, float, line, and burgee, over the side of Frank Walter’s boat ROCKI PATCH to set up the starting line. There was 90′ of line on the marker. Unfortunately, they anchored in 100′ of water! Somewhere out there, is a NYSC burgee, 10′ below the surface.
Perhaps the best thing about NYSC racing is that anyone can enter with almost anything, and still win a trophy. This happened in 1977, when Igor Fuhrer’s 15′ Coronado LOLA took a second place behind John Mahoney’s C&C 29 SLY FOX, and beat the Goldstein’s 37′ big red machine ARIES. In 1982, Igor entered the race off of Mt. Sinai with his windsurfer. Unfortunately the windsurfer, like most other boats, needs wind to sail, so Igor never finished. After the race, Sally Small said to Skipper Fred Freder on board TRUANT: “Master, shall we go an pick up Igor?” It was too late, though, because Sid White had already come to the rescue. The only one to finish that race was Joe Zorn’s GYPSY GIRL (it apparently doesn’t need wind to move).
THE RHODES 19 FLEET
Christine Francis was President of the Rhodes 19 Class Association for 1981, and she trailored her boat to various ports in the U.S., and was active in Larchmont Race Week. she has cruised down the East River for Harbor Festivals and had trouble keeping in formation because the boat was going too fast! She was also active in Eastchester Bay Yacht Racing Association (EBYRA) races. In 1987, she was racing on a Wednesday night. There is a little known racing rule that says “Starboard tack has right of way.” She was crossing tacks with Kurt Krimphove’s PEGASUS (on starboard) while she was on port and she yelled “Get out of my way!” For this gaff, she was presented port and starboard socks at the change of watch dinner. Then she had to figure out which foot to put them on!
Christine was an artist, and did silk-screening for NYSC duffel bags and tee shirts, as well as orange tee shirts for Jean Lacombe’s boat YANG (1980).
When a life-threatening illness strikes
Time is made all the more precious.
For me its pace has slowed
Likened to the wine taster’s palette
Relishing the moment – not to hasten.
So when someone gives me of their time
I draw them into my slower paced zone
To cherish our time together.
It becomes easier to laugh
at the host of life’s dailies, incongruities, mundane, silly.
The laughter casts out those demon alligators
Leaves less room for tears
and I smile at feeling comfortable with time – with you.
Sid White also had a Rhodes 19 for a few years, before he bought his Pearson 10M COMET. Prior to the Rhodes, Sid owned a schooner named WIND SONG. He also chartered several older wooden boats for Mayor’s Cup races in Lower Manhattan Bay. Since he was such a schooner fan, when he bought the Rhodes 19′, it was rumored that the boat was gaff rigged!
LADIES, WOMAN’S, FEMALE SKIPPER’S RACE
In 1976, Rear Commodore Ramon Stewart decided that Corinthians should develop their sailing abilities, so he invented the “Corinthian Race”, wherein a Corinthian was in charge of the decision making, and steering, and the boat owner merely became tactician. The boats involved invited a minimum of 2 Corinthians and let them do the majority of the sailing and course plotting. Happily, this tradition has survived. Since the dark ages, many boat-owning members of NYSC have been women. Perhaps someday the ladies will sponsor a “Gentlemen Skipper’s Race!”
In the continuing effort to impart knowledge, the NYSC yearly sponsors a race, run by “Alternate Skippers”. In the annals of the male chauvinist pigs, it was originally named the Ladies Skippers Race in 1986 by men who assumed that the OWNER of the boat was not a woman. In 1985, dear George Iguchi entered the race as steersperson, wearing a rather risqué tee shirt, with the fully-endowed upper parts of a woman’s body emblazoned on top. The next year, not to be outdone, Bob Tucker entered the race, sporting a long blond wig and bikini top made out of coconuts. For their efforts, both participants earned the “Machette, runner-up” award at the yearly change of watch dinner and Bob received a doll because “Every young girl should have a Barbie Doll!”