Nov. 25, 2007 — Tears and hugs highlighted the awards ceremony at the 26th annual Coral Bay Thanksgiving Regatta Saturday on St. John, as sailors remembered those who were no longer around to hoist a Heineken. The event was held at Skinny Legs Restaurant and Bar in Coral Bay, St. John.
The regatta was held in memory of Steve Dawes, a Coral Bay Yacht Club member and commodore who died Sept. 12 in his native England.
In his memory, the yacht club established the Steve Dawes Spirit of the Regatta award for sportsmanship. It went to St. John resident Peter Muilenburg.
"I definitely feel honored," Muilenburg said.
Race director Dick Burks said it was a hard choice because there were lots of good candidates. He said the members were looking for someone who exemplifies the Coral Bay spirit.
"And he's been there since the beginning," he said of Muilenburg, who sails aboard Breath, a 42-foot ketch.
The regatta ran both Friday and Saturday.
Liberty, an Alden 52 that had been sailed by Fletcher Pitts until he died in 2004, took first in Saturday's Traditional over-40-foot class with St. John resident Thatcher Lord at the helm.
Pitts' wife, Robin Clair, was on hand to accept the trophy. "Liberty has a guardian angel and the most beautiful crew and friends in the whole world," she said tearfully.
Burks said that Liberty had the fastest elapsed time around the course outside Coral Harbor of all the 34 boats that raced Saturday. Twenty boats raced Friday.
Members also remembered the late Danny Linke, an early yacht club member who built one of the original Cowhorn boats that helped spark the regatta.
With good conditions and clear skies, the races saw close competition — some of it too close.
"Yesterday was great, but today we were in a wreck," St. John resident John Costanza said.
He said his boat, a Cowhorn 30 named Callabreeze, had the right of way when it collided with Woodwind. Woodwind's bowsprit went through Callabreeze's cockpit. Costanza said that no one was hurt but both boats were forced to retire from the race.
Master of ceremonies Dave Dostall said that six boats started Saturday in Callabreeze's class — traditional, under 40 feet — but only one finished, Buxom II.
"A couple of them had a little right of way problem and some got lost," he said.
While most of the boats hailed from St. John and St. Thomas, St. Croix had at least one entry.
Jim Nealon sailed over on his Peterson 44, Endimion, to win Saturday's race in the Cruising III, 40-feet-and-over class.
"When I was rounding Pelican Island I was third, but that's when I beat two other boats," he said.
St. John resident Andrew Kujawa said that it was a new paint job that helped his boat, Zephyr, cross the finish line first in the Cruising I, 30-feet-and-under class.
Dostall showed off a clever card made by all the students at the nearby Guy Benjamin School to thank the yacht club for donating nearly 100 desks, chairs, a freezer, computer and other items to the school.
Burks later said that the yacht club raised the money over two years through a flotilla and other events. He said the tab came to about $19,000.
The money raised at the regatta goes to fund the St. John Kids and the Sea program.
Here's a wrap-up of the results.
Traditional, under 40 feet
Buxom II, 4:34:12
Traditional, over 40 feet
Cruising l, 30 feet and under
African Queen, 3:58:21
Cruising ll, over 30 feet to 40 feet
Living on Cloud 9, 3:45:47
Cruising III, 40 feet and over
Simone's Voyage, 3:12:40
J Walker, 2:35:35
Tiger Maru, 2:44:13
Top Gun, 2:44:22
Single-handed 30 feet and under
African Queen, 2:28:00
Single-handed over 30 feet to 40 feet
Tiger Maru, 2:08:40
Living on Cloud Nine, 2:26:56
Single-handed over 40 feet
Gaffers 35 feet and under
Gaffers over 35 feet
Elinor Louise, 3:24:05
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