It was a brilliant Sunday morning at Baxter Pond in Port Washington. At 10:15 a.m., the wind from the west was at 8 knots. Just then, 201 third-grade “skippers” whooped it up and anxiously awaited their turn to race their one-design, pontoon-style sailboats built from milk and juice cartons and basic sailboat accoutrements. The event carried the spirit of recycling and also promoted Port Washington's nautical heritage.
Accompanying them were friends, families, pets and just about anyone else – a crowd estimated at well over 400. There were 30 volunteers onsite, and even more throughout the year. They, along with generous sponsors, brought the model boat regatta to life.
This event included all the trimmings and more of a major yacht racing event. It featured registration, anxious young skippers, crowd management, race committee, starters, scorekeepers, on-the-water kayakers, canoers, shoreline recovery teams, awards ceremony, and more. Within 90 minutes, 15 elimination heats were run, six school champs were crowned, and then the grand finale race crowned the “All Port Champs” for 2012 who included:
- First: Phoebe Christake,
- Second: Jonathon Dayan,
- Third: Emma Schrynemakers,
Not to be outdone are the third graders from who walked away with the School Spirit Award determined by the school with the highest rate of participation.
It was an comprising sunshine, children, T-shirts supplied by the Tepper Foundation, prizes, trophies and all – a real “all American day" for Port Washington.
The event took a true community effort going back to January and February. The “beginning” of this very successful event commenced during those winter months as cruisers dream of new and old destinations and boat racers dream of improved sail trim crew coordination and racing rules.
As the ground hog was looking for his shadow, adult volunteers in Bill Brakman’s () basement were busy assembling more than 400 model boat kits for use by the third graders to build their own boats later in the spring.
Next, came the training of more volunteers as trainers who ultimately trained more than 400 thirds graders in model boat building. Much more than an arts-and-crafts event, an observer could hear trainers emphasizing “bow, stern, port, starboard, main, boom, pontoon, hull, centerboard, sheet, cleat” to the fledgling third-grade skippers. Next was race day in early June.
As early Junes can go, the weather on race day started as perfect – that is, enough wind to propel the model boats, at least for an hour or so. The first few elimination heats were propelled totally by Mother Nature. As the wind began to drop off, portable fans supplied by the assured a breeze for racing. Volunteers made it happen.
The crack volunteer team made up of individual volunteers – the North Shore Yacht Club Community Service Team, Cadette Troop 432 with St. Peter's School 6th and 7th Grade Boys, and The Ancient Order of Hibernians – kept the action moving forward briskly, under control and with much fun for all.
Kayakers supplied by the North Shore Kayak Club and North Shore Yacht Club, supplied in part by loaner kayaks from , kept the third graders screaming for joy.
With total support from the Nautical Advisory Council of the , the and the schools themselves, literally all project management details of this very successful event were championed by the community service team from made up of Mary Lu Dempsey-Palafox, Arlene Kase, Bill Palafox and Marian Weissman and Bill Brakman of .
Much thanks goes to the generous sponsors for this successful event which include The Port Washington Public Library Foundation, The Tepper Intergenerational Fund, Nautical Advisory Council of the Port Washington Public Library, Peter and Jeri Dejana Family Foundation, Manhasset Bay Sailing Foundation, Manhasset Bay Yacht Club, North Shore Yacht Club, and .
With special thanks to Bill Palafox.