By Caroline Frank
Was it this year's Titanic mania, or the passing of the Saratoga two weeks earlier, or the shadow cast by the QE II at dawn, or El Nino? Whatever the cause, fools turned out in record numbers Saturday morning to build a "see-worthy" vessel for the 21st annual Fools Rules Regatta sponsored by the Jamestown Yacht Club.
For the past 10 years, the event has consistently drawn at least 40 contestants, said Candy Powel, committee member and wife of Chief Fool Chris Powell. By 10:50 a.m. this year, just prior to the cannon signaling the first race and about the same time the 230 T-shirts sold out, 59 crews had signed on. "This is a record!" said Powell.
Vessels were entirely constructed on the East Ferry town beach from 9 to 11 a.m. The shoreline, quickly strewn with personal flotation devices and the oddest assortment of building materials, resembled a recycling station. A chaise lounge chair bound in Styrofoam would sail under the name Easy Does It. Acrylic bathtub liners held together with ladders was christened Luxury Liner #3. Crates, toboggans, and even an old wooden bed were set afloat with plastic water jugs, oil cans, and antifreeze bottles.
But even the "carpenter dads" were a bit nervous. "This is the way we used to do it when I was a kid," said Eric Maio of North Kingstown, building the Quahoginator with his six-year-old son Nicholas by filling a crate with plastic bottles. "But you're not a kid anymore," said an on looker, who could afford to be glib because he was just there to watch.
In this event sailing skills were as relevant, or irrelevant, as carpentry skills. Marilyn St. Ours placed second in her class with Butterflies in Distress. "We're always something in distress, like Damsels in Distress," said St. Ours who has competed in previous years, "because we don't know how to sail very well."
The whir of electric drills was periodically interrupted by the sounds of hungry children, pacified thanks to Rotary International's doughboy stand. As the sidelines swelled with beach-thronged spectators, the better-heeled politicians came out.
"I'm going to bring you luck," said Lt. Gov. Jackvony to Clayton Carlisle and son Alex building Back to Bed. "If you win, I want you to think of me."
"Please ignore the politicians," announced Chief Fool Powell in one of many useful tips blared throughout the morning via bullhorn. "If they're wearing a T-shirt, you can talk to them," he conceded.
Jill Anderson, a Fools' Rules committee member, remarked that only one of the politicians, state treasurer candidate Bennett bought a T-shirt. She said many people do not realize that the sale of the $10 shirts pays for the event. She also pointed out that there is always money left over that the committee gives to charity. "In the past, we've given children sailing scholarships and helped send the 6th-graders to the planetarium." she said.
Courtesy of The Jamestown Press, Thursday, August 20, 1998