By Sam Bari
Fools young and old again ruled at the 28th annual Jamestown Yacht Club Fools' Rules Regatta at the town beach at East Ferry this past Saturday (13 August).
"Another successful year. I'm really excited," Chris Powell, chief fool and commodore in command of the floating flotilla of nautical fools, said Saturday morning.
"We have somewhere around 50 contestants, a fabulous crowd, and perfect weather," he added. "Things couldn't be better."
The Fools' Rules Regatta was so named because everything about the sailing race is foolish. All participating vessels must be constructed in two hours immediately before the race begins. Nautical materials are strictly prohibited.
Consequently, sailing craft have been fabricated from everything from bathtubs to bed frames. Popular sails have been old sheets, draperies, umbrellas, and plastic tarpaulins, and this year was no exception.
The day began early for participants. A caravan of pickup trucks, SUVs, vans, and cars pulling trailers lined Conanicus Avenue just north of the marina at East Ferry well before the 9 a.m. cannon sounded on Saturday morning. The firing of the first cannon signaled the beginning of the two-hour construction phase of makeshift watercraft. Participants arrived early to unload and stack materials on the beach bordering the 500-yard race course as they prepared for the nonsensical nautical event.
Jamestown resident Joe Logan, an engineer and town zoning board member, entered his "Fools Gold" vessel made of used water-softener tanks. Joe donned a jester's hat as his captain's uniform and commanded his crew of family members who were not available for comment because they were off getting lemonade while he built the boat. He has been in the race at least five or six times. He couldn't remember which.
While Candy Powell took command of the registration desk, Judy Calabretta, Jill Anderson, Larry Buckley and Betty Buckley manned the Fools' Rules T-shirt booth. Since there is no entry fee, the proceeds are used to take care of the expenses of hosting the event. The money is put into a separate account and at the club's annual meeting, yacht club members vote to decide the charity that will benefit from left over funds.
Throughout the construction phase, Chief Fool Powell marched up and down the town beach, bullhorn in hand, shouting orders and issuing threats of walking the plank to anyone foolish enough to test-sail their meticulously (ha!) assembled yachts. He needed the bullhorn to be heard over the sound of hammers, saws, giggles, and laughter that permeated the air, creating a festive atmosphere of maritime mayhem.
Michael Weedon and Jeremy Thayer of Richmond, RI., two rookies in the silly sailing event walked away with a coveted prize. They didn't win the race because their craft was barely capable of floating, let alone sailing. This won them the award for "Worst Example of Naval Architecture," a respectable feat for newbies. Their luxury yacht, The Silver Bullet, was constructed of six plastic 50-gallon drums painted silver and lashed together to very closely resemble a six-pack of popular beer. Congratulations are in order to these formidable fools.
Young Captain Carl DeVellis commanded his ship of fools made entirely of masonry equipment and supplies to a fourth-class win on The Mortar, The Merrier. Dad, Al DeVellis, is a masonry contractor in town and a veteran of the foolish sailfest, having won in several classes at least three times over the last decade.
Amina Brown and her bevy of tropical beauties crewed the Leaky Tiki to a second-place finish in the unlimited class. Although they didn't come in first, they did win the judges award. The Leaky Tiki was the most well-appointed yacht in the foolish flotilla with its inflatable palm trees, sail painted to resemble a Hawaiian shirt, and statuesque cutout of an island maiden on the prow. The female crewmembers dressed in plastic "grass skirts," plastic leis, and colorful head pieces. Robinson Crusoe could have learned a thing or two about yacht construction from this crew.
Nat Hines and Matt Gregoire, two rookie fools on "The S.S. More powerful than Superman, Batman, Spiderman and the Incredible Hulk put together 2000," deserve minimally honorable mention for coming in third place in Class 2 on a boat of unusual design. It was constructed from a tub that i its past life was a cow watering trough.
Originally published in The Jamestown Press, Thursday, August 26, 2004