BY ROBERT BERCZUK
Chris Powell stood on the beach at East Ferry early Sunday
afternoon, his mismatched red and green socks soaking wet and glistening with
speckles of sand, blue blazer ruffled, captain’s hat a tad cockeyed and bullhorn
It was the last time he’d embody the persona of chief fool, the ringmaster of the annual Fools’ Rules Regatta, and he was a bit wistful.
“You always feel a little bit melancholic in those situations, but you want to quit while you’re ahead,” said Powell, 71. “It’s been a great trip and I don’t regret a second of it. It’s one of the more gratifying things you can do.”
Powell’s reign lasted a day longer than anticipated as a threat of rain made him postpone the races from Saturday until Sunday.
This was the 37th and final race as chief fool for Chris Powell, who took the reins from founder Karl Smith in 1981.
In his last act as chief fool, Powell introduced his successor,
Greg Hunter. The 55-yearold Sudbury, Mass. man has had a summer home on Plymouth
Road since 2002 but has been coming to the island since the 1970s.
Powell and Hunter were brought together in 2015 by a mutual friend, Nancy Lush, who thought Hunter would be a worthy heir to the blazer.
“He has a great personality, and I think he’ll be just fine,” Powell said. “He really understands what it’s all about and he’ll be fabulous.”
For his part, Hunter is very excited to take over the role for an event he’s often been a competitor, but not always a sterling one, including taking home the dubious prize of worst design one year when his boat fell apart at the starting line.
New chief fool Greg Hunter, acknowledges the crowd after being named as the successor to Chris Powell. Hunter, who has a summer home on Plymouth Road, said he is excited about taking over the leadership of the Fools’ Rules Regatta and wants to maintain the tradition of fun its established the past 40 years.
“I like what this event does for the community,” Hunter said. “It’s fun. It’s free. It’s good, clean activity and I thought ‘what a great tradition.’ This is an event that can’t die, that has to continue on.”
Both Hunter and Powell expressed their gratitude to the community’s businesses for supporting the regatta through either volunteering their time or providing discounted services.
“You can’t really deny it; it’s just a really fun event and people like to be associated with it,” Powell said.
Powell said he wanted to lead the event through the landmark 40th year, and the constant positive feedback from the community has helped sustain him throughout the years. What it took to put forth that type of sustained effort is not lost on Hunter.
“I have a huge amount of gratitude for Chris simply for doing it; thirty-seven years is a huge commitment,” he said.
Hunter understands he’s taking over a well-oiled machine, but he would like to possibly add a few personal touches.
He’s toying with the idea of adding a racing class just for college students so the couple of handful of colleges and universities in the state can compete head to head. He also wants to increase publicity by placing signs about the race on his Suburban and placing it around town in the months leading up to the regatta.
“I don’t really want to change much about it because I like the simplicity of it,” Hunter said.
He’s also still working on the rest of his race-day ensemble, though he already has a pair of colorful suspenders and a blue blazer. “I’ve got a year to figure out the rest of my outfit,” he said.
Now that he’s found a worthy successor, Powell is confident in his decision.
“It’s easy to turn it over when you have someone you feel comfortable with,” he said.
Even though he’ll be 72 by the time the regatta rolls around next year, he may do something he’s never done – actually build and race a boat. “I’ve never done it, and I’m not sure I want to make a fool of myself but you never know . . .”
Originally published in The Jamestown Press, Thursday, August 17, 2017