It’s funny how an occasional impulsive decision can end up having such a profound impact on the trajectory of one’s life. Buying my first Snipe from Bill Buckles in 1987 – the venerable purple Champipple – was one such decision.
I used to sail with Bill on a Hawkeye, a Dubois 47 during the waning days of IOR racing in Cleveland. He used to disappear in March and April to sail some boat called a Snipe (he was one of the US builders at the time at Mueller Boat Company in Lorain OH) and always came back tan with great stories of fun sailing, daiquiris and mopeds in Bermuda. Having been away from small boats since going to college in Cleveland, I thought, what the heck, might be a good way to get back in, so I went for a short sail one day on Lake Erie in almost no wind and Bill said if you buy the boat, I’ll take it to Florida for this new regatta they are starting up (the first annual Dead of Winter); you just show up and sail. How could I refuse? It was a done deal!
For the next eight years or so, our little group in Cleveland including Terry McSweeney and a number of others sailed local Midwest regattas and started travelling south for the circuit for a number of years, often doing the master migration beginning with Halloween in Atlanta (October), Red Lobster Cup in Sanford (December), Dead of Winter in St. Pete (January), Midwinters in Clearwater/DonQ in Miami (March), International Race Week in Bermuda (May) with the boats finally coming back to the US in New Jersey for an east coast regatta. Along the way in those years I made a ton of US Snipe sailor friends and my Snipe sailing began to improve.
Then came Race Week in Bermuda in 1992. I arrived a day later than most people and when I walked into Spanish Point Boat Club Terry immediately came up to me, bought me a rum drink, pointed across the room and said I’ve got the girl for you. Well, he was right and to make a long story short, Lisa Foulke and I were engaged there 12 months later. Because we were living in separate cities (Annapolis and Cleveland), we sailed a lot of regattas together in the next year. As we traveled over the next few years, eventually settling together in Annapolis, we meshed our two Snipe circles together making even more new Snipe friends. In 1995 we upgraded to Hike Like a Mother a Perrson we picked up in Clearwater. We really hit our stride sailing together with some good results, switching off skippering for a number of years. In Women’s Worlds years Lisa steered, competing in 1994 in Japan (our honeymoon with Sherry Eldridge!), 1996 in Spain, 1998 in Annapolis, 2000 in Italy and 2002 in St. Pete. Also throw in a couple stints on the SCIRA board and some fun non-sailing travel around for meetings and the circle of Snipe friends grew even larger.
As you can tell from the double entendre boat name Hike Like A Mother, along came Lexi and Ellie (we won Bermuda Race Week when Lisa was 5 months pregnant with Lexi). We sailed as best we could when they were young, but when they got a little older their lives drove the schedule. As Lisa always says, it was our turn before and it will be our turn later, but it’s their turn now. We did get a new JibeTech in 2006 but unfortunately, I hurt my back in the first regatta we sailed it in and couple that with the family priorities, the wind literally came out of our sails and the big Snipe hibernation began as the curtain closed on Snipe sailing Act I.
Fast forward 6 years through the usual junior sailing programs, a few local events and some less than successful attempts to get the kids interested in Snipe sailing, and along comes the awesome local High School sailing scene, which hooks Lexi into sailing like there is no tomorrow. Once the hook was set, Lisa and Lexi start sailing the Snipe together, and Lexi realizes that we actually know how to sail and that there is this really interesting, fun group of people of all ages that sail Snipes. Thanks to people like Peter Commette and the Diaz Family, who mentor young sailors, which has definitely been the case with us, the Snipe regatta schedule is again prominent on the priority list. During the Junior Worlds Qualifier in Annapolis in June 2014, it was an awesome sight to see a pack of young Snipe sailors competing hard and having a great time getting to know each other.
As a bystander in this renewed family Snipe fervor – and maybe it’s just nostalgia of the aging – I was getting, frankly, a bit jealous. Not just about the sailing but about the opportunity to enjoy the sailing and my family together. So that got me thinking, why not give it a try and see how it goes throughout the summer. I was (and to a certain extent, still am) scared to hurt my back, but I’ d never know if I could do it or not if I didn’t try. It’s been just about a year now with our local SSA regattas/invitationals Colonial Cup and Frigid Digit, North Americans in Boston, and most recently the DonQ. I’m certainly not hiking as hard, but that’s what’s great about the Snipe, it’s not just about physical ability. And you can always find a younger crew to do the hiking for you!
Over this past year, it has been fantastic to sail again with Lisa, watch Lexi develop into a great Snipe crew and reconnect with many old – and new – Snipe friends. One thing I have found is that while I am a bit rusty (mentally and physically), it’s like riding a bike, “the sensations” of how it feels to be racing in and socializing around Snipes, come back quickly. I started to notice this especially after the North Americans and the Frigid Digit last summer; and, this past weekend at the DonQ really capped it off. Maybe it was the contrast of the warm sun and beautiful sailing on Biscayne Bay after a cold winter, but I really feel like I am finally waking up after a long winter’s nap. And of course we have a current double entendre boat name that reflects this for both Lisa and me (for you Elton John fans) – The Bitch is Back. And it is good, no, great to be back.