Fool's Rules 29th Regatta honors founder Karl Smith
"The time has come, the Walrus said, to seek out sailing things, like floating tubs and bedframe rafts, with masts held up by strings." Whether or not the Walrus said that is of little consequence. The 29th annual Fools' Rules Regatta will take place at the town beach at East Ferry Saturday, Aug. 19, with the first cannon sounding at 9 a.m. sharp. In case of rain, the regatta will be postponed to the following day, Aug. 20, at the same location and time.
This year's nationally famous sailing event will celebrate the life of its founder Karl Smith, who passed away earlier this year.
"When I spoke at his memorial service, I realized that it was held on the day marking the 29th anniversary of the date Karl founded the Fools' Rules Regatta in 1977," said Chris Powell, current commodore of the event since Smith handed over the reigns 25 years ago.
"He was quite a guy," Powell continued. "He was an engineer, and he enjoyed his hobby of building running miniature steam engines. He rode motorcycles, skied, and played tennis up until the week he passed away at age 89, two weeks before his 90th birthday. He was also the world's oldest living diabetic. He took insulin from the time he was six years old.
"When he organized the first regatta, it was called the Jamestown Tri-Centennial Fools' Rules Regatta and it was held at Potter's Cove," Powell said. "He ran the event for four years before asking me to take over. He was in his mid-60s then. He said the regatta needed someone young and energetic to run the show, which was quite a compliment coming from Karl. I think it's only right that we dedicate this year's regatta to him. He was an energetic man who did a lot for the town," Powell added.
The first cannon will sound at 9 a.m. to signal crewmembers to begin the construction of navigable boats that must be completed in two hours or less. The operative word is "completed." Navigable is often a questionable guideline.
Construction must take place on East Ferry beach the morning of the event. Any participants found with a prefabricated craft will walk the plank while their boat is scuttled before the race begins. At 11 a.m., the second cannon will sound, signaling the start of the first 500-yard race.
All classes will compete for prestigious awards that include "Worst Example of Naval Architecture," the Karl Smith award for "Most Ingenious Design," and the Frank Newman Judges Award given to the boat with the best theme.
In previous regattas, the supersilly us vessels have been built of everything from cow watering troughs to old Volkswagens. Dog houses, picnic tables, giant blocks of ice, and water bottles tied together to look like a six-pack of beer have also been entered in the floating flotilla of funky fabrications that comprise the fleet of fools.
When the second cannon sounds at 11 a.m. to signal the start of the first race, Class 1 boats followed by Classes 2, 3, and 4 will be crewed by the respective number of fools in separate heats. The final race is the Unlimited Class. Vessels in this category have been as long as 40 feet and as high as 20 feet, with crews numbering in the dozens.
The regatta is sponsored by the Jamestown Yacht Club and is open to all who are interested. There is no entry fee. All entries must be wind-powered, and crewmen are required to wear U.S. Coast Guard approved life preservers. Flyers with rules and applications can be found at Jamestown businesses and on the Jamestown Yacht Club Web site at www.jyc.org/. For additional information, call 423-1492.
Commodore Chris Powell has been the chief fool for 25 years and is assisted by First Fool Candy Powell, Chris' wife, who handles publicity, registrations, and oversees the business side of the foolish festivities with her able crew of foolish volunteers.
During the event, parking will be available on the upper Shoreby Hill Green, thanks to the generosity of the property owners. Visitors and regatta participants should remember to remove all vehicles and trash after the regatta.