Islander marks 20 years in sailing with yacht club award
He had not sailed much, but when an ad in the newspaper requested volunteers for the “Return of the Legends” J-Class race, he was intrigued enough to sign up to help.
“The race was between two pre-war America’s Cup boats that Elizabeth Meyer had restored and decided to race against each other,” Allphin said. “They were skippered by Ted Turner and Gary Jobson.”
When he met Meyer to offer his lobster boat’s services for the race, he was surprised when she asked how fast his boat could go.
“I thought that was an odd question coming from a sailor,” he said.
His boat was one of the committee boats for the race, putting marks in the water, and it kicked off a 20-year volunteer career.
Later that year, Allphin ferried judges around for the women’s keel boat races and met Robin Wallace, a Rhode Island sailing icon.
“From there, one thing just kind of led to another,” he said. “When you are a volunteer and you have a boat, it is easy to get work.”
Allphin then connected with Sail Newport and became a member of the Ida Lewis Yacht Club.
One of his favorite memories from his years of service was the time he made the entire race committee think he had been drinking during a race.
“I was the weather mark boat, and I went up next to the committee boat to ping them with the GPS. That way, when I go out 300 degrees at three-quarters of a mile, it is extremely accurate,” Allphin said. “So I start heading out and the compass is wiggling all over the place. I am going 30 degrees one way and then 30 degrees back the other way.”
Allphin could not figure out what the problem was until he realized that he had a pair of pliers sitting next to the compass.
“It took me about a minute and a half to figure it out,” he said. “It was an embarrassing minute and a half, but there was no harm done.”
Wallace was on the committee boat that was watching Allphin weave his way through the bay that day and thought the story was funny enough to relay to the crowd when he presented Allphin with his Ida Lewis Yacht Club race management trophy.
The trophy, a tide clock, was presented to Allphin for his “signifi cant contributions to the Ida Lewis race management program.”
Allphin is quick to point out that, with the exception of the Jamestown frostbiter series, he is not a principal race officer.
“I am not interested in being responsible for running an entire race,” he said. “I really just enjoy being a mark boat or however else I can help out.”
He has had a few close calls over the years, a fact to which one look at his boat will attest.
“If you get up close, you can see a lot of imperfections,” he said.
One of those close calls happened during a Jamestown Yacht Club Tuesday night race.
“There was only about 20 feet between me and the buoy I was tied to, and the boat tried to go in between,” he said. “Fortunately, they had enough people on the rail to keep it from becoming too bad.”
Using his own boat for race committee duties has its pluses and minuses, he said. Having more freedom to walk around his boat and the comfort it provides are good things, Allphin said. “But, after I bring Santa Claus in on my boat, I take it out of the water and use a rubber inflatable that Bill Munger lets the frostbiters use for free. It is a little colder sitting there when you can’t move around as much, but it is a lot easier to set the marks from that boat.”
George Rice helps Allphin with the frostbite races, which is something that Allphin said makes the process enjoyable.
“There are two things I really like about doing race committee,” he said. “I like that I am out on the water and that the race committees try to do a perfect job. Not that we ever will do a perfect job, but the fact that we try appeals to me.”
Growing up near Danvers, Mass., Allphin said he had some exposure to sailing, but not much. His first sailboat race in Marblehead, Mass., was a memorable one.
“We went around the course just fine, or so we thought. But at the end of the race, another boat came by and threw a bucket of water on us,” Allphin said. “We never did figure out what we did wrong. Come to think of it, I think that was my last race as well.”
He has sailed on the ocean once, as crew on a friend’s boat from Bermuda to Boston, but prefers his race committee duties to sailing.
Allphin and his wife, Joyce, relocated to Jamestown 21 years ago. He served on the Zoning Board of Review for 13 years and currently serves on the board of the Jamestown Historical Society. During tax season, Allphin offers free tax return preparation at the Jamestown Philomenian Library – along with Anne Livingston and Paul Petersen – in his role as a volunteer with the AARP Tax-Aide program.
Allphin and his wife have also raised three daughters.
“The only one of them who has any connection to sailing is my daughter who lives in Marblehead. She and her husband and her 12-year-old daughter have done some sailing,” he said.
Allphin, after tending to the frostbiter series, will work on several regattas next summer. But first, he’ll make a special delivery – Santa Claus – this Saturday, Dec. 5, at Conanicut Marina at 1 p.m.