Final sailing hurrah around Conanicut Island Saturday
Perhaps no other boat in this Saturday’s 12th annual Sail for Hope will represent the tradition of the event better than Granuelle, a Jamestown-based Olson 34.
Sail for Hope was first organized in the wake of 9/11 in an attempt to promote healing. It also acts as a fundraiser for those affected by the tragedy. To date, the event – initially called Sail for Pride – has raised nearly $900,000 for a variety of charities and has become an iconic season-ending race for local sailors.
Granuelle is owned by Jamestown resident Marcus Cochran, a Marine veteran who is a firefighter for the Newport Fire Department and volunteers for the Jamestown department. Cochran bought the boat in 2011 and entered it in Sail for Hope last year. What makes his effort particularly meaningful is that Granuelle’s crew of eight will all be either Jamestown or Newport firefighters, including Cochran’s father, who also volunteers in town.
“When I brought it up at work guys were really interested and really wanted to do it,” Cochran said. “My father sailed in the original Sail for Pride in 2001 on his boat. I was in the Marines at the time and someone told me about the race. I was always interested in it.”
Sail for Hope was the brainchild of Scotty Murray. In the wake of Sept. 11, he attempted to give blood but was denied because his mother had died of mad cow disease. Wanting to do something, he consulted with his friend Mick Harvey about holding a sailboat race.
Murray, who works for New England Boatworks, anticipates there will more than 60 boats on Narragansett Bay for Saturday’s race. Because of the unpredictable weather at this time of the year, Murray says a lot of people wait until the last couple of days to register.
The boats will be divided into seven or eight classes, including a one-design fleet of J-22s that will sail on its own course.
The route for the rest of the boats will be about 19 miles around Conanicut Island. The exact course will be determined on the day of the regatta based on wind and tide. The first race starts at 11 a.m. and the finish is inside Newport Harbor.
Beneficiaries of this year’s Sail for Hope will be the Wounded Warriors Project and the local armed forces program of the American Red Cross.
“Three years ago we chose the Wounded Warriors Project because they’re a group of people who have been really affected by the aftermath of 9/11,” Murray said. “We’ve become one of their bigger individual donors over that threeyear period.”
Murray said the Red Cross has been a recipient since day one and the event has raised more than $250,000 for a variety of causes including 9/11 funds, Hurricane Katrina relief and expanding services for veterans. Race organizers have moved the Red Cross donation around based on immediate needs over the years.
Murray said the timing was originally set by the events of 9/11, but has since become known as the “last blast around the island.” Sail for Hope marks the end of the sailing season for many locals.
“After 9/11, every race in the United States was being canceled,” Murray said. “We said, ‘Let’s just man up and do the race and get people on the water.’”
He continued, “Date recognition is a large part of it. Everybody puts it on the calendar at the beginning of the year.”
Jamestown’s Rob Salk will be on the starting line on Saturday with his J-109, Picante. Salk entered the original Sail for Pride in 2001 and has participated in most of the races since. His boat will carry a crew of seven or eight people.
“The origination of this event was very special,” Salk said. “It was right after 9/11 and everybody was very patriotic. We all flew our American flags as we sailed around the island. It was really a nice sight to see. It’s a great way to end the sailing season and give something back to charity.”
When Murray and Harvey decided to organize the race 12 years ago, their first step was to approach Brad Read, executive director of Sail Newport. They knew the public sailing center had the resources to help them run the event. Read liked the idea, and Sail Newport has handled race management ever since.
“We’re thrilled to always help,” Read said. “Sail for Hope is a regatta for help. We help other people. It’s one of those special events.”
Cochran says anyone interested in making a contribution to Granuelle and the team of firefighters can drop off a check at the fire station on Narragansett Avenue.