2017-08-17 / Editorial

No foolin’ — Powell left lasting legacy

Jamestown has many attractions and events that are unique to our island, but there may be none more quintessential (or singular) than the Fools’ Rules Regatta.

For the past 37 years, the wacky boat race has been steered by Hope Street resident Chris Powell, who handed off the title of Chief Fool last Sunday. It’d be nearly impossible to separate the regatta from its driving force of the past four decades as Powell has helped grow and champion the event. He took a nascent idea that came around each August in its first few years and championed it almost year-round in an effort to make it part of the public consciousness.

He tirelessly flogged the regatta statewide to help build its popularity and increase the number of participants from other states to the point where there sometimes now are more non- Jamestowners racing than locals.

Aided by his wife, Candy, the couple’s tireless efforts and organization helped cultivate the event, and their passion and love for it are obvious.

While his regatta regalia of blue blazer, captain’s hat, mismatched socks and bullhorn are Powell’s overt legacy, his true mark is on display when you mention the race to people in town. A wealth of anecdotes and memories about past vessels (both in glorious victory and spectacular defeat) spring forward like a wellspring as people remember the joy the race has brought them throughout the years.

Another Powell legacy was his constant encouragement and prodding of participants to try certain designs he concocted or to modify their existing plan. In most cases, his suggestions were best left on the drawing board as several helped garner the builders the dubious “worst example of naval architecture” award. The prize, as Powell said during his final awards ceremony is the “award people want to win the most but won’t admit it.”

It’s also the only one of the three specialty awards without a namesake. One award is named after regatta founder Karl Smith and another after longtime participant and former University of Rhode Island president Frank Newman. It would be a fitting tribute to the man who inspired not only so many suspect designs — but who has given more to any one island treasure perhaps than any other resident — to honor him by christening it the Chris Powell Worst Example of Naval Architecture award.

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