Sailing is a sport that can take young people around the world and it is a sport that also can meld friends in a lifelong bond … just ask Max Simmons or Justin Assad.
Max, who is 18 and a member of the St. George’s School sailing team, has raced in Argentina, not to mention a number of other South American countries as well as in regattas in Europe. He’s one of 210 youths participating now through Wednesday in the 10th CJ Buckley Regatta.
Max’s hometown is Norwalk, Conn. His crew, Riley Legault, is from Florida and the pair is in the hunt for a first place finish in the team-sailing event that over the three days will include upwards of 350 races. They have already racked up a number of second place finishes in regattas held elsewhere this summer.
Max says his globetrotting has been a great experience and an education, although he has had to make up for some lost time in the classroom. His parents often travel with him, so they stay in hotels, although there have been some “home stays,” too.
Justin, his brother Kyle, Kim Martha and Tyler Baeder, plus many of their friends, won’t be racing, although they’ll be on the waters of Greenwich Bay. They’ll be running races. Their youth racing days are over, but not their love of the sport or the bond they share – CJ Buckley. They all sailed with the East Greenwich Bay Sailing Association. CJ, who fought and eventually succumbed to a brain tumor more than 10 years ago, was an inspiration to his friends. They wanted to keep his spirit alive and to do it, they chose team sailing, which CJ enjoyed so much. The first regatta was held at GBSA, but the event rapidly outgrew the venue and the regatta was relocated to Goddard Park, where it is now.
What a handful of youth sailors started has evolved into a major community event involving 20 volunteers on the water and another 30 on shore. The regatta attracts sailors from across the country with some coming as far away as California and has become the nation’s second largest [in terms of the number of boats] Club 420 [the type of boat] Association sanctioned event in North America, according to association president John Barbano.
But the regatta is more than simply racing and, of course, winning. It’s also about CJ’s courage and that message resonates with people of all ages whether they knew him from school and sailing or never had the opportunity to meet him.
“This keeps CJ alive through this event,” says Beth Coughlin, whose children are sailors. Coughlin has been a regatta volunteer for the past four years. She has seen what the regatta means to kids and unequivocally calls it “the highlight of the summer.”
This year is also a special occasion for CJ’s parents, Carter and Lucy.
With it being the 10th anniversary, a giant cake was planned for last night once teams got off the water and joined at the carousel for dinner and post-racing talk. More than CJ’s memory lives on. As witnessed by so many young people who share the love for sailing, the regatta bearing his name continues to build friendships and bonds that will live on. It’s what CJ would have wanted.