The Coral Bay Yacht Club remembered the late Steve Dawes at the November 23 and 24 Thanksgiving Regatta by dedicating the 26th annual event to him. Dawes died Sept. 12 at a hospice in Plymouth, England. Master of ceremonies Dave Dostall said at the awards ceremony that Dawes was a good friend, a good sailor, and the best mechanic that ever worked under a shade tree.
"Let’s raise a Heineken to Steve," he said as the several hundred people gathered for the event at Skinny Legs Bar and Restaurant in Coral Bay, St. John complied. Yacht club members scattered Dawes’ ashes at sea the following day.
Dawes, who served as the yacht club’s commodore and vice-commodore during his years on St. John, sailed aboard his boat, Equity. According to friend Anne Frick, Dawes was born in 1954 in England and set sail from Plymouth in 1987. Along the way he met his wife, Laurie Dawes, who died in 2003. The two settled in Coral Bay. In his memory, the yacht club established the Steve Dawes Spirit of the Regatta award for sportsmanship. It went to St. John resident Peter Muilenburg.
"I definitely feel honored," Muilenburg said. Race director Dick Burks said it was a hard choice because there were lots of good candidates. He said the members were looking for someone who exemplifies the Coral Bay spirit. "And he’s been there since the beginning," Burks said of Muilenburg, who sails aboard Breath, a 42-foot ketch.
Both Dawes and Breath were featured on the commemorative t-shirt artwork along with the race committee boat Shabumi, owned by Burks, and a Cowhorn, a type of boat built several decades ago on the Coral Bay beach.
Others who died in recent years were also remembered at the regatta.
Liberty, an Alden 52 sailed by Fletcher Pitts until he died in 2004, took first in Saturday’s Traditional over 40 foot class with St. John resident Thatcher Lord at the helm.
"Liberty has a guardian angel and the most beautiful crew and friends in the whole world," Pitts’ wife, Robin Clair, said, in tears as she clutched a trophy. Burks said that Liberty had the fastest elapsed time around the course outside Coral Harbor of all the 34 boats that raced Saturday. Twenty boats raced Friday.
Members also remembered Danny Linke, an early yacht club member who built one of the original Cowhorn boats that helped spark the regatta. Linke died during the past year.
The money raised at the regatta goes to help fund activities at the St. John Kids and the Sea program, a youthful learn-to-sail program based in Coral Bay. Additionally, Dostall announced at the awards ceremony that the Coral Bay Yacht Club paid for new desks and chairs for all the students at the nearby Guy Benjamin School in Coral Bay. Burks later said that the donation totaled nearly 100 desks, chairs, a freezer, computer and other items to the school worth about $19,000, money raised over two years through a flotilla and other events.
A total 34 boats joined the November 24 race classes for traditional, cruising, racing, and multihull boats. Twenty boats participated November 23 in races for single-handed boats, multihulls, gaff-rigged boats, Optimists and Lasers. Most hailed from St. John, but a few showed up from St. Thomas and St. Croix. With good conditions and clear skies, the races saw close competition – some of it too close.
"Yesterday was great, but today we were in a wreck," St. John resident John Costanza said at the awards ceremony. He said his boat, a Cowhorn 30 named Callabreeze, had the right of way when it collided with Woodwind. Woodwind’s bowsprit went through Callabreeze‘s cockpit. Costanza said that no one was hurt but both boats were forced to retire from the race.
Dostall said that six boats started November 25 in Callabreeze‘s class, Traditional, under 40 feet, but only one finished, Buxom II. "A couple of them had a little right of way problem and some got lost," he said, laughing.
Long time St. John resident Lynda Lohr lives in Coral Bay. A reporter by trade, she has written for numerous international, national, regional, and local publications as well as travel and news websites.
Traditional, under 40 feet
Buxom II, 4:34:12
Traditional, over 40 feet
Cruising l, 30 feet and under
African Queen, 3:58:21
Cruising ll, over 30 feet to 40 feet
Living on Cloud 9, 3:45:47
Cruising III, 40 feet and over
Simone’s Voyage, 3:12:40
J Walker, 2:35:35
Tiger Maru, 2:44:13
Top Gun, 2:44:22
Single-handed 30 feet and under
African Queen, 2:28:00
Single-handed over 30 feet to 40 feet
Tiger Maru, 2:08:40
Living on Cloud Nine, 2:26:56
Single-handed over 40 feet
Gaffers 35 feet and under
Gaffers over 35 feet
Elinor Louise, 3:24:05