July 19, 2001

Happy regatta participants invade Rockport

Regatta sails into Rockport


Times staff

ROCKPORT -- From Bermuda to Nova Scotia, more than 200 children and their families arrived in Rockport this week for the largest regatta ever to sail off the shores of this coastal town.

With it, the Optimist New England Championship brought all sorts of waves -- from increased business to community spirit, and new-found friendships.

"This is just a neat youth event," said event Chairman Charles Clark. "We had races like this when I was a kid, but not as big."

The regatta participants, ages 8 to 15, arrived Monday afternoon with their parents, coaches, and eight-foot, single-sail Opti boats in tow.

Many came with a dozen teammates from their hometown yacht club to participate in the week's slew of 10 races off Granite Pier.

Speakers, workshops, dinners and a formal dance kept the participants and their families heading to different venues throughout town all week.

Charles Brackett, owner of Brackett's Oceanview restaurant on Main Street, said many of the regatta's participants must have flocked to his restaurant Monday night.

"We were very busy," he said. "I think they were all here."

To accommodate, Brackett stayed open an hour later and subsequently drew in 15 to 20 percent more business than he normally would on a weeknight.

The Rockport Golf Club also saw many of the Regatta competitors this week, as host of the event's parents reception and children's dance.

Candy Curcuru, a cashier at Smith Hardware and Lumber, said she rang up many mothers' last-minute buys for their sailors, including outboard oil, boat wax, rope, sandpaper and rain gear, when the clouds opened up Tuesday morning with rain.

"A lot of the mothers, I noticed, they're all excited," Curcuru said. "And it's been going on all week, not just today."

At night, the regatta visitors rested their heads at local inns, including the Linden Tree, the Yankee Clipper and the Sandy Bay Motor Inn on Upper Main Street.

Of its 80 rooms, 40 were booked for the regatta, said Judi D'Antonio, assistant manager of the Sandy Bay Motor Inn.

"They're very nice people. Very friendly, and very easy to deal with," D'Antonio said. "Their biggest question is 'How do we get to Granite Pier and the Yacht Club?'"

At the pier, a group of about 70 volunteers kept the regatta's headquarters running each day, whether it be checking participants in each morning or organizing the delivery of lunches in the afternoon.

Among other supplies, including trinkets and souvenirs sent home with the participants, those lunches were donated by local businesses, said volunteer Claudia Greely, whose son Timothy sailed in the competition.

Local artisan Theodore Engel also crafted the perpetual trophy.

Others contributed to the event in other ways. Granite Pier fishermen, for example, offered up space on the wharf this week for the event's tents and participants' vehicles.

"It really has taken a lot of people to make this work," Greely said. "And the first thing the parents said when they saw us was 'Thank you for doing this.'"

The event will close this afternoon with the presentation of more than 50 trophies on Granite Pier, and participants will leave with memories of their competition -- and perhaps Rockport as well.

"As it often happens, a lot of people come here for short periods of time, it stays in their mind, and then they think to come back again," said Janice Ramsden, director of the Rockport Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade. "So it has a lasting effect, I'm sure."

Clark said in talking with the participants, he's learned that many are making Rockport one of many stops on their family vacation.

Perched on rocks at the edge of the Granite Pier parking lot Tuesday afternoon, rain pittering on their slickers, parents Elaine and Thomas Conlin of Bellport, N.Y. said they've been making family trips for regattas for eight years.

Their children Thomas, 13, Paige, 9, and Pierce, 8, sailed this week in Rockport Harbor.

"It's a nice sport. It's a nice group of kids," Elaine said.

Debbie Nisbet of Rhode Island also sat watching her daughter Heather, 12, practice before the races.

For her, the newfound friendships she's built have been just as rewarding as the sailing itself.

"They tend to get pretty chummy," Debbie said. "And then they exchange e-mails and addresses, and hope to see each other again."