Monday, April 9, 2012

Sailing loss

We have to get past the appearance issue with PFD's.  I'm getting better at wearing one, and this tribute to one of our local sailors underscores the fact that they save lives.  

On March 24th  the sailing community lost a dear friend.

It’s so often that the skippers of boats get the glory and the recognition, but as we all know it’s the crew that make the boat go. There are so many wonderful things about this sport that we are involved in… but to me the best is the community that we are all a part of, and the shared love of sailing that binds us together. In my profession of a sailing coach and formerly as a sailmaker I have had the great experience of meeting and sailing with so many people. Every boat is different and every crew dynamic too…

Every once in a while you meet someone that is extra special, someone whose smile and laugh is intoxicating, and puts you at ease, makes you feel like you’ve been friends forever. For me, and I’m sure a great many others that met her, that was Kathy Brennan. To be honest I don’t really know her all that well, I’ve sailed with her a dozen times, but that doesn’t detract from the loss I feel, not just in my heart but for my friends and the sailing community. Kathy sailed on Brendan Benson’s J30 out of Oswego Yacht Club… many of you know the boat “Blaze” and most people know what its stern looks like. It is a team that has been sailing together for longer than I’ve been involved in the sport, it is a team that I grew up with and a huge reason I am even involved. They all took the time to mentor me as a child so I owe them a great deal, it is a team that is passionate about the sport and tha! t passion rubbed off on me about 30 years ago. Kathy came into the sport later in life joining the Blaze team about 10 years ago through her then boyfriend, tactician and main trimmer, Jack Farden and quickly became the glue that has held the team together ever since.

I remember stepping on board Blaze many years ago and first meeting Kathy… she had that kind of smile that sets one at ease and makes you feel like you’ve know her forever… I don’t remember the conversation but along with that terrific easygoing smile I was greeted with a beer. I gave Jack a wink and a smile to show my approval. Over the years I have always tried to sail a regatta or two with my friends on Blaze and I have always been greeted the same way.

Over my many years in this sport I’ve sailed on hundreds of boats with thousands of people and although nearly every team has someone like Kathy, Blaze was the only one to have her…  it is a true loss to everyone that sails.

She died from an accidental drowning and I hope that we are all once again reminded of the inherit dangers of the water. So I want to once again remind everyone about wearing their lifejacket… it is not un-cool to wear it… those of you that have met or sailed with me know that I hardly ever go without it… I think it is sad that almost every time I get on a boat I am asked, “do you not know how to swim?” my response is, “I actually think that I am a very good swimmer.” It’s not that I am paranoid about going overboard, just that I don’t ever drive without a seatbelt… why would I sail without a lifejacket.  I typically wear it while in my office and have been known to drive home wearing it, forgetting I have it on. I don’t allow anyone to go near a dock in my programs without one on. I don’t know if a life jacket would have made a difference in Kathy’s case and being on vacation in Fl! orida it probably wasn’t practical, but I would hope that in her passing we can all think about those close calls we have had on a boat or even on the dock, getting on or off a boat, and make an attempt to wear it. There are so many comfortable and cool life jackets out there now that there is no excuse.

I can think of no better way to honor the life of such a wonderful person as for all you regatta organizers out there to make at least one night… a “Party with your PFD” in memory of Kathy Brennan. A sailors PFD being the requirement for entry or to get a drink. Just imagine if every regatta would do this how much it would promote the use of Lifejackets both on and off the water. How wonderful would it to see everyone in the future wearing lifejackets, not because they are being forced to, but rather because they know  they might inspire others to do the same and maybe save a life without even being aware of it.   

My heart and thoughts this week are with Kathy’s family and with Jack Farden, who was going to marry her in June, the crew of Blaze, and the Oswego Yacht Club. The whole sailing community has lost someone very special.

See you on the water~~~_/)~~_/)~~~
Jon Faudree
Sailing Education Director
Head Sailing Coach
Rochester Yacht Club

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