A foolish event every club should host

Published on August 14th, 2014

Most yacht clubs follow the slogan popularized in the 80s by American Express: “Membership Has its Privileges”. What goes on behind the gate tower is for members to enjoy, and for outsiders to be kept from.

But this weekend, for the 37th straight year, Jamestown Yacht Club (RI) is opening the doors to anyone who likes fun and foolishness. The only catch is they must come prepared to throw trash into Narragansett Bay, but not before they build a boat out of it.

The Fools’ Rules Regatta is scheduled for August 16, and spectators can expect the same aggravated architects and sinking sailors that have graced the East Ferry shoreline since 1977.

Lead organizer Chris Powell, more appropriately known as the Chief Fool during the event, says not much has changed over the years. The cannon will be fired at 9 a.m. and crews will have two hours to construct a sailing vessel made out of items that are ill equipped for that purpose. Where else do doghouses become hulls, hockey sticks become masts and burlap sacks become sails?

While boats can be designed and constructed ahead of time, they must be disassembled and built on race day. Only crew members are allowed to work on the boats; people can’t build what they won’t sail.

As for the race itself, just nature’s wind can propel the boats. Obviously no motors are allowed, but Powell will also be on the lookout for “kicking, oaring, paddling, punting, sculling, pulling and pushing.”

And just to be safe, missiles and harpoons will not be tolerated either, according to the official rules.

As always, five classes will race the 500-yard course. The first four classes depend on whether the boat has one, two, three or four sailors; the fifth class allows for an unlimited crew.

Over the years the regatta has remained true to its roots. The founders weren’t trying to start a venture capital; their goal was pleasure, not profit. For the last 25 years the races have been hosted by the Jamestown Yacht Club, and the club has remained committed to that goal.

“The idea is not to charge people for everything they do,” said Powell, with any surplus funds being back into the community. – Jamestown Press, read on

Among the event rules are:
“No eye-catching beauties shall be used to distract and confuse competitors. There shall be no hurling of missiles at competing crews, nor shall harpoons or cannons be fired at other vessels or at rowdy or boisterous spectators on the shore. There shall be no deliberate ramming of other vessels. In the event of a collision or violation of standard sailing rules it is suggested that those involved fight it out amongst themselves or anyone else. No time allowance will be given for running aground, sinking, drifting off to Newport, Block Island or Providence or becoming disabled by inter or intra-crew fighting. The very high-grade character of this event demands best behavior and tempers must be controlled. The protest committee’s responsibility is to call local and state police and the National Guard on occasion when their assistance is required.”

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