Ted Jennings’ legacy on Long Island Sound

Published on April 3rd, 2017

In the March 2017 edition of WindCheck magazine, Terri Jennings reports on the contributions of her late father-in-law to the sport on Long Island Sound.

The concept of one-design sailing hinges on the idea of honing a sailor’s skills right next to his or her opponent’s. Is there a better way for a sailor to improve and stay motivated? This story of one-design sailing on Long Island Sound begins with a testimony to the dedication and contributions of Edward Austin “Ted” Jennings II (1929 – 2016) of Southport, Connecticut.

It began with Atlantics in the 1940s and 1950s; that concept of one-design competition where you could test your sailing skills on a level playing field. Then Dyer Dhows opened the door for pitting sailor against sailor at Pequot Yacht Club (Southport, CT), right in Southport Harbor, all winter long. And the Solings made an entrance in the late 1960s and endured into the 1970s.

Then Thistles made their notorious debut in the 1980s. Longtime Pequot Yacht Club member Ann Watkins recalls, “John and I were newlyweds when Ted Jennings began the process of convincing every sailor on Long Island Sound that the Thistle should be the next one-design boat.

“He enthusiastically took us under his wing and announced that he had found the perfect boat for us to sail. He even drove us in his car, which had a trailer hitch, to Staten Island to negotiate the purchase. Our future first ‘yacht’ was sunk into the grass and full of leaves in the previous owner’s backyard. Yes, we were proud owners of a Thistle!”


A young Ted Jennings at the helm of an Atlantic on Long Island Sound, just outside Southport Harbor

The big game changer arrived in 1992, when Ted, a lifelong PYC member and sometimes-daunting competitor, pushed for the introduction of the Ideal 18s.

“The Ideal 18 fleet at Pequot was a game changer for me,” recalls Dave Perry, PYC member, champion sailor and author of the book, Winning in One-Designs.

“Not having a boat of my own, it allowed me to take my two young kids out sailing whenever they wanted to go, which was huge,” Perry continued. “I have also enjoyed racing with my wife, Betsy, in the Ideals, as well as doing some high-level team and match racing in them.

“Ted’s insight and persuasive persistence were significant in causing this to happen at Pequot. And as a result, over a dozen clubs around Long Island Sound soon followed suit with their own fleets of Ideal 18s. This has kept one-design racing alive on the Sound, and drawn countless new members to these clubs.”

“The Ideal 18 and one-design program on Long Island Sound continues to be a success, and Ted Jennings is the reason,” PYC Manager Jeff Engborg observes. “Ted was instrumental in his leading role of introducing other clubs to Pequot’s successful one-design model.”

Terri Jennings is a freelance writer/editor living in Easton, CT. She is the daughter-in-law of the late Ted Jennings. Her husband, Ward Jennings, is a lifelong member of Pequot Yacht Club in Southport, and currently serves as Vice Commodore. Their two children, Austin and Kate, are proud graduates of the Junior Program at Pequot.

WindCheck is a monthly magazine devoted to sailors and boaters in the Northeast. Every issue features those who race, cruise and learn to boat in the region.

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