Bringing the Little Ones Along

Published on August 16th, 2017

The Leo J. Telesmanick Championship Beetle Cat Regatta, the premier event for the class, was started in 1980 to honor the longtime overseer of Beetle Cat production, Leo J. Telesmanick. Twenty of the twelve-foot, gaff-rigged wooden catboats gathered to compete August 12-13 in Cranston, RI, with photographer Emily Ferguson sharing images and observations from this classic crowd.

Another Leo, another year, another lovely visit with a group of people who have a soft spot in their hearts for this little wooden boat.

But this year the Leo was even more unusual in that we had four generations on the water. The oldest was no spring chicken, and won one of the Ancient Mariner awards. The youngest was 5 years old. The next youngest was almost 6 years old.

Now if you think for a moment that perhaps those little tiny kids went out with their parents for a couple races and then got passed off on the grands, you don’t know beetle cat sailors. Not at all. Not for a moment. Not only did they crew smartly for their parent, but they slept under the cover of the family boat overnight and got up the next morning to crew again.

Sailors all through the fleet got treated to the conversations which the parent was having with the kid, conversations about how the boat was behaving, how to read the wind, where the other boats were, what things the other skippers could be doing to improve their own sailing and, of course, all the wonderful fantasy things that 5 year olds have pass through their heads.

And if you imagine, for a moment, that any one of the full size sailors thought that perhaps the tiny ones were out of place, let me tell you otherwise.

I watched a 6’2″ tall man reach down to one of those kids and talk with him, tousle his hair and smile that tender and bittersweet smile, as only parents of grown children might do. At another moment one of the Ancient Mariners came up to one of the parents and expressed envy and deep respect for the way the parent was teaching and including his kid. “If my father had taught me to sail the way you’re doing I would be a much better sailor” he said.

And yes, we had other parent child pairs – parent with grown child, adults with kid crew but not related, and boats skippered by juniors which beat their parents in the rankings.

But having the two tiniest ones actually participating, being helped with their food during lunch and during the banquet, being treated with a rare respect (and, at one point, actually helping their parent do a roll tack) was possibly the absolute highlight of all of the 19 Leos which I have had the pleasure of photographing over the years.

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