Riding the ripple effect of Pete Ives

Published on September 10th, 2022

The introduction of on-the-water umpiring began with Pete Ives who recently passed, and his impact on the sport has been felt worldwide. Henry Menin (USVI) – former Chairman of the World Sailing Match Racing Committee and America’s Cup Umpire and Judge – speaks of Ives’ ripple effect:

Pete Ives was my friend, mentor, and idol. He gave me the opportunity to work on a bigger stage of match racing, and showed me how to do it. I was never more comfortable or more confident of my umpiring than when I was with Pete.

I cannot imagine anyone who has had more influence in the establishment and promotion of match racing in the USA, and particularly in umpiring, than Pete. He was the undisputed, best USA match race umpire of his time.

He spread his wealth of information and knowledge throughout the world, and for years he was the Congressional Cup, an event considered the ‘Grandfather of Modern Match Racing’.

He mentored, guided, taught, encouraged, and invited new umpires every year to the Congressional Cup, and not just from the USA. He did this for countless new and established umpires. When he thought they were getting their legs under them, he made them CHUMP (Chief Umpire), giving them confidence and self-respect.

He not only inspired, encouraged, and taught new umpires, but he also did the same for young match racers, inviting them to the Congressional Cup and putting them on the international stage for the first time, allowing them to show their stuff to the world.

Two of the winningest skippers in the 57 year history of the Congressional Cup, both of whom eventually became Match Racing World Champions, come from a small club in the Caribbean and owe their participation in the Congressional Cup, and their rise in the international rankings, to Pete Ives.

He was instrumental in starting the tradition of holding debriefs after each day of match racing at the Congressional Cup. Those debriefs, with umpires explaining their on-the-water calls, and competitors questioning those calls and explaining their perspectives, created a camaraderie among the umpires and the crews that had not previously existed.

There was often standing room only attendance at those sessions, where some spectators were allowed to attend, so long as they remained silent. Those debriefs were instrumental in bringing needed changes to the match racing rules, as well as creating new rules for better and more efficient racing.

Here’s a little known fact, and it gets more personal for me.

He helped organize and was the Principal Race Officer for the St. Thomas Yacht Club’s inaugural Caribbean International Optimist Regatta (now the largest Optimist regatta in the Caribbean) and continued in that role for 5 or 6 years, never taking a penny for his transportation, accommodations, or food costs. He mentored the local race officials so that they could take over after his tenure.

After the first year of the regatta, during his tenure, he handmade all the trophies for the regatta, which were beautifully crafted half hulls with a curved wooden sail, including the Optimist logo inlaid in the sail, all at no cost to the regatta. Those trophies are the prized possessions of young sailors all over the world, many of whom went on to become college, national, and world champions.

Pete meant everything to me and to my career as an umpire. But beyond being a fantastic mentor, Pete was a great friend and will be enormously missed.

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