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2003 Hospice Turkey Shoot Regatta

     Once again a river of the Bay will be graced by the great triangular sails and long booms of the traditional Chesapeake Bay skipjack. The event that will coax these lovely old vessels to sail again in the southern Bay waters, as well as a hundred or more other classic sailboats, will be the annual Hospice Turkey Shoot Regatta. The regatta, on October 10, 11 and 12, will be hosted by Yankee Point Sailboat Marina on Meyer Creek. The Turkey Shoot is one of twenty regattas across the country under the auspices of the National Hospice Regatta Alliance. It is the only one for classic sailboats.

     The Turkey Shoot Regatta began in 1989 as a project of Chuck Harney, a wooden and classic boat enthusiast and John McConnico, then the owner of Yankee Point Marina. In 1996 Hospice Support Services of the Northern Neck became the sponsor of the Turkey Shoot. This year the regatta will be sponsored by four hospices; Hospice Support Services, Hospice Support Care of Middlesex County, Riverside Tappahannock Hospice, Riverside Hospice of Gloucester—Walter Reed. Today the Turkey Shoot is a major event drawing more than 100 vintage and classic boats of all designs including the skipjack, now approaching extinction. 
The regatta is open to fiberglass or wooden monohulls with classic designs that are at least twenty-five years old. There are also races for smaller classic craft, such as Nutshells, Lasers, 420s and Sunfish.

     This year, at least three restored large skipjacks will be racing in a class for the skipjack Trophy—the Claud W. Somers from the Reedville Fisherman's Museum, the Virginia W. from the Port Kinsale Foundation and the Wilma Lee owned by Herb Carden. A group of smaller skipjacks, the so-called "toy" skipjacks, about half the size of the bigger boats, may also be included in this class. 

     The 2003 Regatta includes activities starting on Friday evening with a happy hour offering a spread of hors d'oeuvres and entertainment by Steve Keith. His chantey dedicated to the region's watermen, "My Deadrise, My Flies and My Beer" has earned him a following among local fishermen.

     Many of the boats will arrive on Friday, October 10, and drop anchor for the night in Meyer Creek. Following the free breakfast for crews and the Skippers Meeting on Saturday morning the fleet will parade out to the racecourses. In route they will pass under an arch of water (weather permitting) provided by the Marina's fireboat "Squirt," a renovated Navy whaleboat equipped with high pressure water pumps. 

     Spectators will be able to view the races Saturday and Sunday from shore side or aboard their own boats. On Sunday, race spectators can board the Tides Inn's Miss Ann for a special Turkey Shoot cruise. The 120 foot long luxury yacht will afford a comfortable and luxurious elevated view from her upper deck accompanied by a buffet lunch with all the niceties this grand old relic of America's "Great Gatsby" era can provide. After the finish, the contestants will sail around the Miss Ann so the spectators can vote for the "Miss Ann" trophy given to the most beautiful yacht in the regatta

     Saturday evening, there will be a barbecue dinner hosted by Hospice volunteers followed by dancing to live music by the Carlton Newsome Band.

     On Sunday morning, after a free breakfast for the crews, there will be another race. Unlike the class races on Saturday which will be around an Olympic triangular course, Sunday's event will be a pursuit race. In this race each boat will start at a specific time depending on her rating. The slowest boat will start first and all other boats will try to overtake her. The first boat across the finish line wins. 

     At the completion of Sunday's racing, there will be the raffle drawing for donated prizes followed by a ceremony to award trophies to the overall regatta winner, the winners of the different classes, to the boat that completes all races and finishes last overall (the Tenacity Award,) and to the skipper of the most beautiful boat. Awards will be presented by the Honorary Regatta Chairman, Larry Chowning.

     To enter a boat in the regatta, registration forms are available at Yankee Point Marina or skippers can register online at www.yankeepointmarina.com. If you have questions, call Karen Knull at 804 462-7018. 
The evening events are open to the public. For Steve Keith's concert, tickets may be purchased at the event or call Yankee Point Marina at 462-7018. Tickets to the Saturday night dinner and dance are $20.00. For the Miss Ann cruise with its buffet lunch and special activities, tickets are $50.00 per person. These can also be purchased at the Marina from Karen.

     Proceeds help provide funding for the four hospices, which, in a region with so many elderly, touch a remarkable number of lives. The event is also a boon for the boat owners and their crews; it makes the special burden of owning an older boat more satisfying. And lastly, for all of those who get a chance to see these lovely boats under sail, it helps remind us of a more graceful and less hectic time, when one could leave the worries of the land behind and enjoy the quiet and simple pleasures of one of man's most noble pastimes.

Photo credit:
Skipjack being passed by Jerry Latell, winner of the 2002 regatta in his Flying Scott. 
Photo by George Fugere

 Skipjack being passed by Jerry Latell, winner of the 2002 regatta in his Flying Scott.

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