Wednesday, June 10, 2020

J/35 HOUQUA - A Great Boat Recalled Twice in 48 Hours

J/35 Houqua
J/Boats co-founder Bob Johnstone, had provided us a "Throwback Thursday" perspective regards sailing his J/35 HOUQUA back in the mid-1980's.  Here was his commentary...

"An Easter message, perhaps from Job 1:21? 'The Lord Gave, and the Lord Hath Taken Away.' Yes, within 48 hours that beautiful, dark blue J/35 HOUQUA, was the cause of a happy phone call on April 5th.  48 hours later it recalled a dramatic moment in the life of a friend and shipmate that had recently passed away. 

The happy phone call was to meet and converse with two new friends on April 5th, Cheryl Miller, HOUQUA’s (now named DEAN’S LIST) current owner and boat yard owner Dean Fitzpatrick.  Then 48 hours later, I learned that Dayton Carr, with whom I had shared a dramatic yacht race, passed away.

J/35 Houqua at Block Island Race WeekDayton, and by coincidence another Dean (Matthews), sailed with me on HOUQUA in what I recall was the New York Yacht Club's 1987 Queen’s Cup. We had the race won handily in 30-35 knot winds with many boats having dropped out. It was blowing so hard that with 100% blade, the main was sometimes totally ragged, if not sailed on just the battens.  HOUQUA was on the starboard layline about 1/2 mile from being first to finish. Dayton was wincing in great pain, having cracked or broken a rib, falling against a cockpit winch and not being able to hike. John Marshall’s Hinckley 42C DRAGON FIRE was approaching on port about a mile to leeward.  When what to our astonishment did we witness?  The New York YC Race Committee fired off 3 guns to abandon the race. What a bummer!

There are trophy races that are listed in a given year as “No Race” or “Not Awarded”, but the 1987 Queen’s Cup is the only major trophy race listed in the NYYC Yearbook as “Race Abandoned”. 

Seas were very rough with the RC Boat (Black Knight?) rolling to such an extent, and likely with injured and very sick committee members aboard, they pulled up anchor to head in. 

At the time, HOUQUA and DRAGON FIRE were in plain sight about to finish. Couldn’t see anyone else. The RC probably decided that a half-dozen other boats were still a half hour or more from finishing... and, with more than half the fleet damaged or having retired: this was not a race, but “survival”. There would only be a few boats listed in the results. Survival to the finish was, for the crew of HOUQUA, a huge yacht racing challenge. In any event, to successfully overcome those challenges was one of life’s great moments for a great boat and crew.

We felt so badly for Dayton, who had given up a rib for naught. On the way back in, off Castle Hill, John Marshall’s DRAGON FIRE gave up a part as well: it’s binnacle and wheel.... yanked completely out of the deck when John lurched against it in a wipeout.  Yes, it was quite a day of sailing!"