|Bob Baranaskas, Leader of Youth Sailing|
|Letters from Friends|
A dynamo and a true renaissance man, Bob excelled at all he undertook. Trained as a CPA, he became bored of that profession and entered the business world, rising to president of the RJR Nabisco Spirits division. He left that comfortable position in the 1980s and gambled all to buy a distillery. This venture was a success and Bob sold his company in 1992. He and his wife Cynthia were living in Northport, NY near Northport Yacht Club, and raising their sons Chris, Brian and Erik and daughter Dana.
With his sons enrolled in Northport YC’s junior program, Bob saw a need for more youth sailing opportunities than an 8-week summer program could offer. He’d started and supported traveling soccer and snowboard teams and realized the same formula – guest coaches, intense practices and pre-regatta practices at event venues – could apply to youth sailing. Other very important ingredients were time off and fun.
When Bob broached the idea to Nancy & Bill Jorch and my wife Colette & I, we initially thought it was crazy. When he said we’d be driving our sailors to the Great South Bay to practice in better wind and waves, or Shelter Island, I thought “who is going to do this?” But we ran the idea by our oldest son, John III, who at the time was about 9, and he thought it was great.
That was 1994, the first year of the Cow Harbor Sailing Team (bearing the original name of the town of Northport). From the beginning, Bob insisted CHST would not be limited to experienced sailors; any interested Optimist sailor was welcome. He provided the resources, buying coach boats and a trailer, and eight or ten sailors traveled to numerous events with coach Travis Weisleder. The Cows were born!
Jay Kehoe, who had coached several USODA World, European and South American Teams, came on as head coach in 1995, bringing a whole new perspective on Opti sailing. The team adopted the Long Island Lighting Company’s public boat ramp in Northport as its headquarters. Although this venue lacked bathrooms and hoses, it allowed for great sailing with quick access to the Sound.
We organized a practice schedule that took the team through the fall to the “winter circuit,” including the USODA Midwinters, Orange Bowl and Valentine’s Day Regatta. After a three-month break, CHST hit the water every weekend from March thru the Team Trials in May. Practices went from 9 to 5, with meetings in the parking lot, and drysuits were required equipment…as was Colette’s hot chocolate.
In 1996, the team competed in the Pacific Coast Champs on the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon and the North Americans in Vancouver. One of the trip highlights was skiing on Mt. Hood in July! The team expanded, with sailors from as far away as Massachusetts, the Carolinas and Puerto Rico, and a very strong team spirit with all things involving cows. Our youngest son, Ian, age three, was the mascot and often carried a toy cow. Bob loved Ian and his Cow.
As manager, Bob worked with coaches to determine the schedule and with parents to manage the team’s movement, giving endlessly of his time and resources. He was always extremely fair to the kids - and tough on parents. Once, a sailor disobeyed a coach’s instructions regarding safety, and the coach and “advisory” parents were ready to expel him. Bob, seeing how this experience could make a difference in the child’s life, convinced us to keep the sailor and ban the parent from practice.
Seeing the Town of Huntington’s need for a community boating facility, we founded the Huntington YMCA Sailing Center at Centerport Beach. Bob donated several coach boats and six 420s. This center has given sailing lessons to hundreds of children, teens and adults. Bob backed CHST’s expansion of the Huntington Y’s learn-to-sail program with the development of the Northport Bay Sailing Association.
Many will remember NBSA as a member of the Junior Sailing Association of Long Island Sound, where YMCA sailors entered the JSA system. With help from Centerport YC, NBSA hosted numerous JSA Championships. As the PRO, I came to rely on Bob and his yellow Mako as my leeward mark boat. By the time of the 2002 Opti Champs, he’d taken up flying WWII planes as a hobby. When I went to recognize him at the awards ceremony, he was nowhere to be found. After the trophies were presented, a gleaming silver P-51 Mustang came roaring over the CYC Lawn and it dipped its wings - Bob’s salute to the sailors.
Earlier this decade, CHST evolved into LISOT (Long Island Sound Optimist Team) under the leadership of John Hammel (whose daughter Leigh was a Cow). CHST sailors have, to date, garnered 25 College Sailing All-American Awards (including Women’s College Sailor of the Year) and won major championships in one-designs and beyond. Amanda Clark and Stu McNay skippered 470s at the 2008 Olympics. Charlie Enright sailed on Roy Disney’s TP 52 Morning Light in the 2007 Transpac Race, starring in the movie of the same name. Charlie, John Storck III, Erik and Kaity Storck competed at the 2009 Team Race World Championship in Australia. Stu and Erik Storck are on the 2009 U.S. Sailing Team Alphagraphics. Bob’s dedication, discipline and work ethic were infectious. No matter what level they compete at, all CHST alums love the sport and truly are “sailors for life.” That was Bob’s vision. My son John raced in college with a hat that had the initials “CND.” I asked what it meant and he replied, “Cows Never Die.”
Bob, you were a Cow.
John Storck, Jr.