The affable Rear Commodore of one of the friendliest yacht clubs in the Northeast, Dave Knecht is an enthusiastic dinghy and keelboat sailor who enjoys both racing and cruising.

“My father was my main mentor,” says Dave. “He learned to sail on his own and then taught me over the years. We both began racing at North Shore Yacht Club and learned in parallel, but mostly he taught me the joys of sailing.”

“My first boat was an OK Dinghy named Sköl. I raced that boat from 1969 until about 1973, and then started crewing on a friend’s 5O5. After we raced in the 1971 5O5 Worlds, I started graduate school and sailed 470s with the University of Wisconsin sailing club. When I finished my degree and moved to San Diego, I took up windsurfing and continued to do that after my wife Lori and I moved to Connecticut in 1987.”

“As the kids got older, I wanted to introduce them to sailing and joined Sail the Sounds out of Mystic for several years. They were not terribly interested, so I started looking for a place to get back to dinghy racing and discovered Thames Yacht Club in New London, Connecticut and their Force 5 fleet. I raced a few times on a borrowed Force 5 and then bought my own. After several years I decided I wanted a keelboat to race and cruise, and purchased a 1980 C&C 34 in 2005. I sold it when Lori and I moved to Scotland for a year in 2011, and when we got back we spent the winter of 2013 visiting boatyards all over New England looking for our next boat. We finally found it a mile up the road from TYC at Eastern Yacht Sales. Aries is the updated version of the C&C 34 we had owned, and she perfectly fit our needs.”

“This is my third year as Rear Commodore of TYC. There is an active cruising group that ventures to various destinations every summer. Last year we did a memorable tour of Narragansett Bay, and this summer we’re going to the north shore of Long Island as far west as Oyster Bay. We’ve ventured as far east as Martha’s Vineyard on the cruises Lori and I have done.”

“My main responsibility as Rear Commodore is running TYC’s racing program. I recruit race committee and help with course decisions and handicap scoring. I also maintain the Racing page of the club’s website, and work with the Regatta Committee on the running of our two annual ECSA scored races; the Cal Brouwer Memorial Regatta (June) and the Commodore’s Trophy Race (August).”

“The Force 5 fleet has been racing for many years and we’ve added a few younger sailors over the last few years. We race every Thursday evening in the Thames River off the club beach. This year we’ll be joined by a group of sailors who have purchased and restored classic Finns. This former Olympic singlehander has been around since 1949, so used boats are plentiful and we expect to have five Finns racing this summer. We’re hosting the first annual Thames River Finn Championships July 13-14. In addition to Thursday night racing we have an annual Fall Dinghy Cruise, when we carry coolers of sandwiches and drinks to Waterford Beach or Pine Island for a picnic lunch.”

Starting this year, TYC has reformatted the Cal Brouwer Memorial as the Cal Brouwer Memorial Shorthanded Challenge for single- and doublehanded crews. “I’m sailing in the Shorthanded Challenge,” Dave explains, “but single- or doublehanded will depend on entries. If we have enough solo skippers for a class we’ll have two classes and I’ll race solo. If not, I will likely race doublehanded. We’re trying this race for the first time to encourage skippers to try shorthanded racing, and while there are regattas with shorthanded classes, this is the only dedicated shorthanded race in the ECSA schedule. Many skippers complain about the difficulty of getting crew to race, and for me this is the solution. I started singlehanding during Covid, and once I got the mechanics worked out I found it challenging but enjoyable.”

“As a dinghy racer for much of my sailing life, this seems more normal than having a bunch of people on the boat. I sometimes race doublehanded with Tom Loughman, another member of the Force 5 group. I manage much of the making the boat go fast, while Tom monitors the wind, current and competitors to make tactical decisions. Having another skipper on board is a big advantage over singlehanding, and last year Tom and I won the Essex Rum Challenge shorthanded class.”

When we met Dave at TYC last August, he was preparing to take his grandson for his first sail. “Theodore Knecht Strongwater was 2 years old. Lori (aka Grandma), son Zach, Peri (Teddie’s mom) and my nephew Ben Smolin were aboard for that adventure. Teddie is a very cautious child, and we were concerned he might be hesitant to get on the boat. The opposite turned out to be true. He visited every nook and cranny from bow to stern, above and below deck as we sailed. I’m looking forward to a few years from now when I can register him for the TYC youth sailing camp so he can learn to sail.”

“When I am sailing, especially singlehanded, all the troubles of the world and anything bothering me just disappear. My attention is only on the boat and making it sail fast, with everything else tuned out. Aries has an autopilot with a remote, and I love the sensation of sitting on the bow and watching her power through the waves. I know a lot about the physics of sailing, but I still find it mysterious and magical and I never tire of it.” ■