By Courtney Moore, CMB Creative Group
For over thirty years, the enthusiastic sailors of the Mystic River Mudhead Sailing Association have raised funds and awareness for worthy charities with the Mudhead Benefit Regatta & MegaParty. On Saturday, July 15, 2023, at Mystic Shipyard in Mystic, CT, under the Sperry tent with rock and roll from Wooly Mammoth, the annual Mudhead Benefit Cup Regatta & MegaParty netted over $15,000 for the Mystic-based nonprofit Always Home.
Tricia Cunningham, Executive Director of Always Home, said, “We are grateful to the Mudheads for their amazing support and the opportunity to share with new friends Always Home’s mission, Preventing Family Homelessness.”
Started twenty-five years ago, Always Home is a leading provider of homelessness prevention services throughout Eastern Connecticut. “Our goal is to work alongside families to stabilize their housing before an episode of housing insecurity spirals out of control,” said Cunningham. “By acting proactively, when a family needs help with the cost of a car repair, childcare or a past-due rent, we can get ahead of homelessness.”
What makes Always Home unique is a targeted focus on families with minor children. “A stable home is essential to a child’s wellbeing,” said Cunningham. “When we help a family stay housed, we’re giving children a stronger foundation to grow and thrive.”
“It was such an honor seeing our sailing community and our local community come together to support Always Home – teamwork at its best!” said Bethany Goddiess, co-chair of this year’s event. “It’s a good feeling knowing that we can have fun and make a difference at the same time, and I look forward to continuing the partnership for years to come.”
Thirty-two boats registered for the Mudhead Benefit Cup with five classes. The winners are Class One (PHRF Non-Spinnaker) David Kelly in Mast Transit; Class Two (One-Design) Liz Sistare’s Life Aquatic; Class Three (PHRF Spinnaker) Bob Bruno on Arabesque; Class Four (ORC) John Fries on Details; and Shields Class Lee Reichart on Rebel. The sailors also had the opportunity to set up Champion pages, a peer-to-peer fundraising platform. The highest fundraising team was Team Patriot (Toby Halsey/Courtney Moore).
The Mudhead mission is to promote camaraderie and fun among members by encouraging competitive sailing, managing quality races, fostering member participation in racing at all levels, and hosting memorable social events. In the words of Greg Gilmartin, Mudhead Past Commodore and race committee chair:
“In the beginning there was wind and water in the Mystic River. And upon the water there came small vessels, driven by steely-eyed boys and girls of summer. And when two of them would get together with their small vessels and their floppy sails, there would be competition. And others joined and soon there was passion. And then there was mud. Mud that clung to the tops of the highest tips of the masts that poked from the decks of the small vessels into the wind. Fragile, yet flexible, oft bent to the will of the wind and lo, these masts dipped into the deepest depths of the river and upon their return to the sky there was the mud. And the mud did cling to those tips and then dripped upon the deck from the highest heights. And oft it would drip on the heads of the steely-eyed boys of summer, who gazed upon the stains of the mud and saw that it was good.”
The Mudheads have, indeed, done very good things. In addition to a passion for sailing, they have raised over a million dollars over the course of thirty years and donated to worthy beneficiaries; they encourage youth sailing to ensure the continuity of the sport; they collect non-perishable food items for the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center, and they run other regattas thus guaranteeing a safe and competitive race.
The Mudheads have made the most of their opportunities to manage races over the years. The race committee team has won the accolades of the Eastern Connecticut Sailing Association with many awards for Best Managed Race and Best Circuit Party. And for the fourteenth consecutive year, this event is certified as a “Clean Regatta” by the non-profit organization Sailors for the Sea powered by Oceana.
The Benefit Regatta Committee starts planning in January with a culmination of a great race, a great party and money going to a charity that needs the influx of funds. This year’s team comprised Bob Austin-LaFrance, Tricia Cunningham, Matt Curtiss, Greg Gilmartin, Bethany Goddiess (chair), Ashley Lane, Courtney Moore (co-chair), Frank Murphy, and Heather Pike. This event could not happen without dedicated volunteers and without the team at Mystic Shipyard and the Helbig Family.
“The Mudheads and Always Home were a natural fit when we were choosing a new beneficiary,” said Courtney Moore. “I have worked with Tricia Cunningham – Executive Director of Always Home – on many projects over the last twenty years. Her passion for the community is palpable and her dedication to this event has been tremendous. Our entire team works diligently, and we could not do this without the many sponsors, auction donors, prize drawing donors and volunteers. It is a true partnership.”