By Laura Beigel
Sailors and enthusiasts alike gathered at the Indian Harbor Yacht Club in Greenwich, CT on Tuesday, March 12 for the first MudRatz fundraiser of the year where “Chief Executive MudRat” Brandon Flack announced the donation of two keelboats to the organization and its new initiatives for youth sailors. The evening, billed as “Charlie & Sam: Stories and Surprises,” featured a special presentation by The Ocean Race (formerly the Volvo Ocean Race) skipper Charlie Enright of Vestas 11th Hour Racing and Onboard Reporter Sam Greenfield, who shared stories from around the world. The fundraiser successfully launched the MudRatz towards their goal of competing in Block Island Race Week and other 2019 endeavors.
As we have come to expect from the MudRatz, the volunteer-run organization delivered an evening packed full of stories and surprises that left attendees inspired about the future of our sport. Flack opened the event with a moving video produced by MudRatz’ own Peter Cronin that showcased the many opportunities, memories and successes the program and its sailors have experienced so far.
“Thanks to the hard work from parent volunteers, supporters, industry partners and donors the MudRatz have been able to bring our mission to life in new and exciting ways for youth sailors each year,” stated Flack. “Thanks to Bud, Rick and the rest of the Sinclair family, this year will be no different. We are proud to accept their generous donation of the two keelboats Hotspur and Bellerphon, a Holland 40 and a Farr 40 respectively, to our now eight-boat program.” In addition to hosting the MudRatz fundraiser, Indian Harbor Yacht Club is the home club of the Sinclair family, the donors of Hotspur and Bellerphon. At one point in her life, Dreamcatcher, the Swan 48 donated to the MudRatz in 2018, sailed out of Indian Harbor Yacht Club as well.
The MudRatz mission is to provide youth sailors with opportunities to race on boats they otherwise may never sail and provide them with excellent coaching to give them the best chance to learn, improve, and continue to love and participate in the sport after junior sailing. With the new additions to their fleet, the MudRatz plan to take on Storm Trysail Club’s Block Island Race Week in June with their new Farr 40 Bellerphon. As part of their ongoing support of MudRatz, McMichael Yacht Yards & Brokers has donated storage, launching, and hauling for the boat.
“The plan for the Farr 40 is to start an additional keelboat and offshore sailing platform geared towards short course racing and tactics for the MudRatz,” said Taylor Walker, the program’s designated Farr 40 project manager. “We will be accepting and selecting applicants based on enthusiasm, effort and sailing experience just like we did for Dreamcatcher and its campaign for the Newport Bermuda Race last year.”
“As for the Holland 40 Hotspur, we will be using her as a community sailing platform for Connecticut and New England sailors,” said Flack. The intention is to have current MudRatz members who have offshore racing experience from the 2018 Newport Bermuda Race to give back to the sport by donating their time to coaching youth sailors in disciplines of our sport to which they otherwise would not have access.
The evening proceeded with Charlie Enright and Sam Greenfield’s presentation of their experience in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18, where the two noted the contrast between their own youth sailing careers and the opportunities MudRatz are creating and offering to youth sailors today. “Nothing like the MudRatz existed when Charlie [Enright] and I were growing up,” explained Greenfield. Enright added, “[Sam and I] had very different pathways through the sport to get where we are today. The only opportunity to me as a youth offshore sailor was Morning Light, and that’s where it all began for me.”
The evening concluded with a question and answer session where attendees got ask for more funny “never-been-told” stories from Enright and Greenfield on their adventures as well as about the MudRatz’ future plans. Flack was asked about how he and the MudRatz volunteers were able to grow the program so quickly and successfully.
“Frankly, it all comes down to our inability to say ‘No,’” Flack joked with the crowd. “When something comes our way, like a boat donation that can give us the chance to provide youth sailors with life changing experiences, how could we say no? So we say ‘Yes’ and figure out how to make it happen. We give the kids real responsibilities to put the campaigns together instead of just spoon-feeding them opportunities. We give them real ownership in their experiences.”
“The future of sailing is here in this room tonight with this program,” said Greenfield, “and I believe in everything it is doing for these young sailors.”
Laura Beigel is the CEO of Beigel Sailing Media.