Essex Yacht Club’s Sam Wetherill Overnight Race starts May 20

By Terry Ann Klee, Essex Yacht Club Communications Chair


Sam Wetherill (far right) on the bow of his Rhodes 32-foot ketch Tidal Wave, circa 1945 Photographer unknown. Property of Essex Yacht Club


Sub-chasers, ocean racing, and ukeleles! Yes, there is a connection. It took only one month for this year’s Sam Wetherill Overnight Race to get twenty-five registrations. Hosted by Essex Yacht Club in Essex, CT and set for May 20, many skippers see this race as a serious tune-up for races such as the Newport Bermuda Race. The 140-nautical mile course is sailed primarily in ocean waters. Sam Wetherill would give a satisfied nod.

Wetherill made significant contributions to ocean racing as we know it today. Lieutenant Commander Wetherill earned the Navy Cross for his distinguished service as Captain of a World War I sub-chaser. He loved ocean racing and held a passion for improving yacht design, especially increasing small boats’ stability at sea. As an editor of Yachting, Wetherill spearheaded the influential design section, helping designers identify beneficial and unbeneficial traits of offshore yachts for years to come. Such profound influence would seem reason enough to name a distance race in Sam Wetherill’s honor. But it’s not.

Who carries a ukelele to sea? Wetherill did! After a tough race, Navy sea chanties emanating from his Rhodes 32-foot ketch, Tidal Wave, entertained the entire harbor. Wetherill was also an early member of the Cruising Club of America and one of the first ocean racers to help establish the Newport Bermuda Race. He also shared his verve as Essex Yacht Club’s Commodore.

In 1951 at age 66, Wetherill went overboard from his anchored Tidal Wave and drowned in Sag Harbor. Essex YC memorialized his life a year later with the first running of the Sam Wetherill Race. For the NOR and to register, log onto ■

Previous Article