Sailing goes way back on my mother’s side of the family (see the Family History page for more). Although I sailed a little when I was very young, my passion for it didn’t really develop until later. When I was eleven, my parents thought it might be a nice idea if I tried the summertime sailing classes being given at Larchmont Yacht Club, a few miles from where we lived. We had a 23’ sailboat named “Cielito” we kept there, and my dad raced it on the weekends. We also cruised occasionally, sometimes taking longer trips to places like Mystic Connecticut.

So I joined the class, and had an okay time, I guess. We mainly sailed Blue Jays (tiny, 11’ long training sloops), and the focus was primarily on racing. As the next summer approached though, sailing was the furthest thing from my mind. I had imagined a great summer spent hanging around doing nothing in particular with the neighborhood kids. You know - a twelve year old’s leisure-time dream. Then my mother made a shocking announcement: she had enrolled me in sailing class again! I was stunned! She hadn’t even asked me!

Well, ultimately, twelve year olds do what they’re told to, so when the fateful day came, off I grimly trudged to sailing class, year two, day one. Visions of dread and boredom danced in my head. As I approached the Junior Clubhouse, I forced my feet to climb the stairs, entered the big room where all the kids met each morning and...

...recognized a whole bunch of friends I’d forgotten I‘d made the year before and...

...started having the time of my life!

Thus having proved, once and for all, that parents actually do know better (sometimes), I began a series of summers spent sailing that still stand in my mind as some of the best times of my young life (next to playing drums in the band!). I spent the next six summers there, the highlight of which was my selection at age 14 to the “Midget Championship” crew representing Larchmont at the biggest event of the year for sailors 14 and under.

That’s me on the left, age 14, tickled pink to be part of the Midget Championships. Doug Campbell, kneeling, was the skipper, and Basil Lyden, right, completed the three person crew. Susan (sorry, I’ve forgotten her last name) was our designated instructor

Only three of the dozens of kids in the class could go and I was chosen as one of them! We sailed the championship regatta in Noroton, Connecticut against 40 other club teams and came in second, losing narrowly to Noroton’s own excellent crew. It was one of the greatest thrills of my entire youth, and the trophy still sits next to the ones I earned later as an adult.

Speaking of which...

After my family moved to Ohio when I was a senior in High School (can we say “culture shock”?), I wasn’t able to do much sailing for many years. The occasional outing on my parents’ boat (by that time, a 41 footer) or the even rarer Caribbean bareboat vacation (we kept our clothes on) was about it. By the mid 80s though, my career had developed to the point where the fantasy of owning my own sailboat had become technically feasible. A few trips to boat shows later and the feasible had become the doable. In the winter of 1985 I did it; I bought a new Jeanneau “Sunrise” 34, a comfortable cruising sailboat that reportedly also had some potential as a racer. Hoping she’d turn out to be fast, I  named her “Presto”, which is sheet music language for “play at a quick tempo”. Some great fun was had early in the season cruising with friends and family to various harbors and anchorages, staying overnight, cooking dinner, swimming, videotaping ourselves acting like idiots, etc.

The really pleasant surprises began when we entered our first competition, Larchmont Race Week, in July, and came in 5th - quite unexpectedly good for a first outing in a field of 20 or so experienced racers. Later that summer we won another local race, for our first victory. Over the next seven seasons we won an impressive bunch of silver plated “pickle dishes” as some like to disparagingly call them, the collection of which still sits on display in my studio, atop the Ecoplate III plate reverb (gotta make a connection to audio here somehow, right?). A photo of me and my crew shot from a helicopter by noted marine photographer Tom Leutweiler hangs a few feet away in the hall.

Presto, on her way to winning Larchmont Race Week in 1988. Longtime friend Doug Campbell (see the Midget Championship photo above) was aboard again

I sold Presto in 1993, with no regrets, but sailing, and racing in particular, has continued to be a huge part of my life. These days in the summertime I mostly race aboard “Lora Ann” a great racing boat (an Express 37), also out of Larchmont Yacht Club, owned by Richard duMoulin, a distinguished racing sailor, whose father managed most of Dennis Connor’s America’s Cup campaigns.

The Lora Ann crew. I’m second from
the left. Rich is third from left


         Lora Ann, at her mooring in Larchmont Harbor

Rich himself also crewed with Ted Turner (yes, that Ted Turner) aboard “Mariner” in an America’s Cup campaign in the 70s. Over the last ten seasons we’ve racked up a pretty impressive record, locally and not so locally. Rich and a friend also recently set a world record for a doublehanded trip (only two crew, total) from Hong Kong to New York, nonstop, in a 55’ trimaran - a record that had been held for over 100 years by a clipper ship.

In the wintertime, I stay involved in sailing by racing a 36” radio controlled model called a CR-914, also at Larchmont. Visitors to my studio will often find it perched at the end of the dining table.

Part of the 40 boat CR-914 fleet in the 2003 Larchmont Model Yacht Club Spring Regatta.  Rich DuMoulin often serves as a judge in these events

I’m planning to enjoy sailing, along with making music, for the rest of my life!

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Ted Spencer Recording