US Sailing Leadership Forum

By Kevin Wensley – Offshore Sailing School Director of Operations

I just got back from San Diego where I had been invited to speak at the inaugural US Sailing Leadership Forum. This is a “supersized” event that consolidated US Sailing’s National Sailing Program Symposium, One-Design Symposium and Yacht Club Summit into one all-inclusive event!

As an aspiring lifelong learner I’m always looking to fill some gaps and pick up some pointers.

Made me feel good

One of the high points for me was Gary Jobson’s welcome. A lot of what he said we already do well at Offshore Sailing School.

  • “Have annual signature events” – Race Week, Club Flotilla Cruises and Leadership Development programs.
  • “Host a charity event” – Steve and Doris’s acclaimed support of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) with more than $100,000 in cash and $at least $90,000 in courses for auctions given to LLS over the past 5 year; Offshore’s donation of our Colgate 26 fleet for four LLS Fantasy Sail Weekends recognizing fundraisers achieving more than $10,000 in donations annually; and a major fund-raising event to be announced in April 2014 (stay tuned).
  • “Take part in community outreach” – We support a local middle school in Fort Myers, Florida by rewarding high-achieving students with a one-week team building/sailing course concluding with a Regatta; and this will be our 3rd year of support for “City Sail,” an outreach sailing program for the inner city kids of Jersey City, NJ.

Entertained me

Ken Read, President of North Sails, gave a very entertaining talk about innovation, inclusion and being customer-focused. For many reasons Ken focused mostly on the “sport” of sailing, one design racing, Americas Cup, Volvo Ocean Racing – I actually thought the picture he put up of a foiling Laser dinghy was a spoof pertaining to the relevance of the A Cup and is it really good for the sport? It turns out such a thing exists and a simple kit can be used to adapt the conventional design!

Made me think

There were many Yacht Clubs represented at the forum, which were attended by individual member boat owners. One of the topics that came up was the idea of one-design racing. Many clubs do this using dinghy fleets in the summer but it occurred to me that for those clubs in the north, where winter temperatures hover close to or well below freezing, they should come and visit us in Florida and we’ll host a regatta for them on our Colgate 26 fleet.

Another extremely informative seminar I made it to was about using social media as a promotional platform. If I am to believe their matrix we should be coming up with one brilliant post, two good posts or three OK posts every week. Check out the Offshore Sailing School Facebook page and let me know how we’re doing.

Pleased to be able to share

There was quite a lot of talk about technology and its place in learning to sail. I was amazed that no one in the “Adult Learn to Sail” session knew of, or had developed an online learning experience. I was pleased to be able to share the work we have done with the Boat US Foundation. Our Online Learn to Sail course is now at an introductory price of $55. Check it out!.

At the “Sustainable Practices for Programs and Regattas” session it was cool to be able to share that we are testing sonic antifouling on one of our new Jeanneau 439s and the early indications are that this really works. This is completely harmless to sea life and I anticipate will reduce our use of bottom paint by about 75% on that vessel. If the trial is successful, I anticipate introducing the system to our other cruising boats.

My time on the stage

“Sell-Out Cruising Events: Mastering the Sailboat Sunflower” was the topic of the panel discussion I was invited to be a part of. Using Steve and Doris’s memories of organizing the first Offshore Cruising Club flotillas to frame what we do, why we do it, and why these cruises continue to be so successful, I was able to share some top tips. The single biggest influencing factor is word of mouth or indeed “word of thumb” from previous participants. Feedback from our cruises over the last 42 years has been extremely important but making sure we act on it has been paramount.
Check out this year’s cruises: The Apostle Islands in July and Thailand in December.

I also learned what a Sailboat Sunflower was – something to aspire to!

The technical sailing thing I learned

I never really understood why “mast sag” – athwart ships bending of the mast – would power up my mainsail when bent fore and aft would depower my sail. Now I do!

Spithill and Graduates at Annapolis Sailboat Show

Rainy 2013 U.S. Sailboat Show

Opening day at the 2013 U.S. Sailboat Show

Steve and I never saw the sun in four days of torrential rain while standing in our Offshore Sailing School and Colgate 26 exhibits at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, MD.

But there were plenty of highlights, not the least of which was our new location right across from The Moorings with their impressive 58′ catamaran hovering over our sleek Colgate 26.

And of course, we had a lot of fun with the start of Offshore Sailing School’s 50th Anniversary Celebration.

We hit the $100,000 donation mark for LLS!

LLS Donation

Steve and Doris Colgate present $100,000 check to Gary Jobson

On Thursday evening, we joined Marty Siederer (Senior director, Campaign Development for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society) for an evening at Gary Jobson’s home, sponsored by Cruising World and Sailing World magazines. Gary is the national sailing commentator, lecturer, and former America’s Cup sailor who was on the committee boat for the just finished U.S. America’s Cup victory in San Francisco. He is also the national spokesperson for the LLS Leukemia Cup Regatta (LCR) program, and a lymphoma survivor. Nearly every year during the show he and his wonderful wife open their home to sponsors, donors and friends who are blood diseases survivors. As a national sponsor for the LCR since 2009, Offshore Sailing School has donated $25 of individual course tuitions each year. This year our contribution total of $100,000 was reached just prior to the evening event!

Jimmy Spithill up close and personal

On Friday, we met Jimmy Spithill, who skippered Oracleto victory in a 19 race, nail biter series in this year’s America’s Cup. Purported to be “absolutely fearless,” during the races Spithill’s expressions were covered by big sunglasses and a helmet with a microphone.

Steve Colgate and Jimmy Spithill

Steve Colgate with America's Cup winning skipper - Jimmy Spithill

In one on one conversations and interviews with commentator Gary Jobson at the show, he was utterly charming with a wry sense of humor and terrific stories about what it was like to defend the cup for Larry Ellison and the United States.

We met him first on the Cruising World/Sailing World chartered 90′ catamaran Orion during a lunch presentation for advertisers (Offshore included) who supported the official Sailing World America’s Cup issue. Then, at 2 p.m. we and hundreds of sailors in a packed SRO banquet room at the Marriott, enjoyed a highly entertaining Jobson to Spithill Q&A. I took copious notes which I’ll put in the next blog.

Online Learn to Sail course officially launched

Friday evening Offshore and BoatU.S. hosted a press party in our booth to introduce our new Online Learn to Sail course. Despite the rain, most of the important media attended this wine and cheese party, asking lots of questions of me and Amanda Suttles Perez (Director of Education at BoatU.S. Foundation) as they viewed segments from the course on PC’s.

Over the two years it took to bring this Online Learn to Sail course to market, Steve and I worked closely with our own videographer, and Amanda’s team to produce a comprehensive educational tool with animation, quizzes and more for new sailors and those returning to the sailing lifestyle.

Karen and Kevin Marcilliat with Steve and Doris colgate

Steve Colgate, Karen Marcilliat, Doris Colgate and Kevin Marcilliat

Many Offshore grads stopped by

Throughout the five days of the show, which ended on a sunny Columbus Day, lots of Offshore Sailing graduates showed up at the booth.  This is always the best part of the show – so gratifying to see so many happy sailors living the dream.

Mark and Janet Gorrell, who took the Live Aboard Cruising course at our St. Petersburg, FL location in 2003, returned in June 2013 from a one-year circumnavigation on their Island Packet 465 At Last.

Karen and Kevin Marcilliat, who Steve and I met in February 2011 while they were in the Fast Track to Cruising course in the British Virgin Islands, now live in Trinidad. You may have seen them featured in our ads, website and brochures. It was great to meet up with them again and hear they were shopping for sailboat to cruise the Caribbean.

Mark and Janet Gorrell

Circumnavigators Mark and Janet Gorrell

Todd and Lois Gillenwater who took the Fast Track to Cruising course on one of our catamarans are also featured in our ads, including that Sailing World America’s Cup edition. They dropped by several times as they made their rounds – perhaps looking for a boat too.

George and Michelle Lewis took the Offshore Sailing School Fast Track to Cruising course at South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island, FL several years ago.  Mark Turner and Brian Van Leeuwen were there instructors and the cruising boat then was a Hunter 50. Our students today learn on our new Jeanneau 439s.

While I’m now happily back in the warm Florida sun, our boat show team – Beth (Director of Marketing), Kevin (Director of Operations), Jacek (Manager of Offshore-St. Pete) and Christy (sales associate) – are packing up.

Todd and Lois Gillenwater

Graduates Todd and Lois Gillenwater with Doris Colgate

Kevin will be delivering that gorgeous navy-blue Colgate 336 to its new owner in South Carolina as he heads back home to our Florida headquarters. And, oh, he sold hull 337 and probably 338 at the show!

Happy Sailing!

Doris Colgate
CEO and President



James Kayko of Lima, New York is the winner of Offshore Sailing School’s “Win a Sailing Getaway” contest. George Day, Blue Water Sailing magazine publisher, and Andy Cross, Managing Editor of Cruising Compass, Blue Water Sailing and Multihulls Quarterly, chose James Kayko of Lima, New York as the winner.

“His story, Our Last Sail in the Fall of 2008, is a heartfelt and well written expression of what sailing and the Offshore Sailing School have meant in his life,” wrote Day. “That he continues to sail is both a tribute to his wife and to the enthusiasm and skills you kindled in him.”

James won a six night/seven day stay at the beautiful Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina on Ft. Myers Beach, FL and the use of one of Offshore Sailing School’s Colgate 26 throughout the week. Is story is about a two-hour sailing lesson he took with his wife, Eileen, at Offshore Sailing School. Here is James Kayko’s winning entry.


“My wife was told her cancer had returned and she had a year to live. She had previously made the tough decision to not fight the cancer any longer, but to enjoy her last year of life free of the chemo.

When we were first married she had used the money she was saving to go to Hawaii for our first home. I had promised her that I would take her there, but with kids in college we hadn’t made it. Now I wanted to uphold my promise, but we knew the long trip would be too much for Eileen to physically handle.

Friends recommended Captiva Island. With the help of AAA we stayed at South Seas Island Resort. I had read that Offshore Sailing School was located at the resort, and I hoped we could get out to sail at least once.

2013 Sailing Getaway Contest Winner

James Kayko and his wife Eileen enjoy a two-hour sailing lesson at Offshore Sailing School

My only sailing experience had been a Christmas gift Eileen had given me on a large schooner located on Seneca Lake. Eileen didn’t think she could handle a long sail but agreed to try a few hours. It was a beautiful sunny day with medium winds from the east. Our instructor Dave was awesome and we had a wonderful time. He was kind enough to take a few memorable pictures of us. You can see from Eileen’s smile and laughter that she was having a great time sailing.

These pictures of Eileen bring me both smiles and tears. When we are battling cancer we get so few moments to forget our problems and really enjoy life again.

In November of 2009 Eileen passed away from the cancer, and to help me heal, I began crewing on a race team out on Lake Ontario. We have had some very exciting days on Ontario, but none has ever come close to the few wonderful hours sailing with my lovely wife of 32 years off Captiva Island.

I have wanted to write this for some time if only to share her story, but I never could get through it.”

James Kayko – Lima, NY

Colgate 26 “Shines” for U.S. Sailboat Show

Colgate 26 hull #336 arrived in Annapolis last Friday for the U.S. Sailboat show that starts Thursday, October 10. Offshore Sailing School’s St. Petersburg, FL branch manager, Jacek Wierzbicki, who delivered the boat from the Precision factory in Palmetto, FL, proudly polishes the beautiful new Colgate 26. This boat is already sold and will be on display in the water during the show, which runs through Monday, October 14. Visit Offshore Sailing School and the Colgate 26 in slips S4 and S5, and learn about boat show specials.

Anyone interested in ordering a new Colgate 26, can see that Offshore truly cares!

For more information, visit

Colgate 26

New Colgate 26 arrives for U.S. Sailboat Show


Offshore Sailing School Honors Controller, Sheila Leppanen, for 20 Years of Service

Sheila and Gary Leppanen

Sheila and Gary Leppanen

On Friday, August 23, 2013 Sheila Leppanen celebrated 20 years of service as Offshore Sailing School’s controller at a gala party at the Sundial Resort on Sanibel Island, Florida.

Enjoying the festivities with Sheila was her husband Gary and most of the Fort Myers and Captiva Island sales, management and faculty team, their spouses and friends. It was a festive evening, starting with cocktails and a yummy spread of hors d’oeuvres in the Sea Breeze Cafe.

Playing for our entertainment and those of resort guests was the popular Danny Morgan Band. It was hard to resist getting out on the floor to step the light fantastic to the many familiar tunes filling the air. “Reminded me of being back in the Bahamas and British Virgin Islands,” I thought as I grabbed Steve for a dance.

Hosted by Steve Colgate and me and organized by our Director of Marketing, Beth Oliver, the evening segued to a private room in the Waterview Restaurant, where we chose delectable steak, chicken, pasta or grouper entrees . . . and then started the Sheila “roast.”

When Sheila started with Offshore, we had about one-third less staff and fewer branches than we have now. Her daily tasks, in addition to taking care of the sailing school, included everyday bookkeeping and planning for five retail stores which were sold 10 years ago.

The evening at the Sundial Resort was a huge “thank you” for running our accounting department and participating in our management decisions with such dedication over these many years.

Doris Colgate and Sheila Leppanen

Sheila wearing "life-saver vest" presented by Doris Colgate

We started the gifts and “roast” as dessert was served, starting with a presentation by me. “Sheila has never learned to sail,” I said, “so we think it is time and to make sure she’ll float we have a special vest . . . ” which was filled with small bottles of special liqueurs.  She wore it – and a huge smile – smartly.

The sales team headed by Director of Sales, Terri Bryan gave Sheila a package of goodies including a gift certificate to pamper herself at a nearby spa, called Spada.

And then we made Sheila queen for the night – first with a huge pair of glasses, a really tiny champagne bottle and a tiara – and then the special recognition trophy engraved with this message:

Thank you for 20 years of humor, friendship, efficiency, loyalty, and dedication!

Sheila Leppanen with award

Sheila receives recognition for 20 years of service

But it didn’t end there.  Sheila’s last bit of celebration brought tears to her eyes. Knowing that she and her husband, Gary, are country western fans and love to go to major concerts, Offshore presented her with a certificate for a weekend in Nashville that includes travel, meals, shows, and three nights at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.

It was a great night – a lot of laughter, applause and just good fun with our headquarters management and sales team and many of our instructors – and of course, their spouses and friends.

“Thank you Sheila, for 20 years and here’s to many more with Offshore!”

Doris Colgate

CEO and President




Offshore Sailing School sales team

Christy, Kim, Jenna and Diana with husbands and friends

Sheila Leppanen's party

Sheila receives tiara, glasses and teeny champagne bottle

Offshore Sailing School party for Sheila Leppanen

Joe, Scott and his friend, Joe and Terri


Offshore Sailing School faculty

Mark Turner with his wife, Rick Hinman and his wife, Kurt and Joelle


Sheila Leppanen's party

Gary and Sheila Leppanen with Steve and Doris Colgate and Kevin and Claire Wensley

Beth Oliver, Steve Colgate and Sheila Leppanen

Beth Oliver presents Sheila with Opryland gift certificate

Some of Offshore Sailing School faculty

Director of Operations Kevin Wensley with instructors Joe, Kurt and Joelle

Offshore Sailing School employees

Beth Oliver with her husband (standing), Helen Stevens and husband sitting with instructor Jeff Werner

Offshore Sailing School sales team

Our headquarters Sales Team


By Oleg Polishchuk

Participant on Offshore Sailing School’s Latest Blue Water Sailing Adventure
From Captiva Island, FL to Charleston, WV

Captiva Island, Florida to Miami – Magnificent First Night at Sea

Coastal Passage Making Course

Oleg Polishchuk at the helm of Offshore's Jeanneau 439

We sailed away on a sunny Monday afternoon. After swinging the boat and practicing a couple of tacks, we set off for Key West. Our first night at sea was magnificent. We had a very pleasant breeze that allowed us to sail on a reach at 5-6 knots through the night enjoying a fantastic display of stars.

In the morning, we were greeted by a couple of dolphins. They played with the boat for a couple of minutes posing for pictures and generally having a good time.

Gulf Stream Baptism

Just as we planned, by mid-day, we were at the entrance to the Key West channel, and in a couple more hours we were greeted by the Gulf Stream, who meticulously baptized us into true coastal passage makers. The so-called baptizing came in form of a 25-knot Northeaster,  rousing waves and our spirits 6 feet high. It was a jolly good ride for a while. The wind and waves kept us thoroughly entertained for many an hour.

However, after being close-hauled for hours on end, our exhilarating beating started to feel more like… a downright beating, indeed. Bruised an exhausted we were only too happy to bolt for Miami for a well-deserved R&R.

Miami to Charleston – Due North in Following Seas

The second stage of the expedition was much more peaceful. We left Miami with an ebbing tide making our way through choppy waves raised by the Southeastern wind. Once we left the harbor and set the sail, the going got much smoother.We were met by dolphins again who staged a fantastic show jumping from wave to wave, obviously sporting with us and having a great time.

From Miami the course was due North. We were in following seas for a night and a day enjoying frequent surfs that would carry the boat forward at 11 knots or more. Wind conditions remained challenging forcing us on occasion to deeply reef the main. We experimented with dropping the genoa altogether when the wind veered farther south. While a flapping genoa is not much fun, furling it deprived us of early warning signals indicating we might be sailing by the lee. So, the genoa was back pretty soon.

Collision Course on the High Seas

Coastal Passage Making Course

Captain Jeff Werner (left) and Oleg Polishchuk

One night, while on a starboard tack, we encountered what seemed at first like a Flying Dutchman trying to take us head on. Despite, or maybe in spite, of all navigation rules, it was sailing, as any respectable Flying Dutchman worthy of its name would, on a collision course. After long minutes of peering through the binoculars and a series of not so pleasant radio exchanges we figured out that the boat was crewed after all. It was sailed by a frightened couple heading God knows where and why. They lost the engine, and with just a foresail up they were pretty much at the mercy of the wind.We decided to be nice and did not complicate the matters any further by being sticklers to the navigation rules.

Veering Winds and the Milky Way

Another day and another night followed. The wind veered, and we had to deviate from our course to steer by 20-30 degrees before we finally tacked for Charleston, and then the wind died.  But before it did we enjoyed a fantastic star show featuring constellations and the one and only Milky Way, annotated by expert observations from Capt. Jeff. We hove-to and spent our last night at sea in a peaceful slumber interrupted now and then by intermittent and quite intriguing Securite calls from the Coast Guards.

Charleston met us with a cold morning, by the light of which we could clearly see the reason for the previous night’s radio activity. Right at the entrance to the harbor there was a Navy speedboat sitting snugly on the wave breaker. We docked soon thereafter at the city marina, gliding to the pylons as smoothly as an old man would ease himself into a hot bathtub.

We made it!

Thanks to Oleg for this delightful story about his Offshore Sailing School  Coastal Passage Making course with Jeff Werner as lead instructor.

2013 Contest for Sailors


Offshore Sailing School students sail a Colgate 26

Offshore Sailing School students sail a Colgate 26 in the Gulf of Mexico off the Pink Shell Beach Resort

The contest is official!  Now it’s time to dig into your memory file and send us a story on “How your experience with Offshore Sailing School has impacted your life.”

Anyone who has been touched by Offshore Sailing School is eligible.  Write a  story about a course, lessons, cruise, corporate or university adventure or other program you participated in at Offshore Sailing School.  Your story should be no more than 700 words and must be accompanied by at least one photo taken during your experience with Offshore.  No photo? Videos or drawings will work too.

Entries go in the 2014 Book of Memories

With Offshore’s 50th year right around the corner in 2014, all stories submitted will be gathered in a book of memories for the big 50th Anniversary Celebration in 2014.

Winner gets a week-long stay in sunny Florida with use of a Colgate 26

Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina

The Pink Shell Beach Resort on Ft. Myers Beach, FL

What a way to get away!  The winner of Offshore Sailing School’s 2013 contest will get a six nights/seven days stay for two people in a one-bedroom beach front accommodation at the Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina on Ft. Myers Beach, Florida — with use of a Colgate 26 throughout your stay. This great adventure is available up through December 31, 2014 and is valued at up to $2500.

Imagine you and a friend or loved-one, sharing cocktails on a broad lanai overlooking miles of sandy beach and a spectacular sunset. It’s all about the sunshine, with great sailing in the Gulf of Mexico, fun and funky shopping, incredible dining ranging from open air beach bars with Jimmy Buffet sing-alikes to fine restaurants with magnificent views.  Imagine stepping aboard your Colgate 26 anytime you like during your stay and gliding out into the Gulf with dolphins playing alongside.

Submit your story between March 1 and September 15, 2013

Entries should be sent to Doris Colgate at Offshore Sailing School. Email and snail mail addresses are below.  Judging will be done by Blue Water Sailing magazine.  The winner will be announced on or before October 15, 2013. Official rules will be posted here soon.

Not yet an Offshore Sailing School graduate or participant?

Well you have plenty of time to get involved.  There are so many options from two-hour lessons to 10 day advanced certification courses with three-day, five-day and seven-day options in between.  You can even participate in a corporate team building or university adventure program.  Check out the Offshore Sailing School site to find out more.

Contact Doris Colgate for an entry form:

Doris Colgate
Offshore Sailing School
16731 McGregor Boulevard
Fort Myers, FL  33908





Offshore Sailing School Ramps Up for 50th Year Celebration

Remembering 49 Years

Steve and Doris Colgate 1069

Steve and Doris on working honeymoon December 1969

In 2014 the Offshore Sailing School team will celebrate 50 years of continuous leadership in sailing education.

Our theme for the next two years is Remembering 50 Years!  As part of that theme we are collecting stories from our graduates of their most memorable times with Offshore Sailing School.  Your story can be about a Learn to Sail, cruising or racing course with Offshore Sailing School, going on a bareboat or crewed cruise with the Colgates, or some other encounter with Offshore.

2013 prize soon to be announced

The winner will get a special vacation at one of our destination resort partners. We will provide contests rules and announce just where that prize will be in our February blog and e-blast.

Steve and Doris in Tonga

Singing in Tonga 1992

And now for the BIG one . . .

We welcome your ideas as our team starts to roll out plans for our 50th year. In the meantime, take advantage of the 2013 contest dedicated to collecting memories of good times with Offshore. Yep, that’s Steve (in the middle) and moi (Doris far right) at a sunset impromptu poetry and song writing gathering of participants on the Offshore Cruising Club cruise in Tonga in 1992. Oh what a good time that was!

How Offshore began

Steve Colgate (my hero, partner and husband) started Offshore Sailing School at a cocktail party in New York City – November 1964. He met a guy with a boat, he had the expertise . . . and Offshore Sailing School was born.

How we got together

Steve and Doris with graduates in Yugoslavia

Steve and Doris with Offshore grads in Yugoslavia 1989

I met Steve when I took my second course at his school. My first course was learning to sail in July 1967 on Long Island Sound with one of his instructors in very light winds. I didn’t meet Steve then because he was in Newport, RI sailing on American Eagle in the America’s Cup Trials.

My second course was a very windy week at one of the Sailing Symposiums Race Weeks which Steve ran out of Grand Bahama Island in the Bahamas. Boy did I get my come-uppence then! One of my crewmates on the Solings we raced on was a pediatric orthopedic surgeon from Canada, who congenially slapped me on the back at our first breakfast together and said, “Eat up lass, we need all the ballast we can get today!” I weighed 100 pounds then.

Fun and rewarding years

Colgates aboard Sleuth

Aboard Our Ocean Racer "Sleuth" in 1979

Happily I found the man I would marry in December 1969 at that Race Week. And the rest is a whole lot of history and fun – opening new sailing school branches, setting up and leading so many cruises with graduates, traveling, sailing and more sailing.

It doesn’t seem possible that all that time has gone by. Our lives have been and continue to be fun and incredibly rewarding. This is the true sailing lifestyle!

I’ve included a few photos of past adventures with our graduates.  Dig through your memories and join us in celebrating 50 Years of Memories!

Doris Colgate

CEO and President – Offshore Sailing School 


Guess Where the Colgates are and Win a Prize!

Steve and Doris Colgate

Guess Where We Are and Win a Cap

As we head into 2013, we and all the team at Offshore Sailing School send our best wishes to you for a very Happy New Year! Since we live and work in sunny Florida we thought you might prefer a winter scene for welcoming in the New Year.

Be the first to guess where our travels took us, and we’ll send you one of our signature Offshore Sailing School logo caps!

Email your answer to

Good cheer, good fun, great health and success in 2013 and the years to come . . . and make sure you fulfill that dream to take sailing lessons!

Learn to sail, go on a bareboat cruise or get into sailboat racing and check another “gotta-do” off that bucket list.

From Steve and Doris Colgate
Offshore Sailing School founder (Steve) and tireless leader (Doris)


1979 TransAtlantic Race – An Almost Win

It doesn’t cost to look


Our ocean racer Sleuth in 1979

In 1978, Doris and I went to Newport to look at a beautiful 54’ ocean racing aluminum sloop named Demon that won the 1974 Newport to Bermuda Race under the name of Scaramouche. I read the ad and told Doris that we could never afford the asking price. In her inimitable manner she said, “It doesn’t cost to look.” We both fell in love with her and found a way (a nautical loan company) to make her ours.

I wanted to call her Legerdemain for the “sleight of hand” needed to be up with the big boats in an ocean race. Another choice was Five Kids in College in that we had no children and the campaign costs should be comparable to my buddies putting kids through college. Rats, the transom was too small for either name, so we settled on Sleuth, a popular play at the time. Racing is as cerebral as physical, so we felt the name was appropriate.

Our 10th anniversary celebration

I had raced to Cork, Ireland in 1969 and now there was another international sailboat race to Cork from Marblehead, MA. We both had found memories of that race.  I raced on Dyna, and Doris (who was then working for Yachting Magazine) flew over on Aer Lingus with a story assignment in hand. Since 1979 was our ten-year wedding anniversary, we decided to enter, but this time on our own 54′ ocean racer.

Preparing meals for the race

Normally Doris raced with us and did all the cooking, but this time she decided she’d rather fly over to greet us when we finished rather than spend two weeks cooking for 12 guys. I felt it was important to have a doctor on board and advertised in the New York Times for a “doctor who could cook.”  Shortly after I placed the ad, a gal who was helping us in the office yelled at me that “Dr. Cook” was on the line. He turned out to be an emergency room doctor who had served in Viet Nam. He knew very little about sailing or cooking, but he had great emergency medical experience so we took him on anyway, and decided to make the cooking as easy as possible.

For weeks every night after work, Doris would cook up a meal, which I would then put in “Seal-A-Meal” packets and place in the freezer in our one-bedroom New York apartment. We filled multiple ice chests with dry ice and added the meals to these coolers after they were frozen.

On to Marblehead

Steve steering Sleuth

Steve at the helm of Sleuth

Sleuth was already in Marblehead, with our crew getting her ready for the race. A few days before the start, Doris and I loaded up our Suburban with the ice chests and while I worked with the crew, Doris filled the freezer on the boat so that breakfast, lunch and dinner for each day was packed in the order they were to be eaten. Doris had prepared a menu for “Dr. Cook” to follow, which was posted in the galley. All “Dr. Cook” had to do was take the next meal off the top and heat it up.  We dined like kings.

A perfect light air start – good for morale

I learn something new in every race. We started in light air next to the committee boat. There were so many boats on the line that I couldn’t see the buoy end. Our tactician suggested we were early and should kill our speed, but I noticed the race committee member sighting the line was looking well ahead of our bow. So we went for it and got a perfect start. A good start is good for morale, even when there are thousands of miles to go.

And a near win

The race was uneventful and for a while it looked like we may have won. Jim Kilroy of Kialoa and Huey Long of Ondine both came to the boat as we tied up and congratulated us on a good race. Both boats were much bigger maxis and the owners had far deeper pockets, so it showed that sailing is made up of fine gentlemen for the most part. In the end, the Naval Academy entry, Patriot won, and it was well deserved. We were second.

Sleuth went on to compete in the infamous Fastnet Race from Cowes, Isle of Wight to Plymouth, England that August, which I wrote about in an earlier blog. This time we won our class.

If you’d like to learn how to be “first” come down to Florida and take our Performance Race Week with North U.

Steve Colgate
Founder and Chairman, Offshore Sailing School

Page 1 of 912345...Last »