Thursday, on the eve of the 13th annual Vineyard Cup weekend of competition among a variety of sailing craft, large and small, Brock and Hope Callen, the operational backbone of Sail Martha’s Vineyard (SailMV) since 1993, said farewell to the flourishing nonprofit they guided and grew from its volunteer beginnings.
SailMV, host of the weekend of racing, kicked the fun off at its yearly dinner, auction, and fundraiser at Ralph Packer’s Tisbury Wharf Co. dock. And the Island nonprofit celebrated the occasion by naming the Callens as the recipients of the nonprofit’s Walter Cronkite Award, named for the CBS newsman and Edgartown resident who died in 2009. The honor recognizes those who love the sea and sailing, and who recognize the importance of encouraging young people to sail and acquaint themselves with the Island’s marine history, all of which is the foundation of SailMV’s work. Other Cronkite Award recipients have included Capt. Robert S. Douglas, master of the schooner Shenandoah, and Steve Ewing of Edgartown, the dockbuilder and poet. Cronkite was an honorary chairman of the organization.
Since 1992, SailMV has grown so that today its annual budget is about $750,000, but its mission is unchanged. More than 400 youngsters now participate in its summer sailing program, and SailMV supports a year-round rowing program, wooden boatbuilding, as well as marine educational training, leading to careers in the maritime industry.
“Brock and Hope have built Sail Martha’s Vineyard into so much more than a youth sailing program,” Peggy Schwier, SailMV president, wrote in a letter to attendees at the organization’s Friday dinner. “They have put Sail Martha’s Vineyard on the map.”
And Matthew Stackpole, historian, fundraiser, lifelong sailor, and himself a Cronkite Award winner, cataloged the contributions to SailMV made by the Callens: “The high school sailing team, professional courses to prepare individuals for Coast Guard license tests, a significant regatta, a maritime science curriculum offered at the high school, several larger vessels, an understanding of our responsibility to the water around us, and the concept of sustainability.”
For his part, Brock Callen, who with his wife is leaving SailMV, celebrated both the history of his tenure and his hopes for the organization: “Sail Martha’s Vineyard is about to enter a new chapter of its life. Change is good. I’m with it, but there’s one thing that we hope doesn’t change. That’s what got us out of bed in the morning. That was to realize the incredible opportunity that we had to have a positive impact on the lives of the kids. What an incredible opportunity. As we move on, I can’t tell you how much Hope and I appreciate the acknowledgment. It has been our incredible pleasure. We hope this organization continues to have the soul that we see in it.”
The Callens — he was an investment banker — were summer visitors to the Vineyard. They decided to stay on one year after Labor Day, and Brock Callen served a stint as a truck driver for Trip Barnes’s enterprises, then was asked to help lead the effort to build a rehabilitation program for young, troubled boys who had had run-ins with the law. Called the Penikese Island School, it was based in Woods Hole and on Penikese Island in Gosnold, which comprises the Elizabeth Islands. That experience in the difficult-to-finance efforts to redirect the lives of young people led to his joining the fledgling SailMV in 1993. Hope Callen came aboard in 2000 as the efficient manager of SailMV’s growing operations.
Callen, 71, says he has no plans, except to spend more time at sea, particularly in marine and environmental research voyages. Hope Callen has begun work as a paralegal. They have three children — Brock, Amy, and Alixe. He promises a continuing, friendly connection to SailMV, though he said he doesn’t know how the organization will use him. “That’s not for me to decide,” he says.
This year’s revenue includes donations, fees, and other income from the sale of boats given to SailMV by people and businesses in nine states and three countries. That happy result is in part owing to Callen’s push to create the Vineyard Cup 13 years ago. He says the goal was a push to enlarge the circle of financial support with what he calls a “recreational regatta,” not the sort in which bigtime professional sailors in the fastest racing sailboats participate. Instead, he said, his goal was a weekend in keeping with SailMV’s mission — well-run, social, fun, involving young people, and attractive to sailors of all sorts of vessels, including well-known members of the Vineyard’s own fleet and famous vessels such as Mystic Seaport’s schooner Brilliant, the British sloop Blue Peter, and the world-famous Herreshoff-designed ketch Ticonderoga. There was a dinner and a party for participants after each day’s racing.
Particularly important to Callen, the Vineyard Cup weekend was a zero-waste event. One thousand meals were served, along with an uncounted number of beers and other drinks, and the just-plain-trash left after the cleanup filled just one medium-size cardboard box, with mostly plastic bags that had held the ice that kept things cool.
Tough sailing, especially for Classics
Vineyard Cup racing this weekend was frustrating for larger, heavier, and older boats, especially for the 12 members of the Classics group. Light air and boiling currents stirred by moon tides played havoc with all 72 of the registered racers. Still, the competition was good-natured, and the after-race parties were happy.
Three Vineyard vessels led the Catboat class. Alice Goyert’s Pax, an 18-footer, won the class. Zena, Skip Richheimer’s 18 foot Marshall cat, was second in the overall standings for cats. Charles Bowman’s Julia Lee came in third.
Among the Classics, sailmaker Ben Sperry of Marion sailed his New York 32 to first place in the weekend’s racing. Revenoc, a Sparkman and Stephens–designed yawl owned by Richard Herbert of Calgary, Alberta, took second place. The Herreshoff R-Class sloop owned by Peter McClennen of Newport, R.I., was third.
In the Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF) class, racing without spinnakers, Providence, owned by Stuart Halpert of West Palm Beach, Fla., took first honors. Kitty Hawk, owned by Winthrop Sanford of Swansea, was second, and Penelope, owned by Mo and Pam Flam of Vineyard Haven, was third.
In the second non-spinnaker, PHRF division, West Tisbury’s Brian Roberts’ Aileen, a just-launched Sparkman and Stephens–custom designed, carbon fiber, sloop-rigged daysailer, was the winner. Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard owner Phil Hale’s Tango was second. Bill Jacobson’s Vanish was third.
Stephen Besse of Vineyard Haven won the PHRF spinnaker division in Apres. Scheggia, owned by Timothy Golin of Chilmark, was second, and Hard Tack, owned by Mary Schmidt of Falmouth, took third place.