New Year’s regatta attracts ‘none but the brave’
December 29,2006
Anne Clark
Daily News Staff

Jan. 1 could bring hard, blustery winds or gentle sunshine to coastal Carolina. If you’re on the couch watching football, the temperature swings don’t matter much.

And if you’re racing in the None But the Brave regatta, you’ll be on the water regardless, wearing foul-weather gear or flip-flops.

“One year we had to send out a motorboat to break up the ice; last year we were in shorts and T-shirts,” said retired Lt. Col. Richard “Pops” Preble, who won the regatta in 2005.

“You never know what you’re going to get in North Carolina.”

Come Monday, Preble will be on a boat — between 5 and 15 vessels show up any given year — celebrating the New Year by doing what he loves: setting out on the beautiful New River.

The None But the Brave regatta has been in place since the 1980s, said Vince Palancia, another avid boater and a retired Marine major.

“One race we started it was 45 degrees, and there was so much fog over the water you couldn’t see the front of the boat,” Palancia said. “Boats got lost, but everyone finished.”

That’s the mood of the regatta: loose and with nothing at stake except bragging rights.

“We race for fun; this isn’t NASCAR,” said retired Master Gunnery Sgt. Kevin Meadows.

The sporting event is sponsored by the Ragged Point Yacht Club and their counterparts across the river, the Morgan Bay Sailing Association, which is made up of boaters who keep their boats at the air station.

The Ragged Point Yacht Club is part of Gottschalk Marina aboard Camp Lejeune, which is where the None But the Brave race will begin.

The race committee won’t post the exact route of the regatta until the day of the race, depending on wind conditions; some races have been as long as 10 miles.

“One year we had wind blowing 20 - 25 knots,” Palancia said. “You grit your teeth, drink a lot of Scotch, and keep going.”

But this “heavy air,” or winds of at least 15 knots, can be an advantage for some skippers.

“My boat’s a lot heavier, but when she starts rolling it’s like a diesel freight train,” said Palancia, who will be racing in “Resolve,” a Bristol 2999.

Palancia’s boat suffered heavy damage earlier this year, when Tropical Storm Ernesto swept over the marina.

The storm sank several boats and caused about $7,000 worth of damage to “Resolve,” Palancia said. She may not be as pretty, but she’s structurally sound and ready to go.

The yacht club and sailing association members are mostly active duty or retired military and their families. The military bond only strengthens the natural lines between those who love to sail.

“Even with no wind, you’re drifting, but the banter between the boats is great,” said Meadows, who recently returned from working as a contractor in Iraq.

Boating can be an expensive hobby, but young troops with no sailing experience are welcome to the regatta. Skippers will bring them aboard and teach them basic sailing skills as they go.

Even a novice team can win a race, as did Meadows in his first None But the Brave entry in 1996. That year, he said, he was still calling the boat’s bow the “pointy end.”

The weather on Monday is supposed to be in the mid-70s with intermittent rain.

But it could be squalls and whitecaps and still, “the hardcore sailors,” Meadows said, “will get out there and race.”

Gottschalk Marina is located on Julien Smith Road, just before Hospital Point.

The marina’s winter hours are Thursday - Monday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Gottschalk offers rentals on canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, row boats, and Sunfish boats; they also offer periodic sailing classes. To learn more, call 451-8307.

For details on the None But the Brave regatta, call 545-5199.