Young sailors race in memory of CJ Buckley


They could have used a traffic director at Goddard Park Beach yesterday.

“You’ve been here for 15 minutes, get moving,” one of several adults on the beach yelled. “You can get your sails up when the boats are in the water.”

At his urging, the pace picked up. Funneling onto the sand from a cut between the seawall and the parking lot came a stream of 420 sailboats pushed by their skippers and crew on two-wheel dollies. As soon as the dollies hit the sand they came to a near stop, and adults and other crew members stepped up to help push them to the waters of Greenwich Bay.

This year, 33 teams of three boats each are competing in the 12th annual CJ Buckley Regatta/Club 420 Association National Junior Team Race Championship. The races, which last about 10 minutes, started yesterday and continue through Wednesday.

This is an intense regatta, with teams from across the country and as far away as California, the Virgin Islands and Bermuda competing. About 250 young sailors are involved.

But John Morgan of the Club 420 Association says the Rhode Island event – started to celebrate the life and sailing passion of CJ Buckley – is a “fun time” in an otherwise stressful circuit for these hard-core competitors.

“It’s awesome,” he said, “It’s relaxed. Kids love to team race.”

The regatta falls between the North Americans that were just held in New Jersey and the Buzzard’s Bay Regatta that is next on the 420 racing schedule. In those events, unlike the one here, individual boats compete against each other, rather than teams of three boats each. There can be as many as 120 of the high-performance sailing dinghies on a starting line.

Morgan said the sailors are exhausted after the intense racing, and “this is like a party afterward.” He explained the sailors get to switch boats and spend time socializing.

Listening to Carter and Lucy Buckley, their son CJ would have loved the regatta. CJ lost his battle with brain cancer in 2002, and the following year some of his closest friends, knowing of his love for team sailing, started the regatta with the backing of the East Greenwich Yacht Club and the Greenwich Bay Sailing Association. For a while the regatta was held at the yacht club, but as it grew in popularity everything shifted to Goddard Park.

Justin and Kyle Assad, Tyler Baeder and Austin Brown were instrumental in starting the regatta in memory of their friend.

“CJ’s enthusiasm was contagious. It was a gift to everyone who knew him, and we wanted to find a way to continue to share his courageous spirit with young sailors for a long time to come,” Justin, co-head coach of the Dartmouth University Sailing Team, said in a release.

Kyle added, “This event not only allows young sailors to build their skills and passion on the water, but also raises money for scholarships for new sailors to discover and share CJ’s enthusiasm for the sport.”

The Assads were on the water yesterday. Also continuing to play a role in the event is Tom Jacobellis, who crewed with CJ when he was undergoing treatment. He makes a point of returning for the regatta no matter where he is in the world, and his work takes him many places. Others also converging for the occasion were Kim and Courtney Murtha, Scott Milliard, Melissa Monbouquette, Alaina and Merri Varr and Jessica Langella.

“Don’t forget them,” says Lucy Buckley. “They have all been so much a part of this from the start.”

Brittney Manning of Team Chicago was one of those new to the regatta. She loves team racing.

“It really gets heated. There isn’t a dull moment,” she said.

This is Manning’s first visit to Rhode Island, and she plans to come back east this fall to attend the University of Vermont.

“I wanted to come east,” she said, “and I looked at all the sailing teams.”

Had she ever heard of CJ Buckley?

Manning said she didn’t have any idea of CJ until she did some research online. And she heard about CJ again yesterday during the skippers’ meeting.

Knowing of CJ’s love for team racing, she can relate to the boy who, on his application to Tabor Academy, wrote, “Sailing is life. The rest is just details.”

It’s what Lucy Buckley has hoped for.

“It’s more than winning,” she said of the regatta. “It’s remembering the spirit of this young boy.”


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