Special to the Daily Boater
Joe “Wild Thing” Manganello was a legend in Connecticut in the sport of sailing. He was one of the people who brought the discipline of the sport called beach catamaran racing to the masses, through the sailing program he ran at the Madison Surf Club he introduced thousands of people of all ages to the sport he dedicated his life to. Joe was known for his monster (in beach catamaran terms) boat, the Hobie 21 “Wild Thing” that was over 25ft long with spinnaker pole extended and 14ft wide with the capability for 3 people to trapeze off of the windward wing at one time.
Unfortunately Joe suffered an unexpected illness he couldn’t recover from and passed away August 7, 2007. His death hit the sailing community hard but the decision was made to carry on with the sailing program he founded at the Madison Surf Club. In May 2008 the first annual Joseph Manganello Memorial Regatta began at the very beach he used to teach people to sail out of. It has since become an annual tradition to hold a regatta in his honor. Most of the people involved in running the regatta are former students of his who either have taught or currently teach at the sailing school he ran. Many of the participants, myself included were introduced to the sport by him.
For this year’s regatta I was scheduled to be working as a volunteer assisting the race committee however John Epprecht had recently purchased a new boat and offered one of the other sailors (Alex Mckissick) and myself the chance to use his old boat. In total 18 boats raced (14 Formula 18s, 1 Hobie 16, 1 Dart, 1 Hobie 18 and 1 Prindle) in 2 classes (Formula 18 and open) 9 super competitive races over 2 days. Saturday was foggy and windy with left over chop, not ideal conditions but still race-able. Work and family obligations have kept me mostly off the water for the past 4 years but I was surprised at how easily it was to pick it back up despite sailing on an unfamiliar boat with an unfamiliar skipper in less than ideal conditions. At the front of the pack Mike Easton and Sam Burd picked up where they left off last regatta and won 3 of the first 4 races. The last race of the day was the most interesting as the wind completely died making for a long final leg then even longer drift/ paddle to the beach. Upon arriving on shore the generous volunteers had hot food and cold Narragansett beer waiting for us, a good way to end the day.
The second day dawned sunny with very little breeze on shore but the decision was made to start on time and to try and get 5 races in. The breeze on the course was 12-15 knots with slightly higher gusts and left over chop from the day before. We ended up sailing 5 good races. The top 3 boats in the F-18 fleet respectively were Mike Easton and Sam Burd, Bob Merrick and Tyler Burd, Todd Ricardi and Brendon Scanlon. We all packed up our boats quickly ahead of an incoming thunderstorm that never really materialized followed by the awards ceremony.
Throughout the entire regatta Joe’s spirit seemed to live on, as three teams suffered rigging damage that could have easily ended their regattas but all managed to repair their boats.
There are too many people to thank to list everybody here. The main ones are the town of Madison Parks and Recreation Department for allowing us to take over their beach year after year for the regatta. All of the organizers and people assisting during the event, John Epprecht for letting us borrow his boat. Last but certainly not least I’d like to thank Joe “Wild Thing” Manganello for introducing me to the sport that now controls my life!
All photos in this article are by Chris Muckle