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Veterans take prominent role in Comet race

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Warren Foggo (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Two competitors from the 1960s will take centre stage at the 75th Edward Cross Long Distance Comet Race on Monday.

Colin Pearman, 87, who took part in the 1964 race, which features the two-person, Comet class one-design.

Mr Pearman competed in Oriole, which he built himself, and this time will be the official starter when the race gets under way at the West End Sailboat Club on Watford Island, Sandys at 11am.

Warren Foggo Jr, 79, who competed in his own boat, Iona, in 1969, will present the awards after the race finishes at East End Mini Yacht Club after 3pm.

Organiser WESC, said older members were invited to get involved in recognition of their efforts getting sailing clubs up and running.

Mr Pearman said: “It’s an honour to start the race.

“It gives me the opportunity to give back to the comet organisation the joy I got from sailing.”

Mr Foggo said: “I feel very good about making these presentations. I feel honoured to be asked.”

Mr Pearman recalled how he fell in love with sailing after being introduced to it by a friend when he returned to Bermuda from college. He said: “I enjoyed it so much that I thought about getting a Comet of my own. I couldn’t afford to buy one, but I knew a little carpentry so I decided to build one.”

He had that boat for about ten years.

Mr Pearman described Comet racing as an important part of Bermuda’s history.

He said that all Comet racers built their boats in the early days of the sport, and often used them socially and for work.

Excluded from the island’s sailing competitions because of segregation, the clubs organised their own race for the mid-June Queen’s Birthday holiday.

He said: “It was quite popular back then especially for those who did sailing. This was what the black guys did at the time.

“The Comet provided a springboard for many to race and sail.”

He said all boats are now imported, but added: “It has changed for the better.”

Mr Foggo built Comets for other people as well as his own.

He recalled the excitement of the race throughout history, and said up to 40 boats participated when he raced 50 years ago.

Noting that 16 boats will take part this year, Mr Foggo added: “There aren’t as many boats now as it was in my time.”

A spokesman for WESC said: “This year’s race has proved to be an opportunity to bring the clubs and the community together in a very special way.

“This race honours and celebrates those members of the various clubs who have worked hard to keep this race going for this its 75th year.”

Participants in this year’s race include last year’s winning skipper, Malcolm Smith, sailing for WESC in Summer, and the most successful skipper in the race so far, Stevie Dickinson, sailing for EEMYC in Kitty Hawk.

Colin Pearman