By Chris Wolford
My first Interclub was in 1968 aboard Doug James’ sloop, Blitzen, an Alberg 35. It was very kind of Mr. James to invite me to join his crew with my Dad. At 11 years old, yacht racing to Canada was the chance of a lifetime. It was also exciting to spend some time with my father, Atty. John Wolford, since he was always working. Even on Saturdays, his routine was to drop off his laundry bag full of soiled shirts at Frank’s Cleaners on his way to the office downtown, take in a little exercise after lunch at the downtown “Y,” and do the grocery shopping at Brown Bros. on the way home. This Saturday was going to be different. We would be on the starting line of the Erie to Dover race at 0530. Dad made sure I packed all the right stuff in my sailing/laundry bag just after dinner on Friday night. He and Mom dropped me off on the boat just after dark and headed for the EYC bar. Although he wouldn’t show it, Dad was always excited about racing in the Interclub Cruise. For Doug James and my father, the Interclub Series was anything but a cruise. This was serious yacht racing and they sailed to win. My Dad would get so nervous about getting to the boat by 0430 the next morning that he would not sleep a wink. So he and Mom would go over to the Club for a few drinks and to enjoy the fellowship that the Interclub is famous for.
Mr. James woke me from my bunk at 0500 with instructions to run up to the pay phone at the Canoe House and call my Dad. “Tell him he’s late” he said and “hurry up, the boat is leaving the dock in 15 minutes.” “Mom, did Dad leave yet?” “JOHN, WAKE UP, YOUR LATE” Connie shouted through the phone. Dad jumped out of bed, ran down the stairs and grabbed his bag and flew out the door. I walked slowing back to the boat watching Ravine Drive over my shoulder for his car. Nothing yet, so I jumped on board and got ready. The crew had tossed the dock lines and was holding on to the uprights with Blitzen halfway out of her slip when my Dad pulled up. “C’MON JOHN,” yelled Doug as he threw the boat in reverse. My Dad grabbed his bag from the back of the car, slammed the door and ran to the boat. As he ran out on the finger pier, he threw his bag over his shoulder and went right over backwards in to the water in the next slip. The laughter from Blitzen could be heard at the starting line. After the crew stopped giggling, they fished Dad out and welcomed him on board.
I don’t remember whether we were late for the start or not but do remember how entertaining my Dad was that morning. As we cleared the channel and set the spinnaker for Long Point my Dad went below to see how wet his gear got from his back dive. He appeared back on deck a few minutes later to show us the contents of sailing bag consisting of one pair of sailing boots and 7 dirty white dress shirts that were supposed to go to the cleaners.