Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chasing Roosters

Back in June I received an email from the one and only Baydog, the author of 829southdrive which is the best blog on the planet about tortillas and penguins and oysters and pointy football.

He wanted to know if I would like to borrow a DVD called Chasing Roosters. I had no idea what he was talking about but I humored him and said that it I would love to borrow his DVD and maybe I could even write a blog post about it. This is that blog post.

Chasing Roosters?


I had heard of roosters chasing people.

But why would people chase roosters? Is it some weird sport that they play down in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey?

A few days later a DVD arrived in the mail and the next free evening I settled down in front of my DVD playing machine to watch Chasing Roosters… and it turned out to be all about sailing. In fact it is a DVD made to celebrate 100 years of sailboat racing organized by the Barnegat Bay Yacht Racing Association.

And then I remembered. Baydog often writes fondly on his blog about his memories of his childhood summers spent with his family racing on Barnegat Bay. And he had even written a couple of times about the tradition of the Rooster flag...
When one wins a Bay race, he or she receives the class Rooster flag to keep for one week. Write your sail number and race date on the flag before returning it the next Saturday. Some sailors like to see their name as well. Hmmmm........On the last Saturday of the summer, the winner keeps the Rooster. 

And in 1977, Baydog's father won the Penguin race on the last day of the season and so he got to keep the Rooster flag from that year. And Baydog, being a sentimental kind of person, kept that flag after his father died. Who wouldn't?

So that's what Chasing Roosters is all about. 100 years of sailors racing every summer weekend on Barnegat Bay. It is a very professional production and is narrated by Gary Jobson, himself a boy who grew up racing on Barnegat Bay.

The movie follows a season of racing on the bay, showcasing each club that hosts the races (a different one every week) and the various classes of boat that participate in the BBYRA races, with numerous interviews with sailors of all ages. The videography is superb with many aerial shots of the sailing and sequences filmed on board the yachts during races (with some judicious editing of on-board audio that was too "salty" I suspect.)

What comes across is an overall impression of a wonderful community of people brought together by their love of sailboat racing. Many of the interviewees spoke of how important the BBYRA scene had been to their families over 4 or 5 generations, and clearly the racing there is very much a family activity with youngsters encouraged to learn their racing skills by crewing for their older family members and friends.

Another persistent theme of the movie is the friendships that are formed between the members of the different clubs in BBYRA. With 13 clubs all within 10 miles of each other and with racing rotating to a different club each week, there is clearly a strong community linking all the clubs and many bonds of  friendship (and romances and marriages too I suspect) between the clubs.

There is some heartbreaking footage of the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, but it was very gratifying to see how it didn't break the spirit of the BBYRA and how they somehow managed to carry on with another racing season in 2013 even if some of the clubs were in ruins, and homes and boats had been smashed to pieces. Sailing has a very high priority in the lives of these people.

I wasn't as lucky as Baydog was to grow up in a family sailing environment like BBYRA. But after we moved to New Jersey in 1989 I did get to visit some of the clubs in the BBYRA for Laser regattas for me or Optimist regattas for my sons, and it was good to see those clubs in the movie…

Lavallette YC - whose Laser regatta was always one of the first I sailed each season and where I took my son to an Optimist regatta of which he later wrote, "What happened in the summer of 1989 at Lavallette Yacht Club on Barnegat Bay is without doubt the highest point in my life so far." One of the people at Lavallette who welcomed me and my family to his club was John Applegate and I was very pleased to see him in the movie.

Island Heights YC - where I sailed in at least one Laser district championship and also took my sons for some junior events.

And Mantoloking YC where I took some of my Opti sailors to a junior regatta when I was the Head Sailing Instructor at Hopatcong YC. There was a huge fleet of Optis at the event and I think my students were blown away by the experience of sailing with so many other kids, mainly from the Barnegat Bay clubs.

So it was no surprise to me that in the Chasing Roosters movie, time and again sailors spoke of their club's and their own personal commitment to junior sailing and from what I could see of the size and excellence of the junior programs and the commitment to intergenerational participation, BBYRA is in great shape for many more decades of chasing Roosters.

The video below by Peter Slack isn't from Chasing Roosters but it does have a similar feel to it. The Barnegat Bay A-Cats are only one of many one design fleets raced in BBYRA, but perhaps they exemplify more than any other class the tradition and style that is Barnegat Bay yacht racing.



Joe Rousé said...

Sweet story and nice vids.

bonnie said...

Excellent review!

Tillerman said...

Thanks guys. If you get a chance do check out the Chasing Roosters DVD.

Baydog said...

Thank you for your take on this film, Tillerman! My favorite line, however, came from your son's comment: "What happened in the summer of 1989 at Lavallette Yacht Club on Barnegat Bay is without doubt the highest point in my life so far." That statement rivals anything I've ever said about the Bay, and gave me goosebumps.

Tillerman said...

Thanks Baydog. The context of that comment by my son was that he actually won that Optimist regatta, the first and only time he ever won an Opti regatta. He sailed it again the next year but by that time he was already getting a bit too heavy for an Opti and he didn't do so well.

Funny thing is that when I talked to him on the phone yesterday evening he couldn't remember writing it at all. I guess he's had a few other high points in his life in the last 25 years, including being the father of four of my amazing grandchildren.

Baydog said...

Yes, I suspect that high point has shifted somewhat.......

Blair said...

Would love to see the DVD as I have raced Thistles at Lavallette. How can I get a copy? Is it on Netflix? :)

Tillerman said...

Maybe Baydog can answer the question of how to buy the DVD. There is a book associated with the project too. In the meantime there is quite a long trailer for the DVD at

my2fish said...

Great review Tillerman.

Baydog said...

Blair, go to: to order book and/or video.

Lara Walsh said...

Thank you so much for the kind review. Barnegat Bay is certainly a special place. Lara Walsh co-author and producer with Dan Crabbe and Gary Jobson

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