By ALEX SPONSELLER After missing last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual CJ Buckley Regatta was back in action earlier this week in East Greenwich Bay. CJ Buckley was a local sailor that was described as a fierce competitor and the ultimate
By ALEX SPONSELLER After missing last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual CJ Buckley Regatta was back in action earlier this week in East Greenwich Bay.
CJ Buckley was a local sailor that was described as a fierce competitor and the ultimate team player during his career. Two weeks before his 16th birthday and just two days after winning a regatta, Buckley was diagnosed with brain cancer and passed away after a 16-month battle.
In the following summer of 2003, his parents, Carter and Lucy, along with many in the Rhode Island sailing community established and held the first-ever regatta in his honor out of the East Greenwich Yacht Club.
Since then, the regatta has grown to not only one of the state’s biggest sailing events, but one of the largest in the country. Last year would have marked the 18th consecutive year that the regatta was held, and 2021 marks the 12th year that it serves as the Club 420 Association’s National Junior Team Race Championship.
Sailors travel from all throughout the country, especially the northeast, to compete in the event as well as some kids from countries outside of the US. This year’s regatta hosted 22 teams and over 100 sailors.
“We started trying to plan early this year and in April, the state would still not allow it. Things changed, luckily, and here we are. We have enough teams and are hosting sailors from all over the country as well as the Virgin Islands. We usually hold much of it inside but have had to move it outside, and we realized that it is actually amazingly efficient. We’ve had to make some modifications, but we have been able to do it all,” said Carter, who thanks a pair of brothers who were friends of CJ’s that have been hands-on since the beginning. “Justin and Kyle Assad, from the onset, ran the event on the water and on the land as well. It’s so great to see many of these sailors return each year. We look forward to seeing them, too.”
“It’s good to be back. Last year, we missed it. Last year would have been the 18th consecutive year that we held it, but we’re happy to be here. It’s a tribute in CJ’s memory,” added Lucy. “Many of his sailing buddies are here and come back year after year. It’s like a reunion, many of his old friends are now married with kids. Five of the original families are still helping out. It’s a labor of love that is run entirely by volunteers. It’s all in our son’s memory.”
Lucy felt that the regatta’s return and strong turnout encapsulated the spirit of CJ as well as the annual event that has touched the lives of so many.
“In the past year, so many of us have had to live in isolation, fear and anxiety. The kids have experienced that, they’ve had to experience living through a very dangerous illness. Them coming back to this even though it’s different, it kind of reaffirms the circle. That circle of close friends, family and fellow sailors. It’s a renewal - life will go on. They’ve lived through those times and are stronger because of that. It reaffirms those values. It matters to them to come back and to honor their lost friend,” said Lucy.
More than anything, the Buckley’s and company were thrilled to honor CJ’s memory the best way they knew how.
“His joy was team racing. The strategy on the water, figuring out how to outmaneuver your opponent. He always said, ‘Sailing is life, the rest is just details.’ If he was here today, he would say, ‘We’re back,’” Lucy said. “The fact that a young kid made such an impression on those around him that they are still returning 18 years later, it’s remarkable. It depends on a lot of people and they come through.”