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    John F. Kennedy: His Star Class Sailboat, Flash II, Which He Owned and Raced with Older Brother Joseph P. Kennedy in the Nantucket Sound Star Fleet. An International Star Class racing keelboat, the Flash II was purchased by the Kennedy brothers in 1934 and used by them for both pleasure sailing and competitive racing in the ensuing years. It is registered as #721 by the International Star Class Yacht Racing Association and its chain of ownership from construction in 1930 to the present day is documented. The body of this beautiful sloop finished in linseed oil-based white paint, with polished bronze fittings and wood trim; it is twenty-two+ feet long with a thirty+ foot tall mast as per standards for the Star class. The Kennedy brothers made quite a name for themselves in the Nantucket Sound Fleet racing circuit with this boat in the 1934 to 1940 time period. Due to extraordinary and painstaking restoration by a previous owner, Flash II is seaworthy and ready for your next day-sailing adventure.

    Highlight Video: JFK's racing boat, Flash II.

    The Star sailboat is a 6.9 meter one-design racing keelboat for two people. It was designed in 1910 by Francis Sweisguth, a draftsman for William Gardner's Naval Architect's American office as a replacement for the 5.2 meter Nahant Bug (an inexpensive daysailer). The first twenty two International Stars were built that first year and sailed in the waters off Long Island South. Since then, more than 8,000 Stars have been built. In 1932, the Star was added to the Olympic program where it competed in fifteen of sixteen consecutive games (save for 1976). There are currently 2,000 Star boats in active racing fleets.

    "I really don't know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it is because in addition to the fact that the sea changes and the light changes, and ships change, it is because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it we are going back from whence we came." -President John F. Kennedy, at the Australian Ambassador's Dinner for the America's Cup Crews, September 14, 1962.

    Star #721 was originally built in 1929-1930 by Ole Hope for the original owner H. B. Atkin of Manhasset Bay, Long Island, who raced it in the Western Long Island Sound fleet under the name Jubilee from 1930 to 1933. In 1934, he sold it to John F. and Joseph P. Kennedy who renamed it Flash II and sailed it the Nantucket Sound Star Fleet under joint ownership until 1940. This was their second Star sailboat (thus the "II" name). They had previously purchased Star #902 that was built for them by Parkman Yachts of Brooklyn and it was named Flash. Records show that they sold #902 in 1936. Obviously, #721 was the superior boat and the one they raced, participating in many competitions including the Nantucket Sound Star Class Championship in 1936 which they won. Racing for Harvard in the East Coast Collegiate Championship, they won the MacMillan Cup in 1938, besting two future America's Cup winners. A difficult boat to navigate, JFK's superior skills honed over years of summers spent sailing, led him to an unheard-of victory margin in the 1937 Atlantic Coast Championships. From a period accounting: "...the amazing win by John Kennedy in his Nantucket Sound Flash II in the last race by nearly four and a half minutes, an almost unprecedented margin for a Blue Star event."

    John F. Kennedy's love for racing this boat was well documented in the book John F. Kennedy: Man of the Sea by Tazewell Shepard (William Morrow, 1965): "Jack did not really like to crew; he preferred the greater challenge of command, where the competi­tion was more keenly felt. His behavior in a race contrasted, sharply with his usual witty and light-hearted attitude; racing was a serious matter, and a laggard performance by one of his crew did not pass without comment. Jack Kennedy loved best to race Flash II. Star boats were exceedingly tricky to sail because of their tall masts and narrow hulls, but Flash II was an especially fast boat and in it Jack Kennedy became an exceptional sailor, winning many races at the Wianno and Hyannis Port Yacht Clubs. Jack's victories in the Flash II were the cause of much good-natured bantering between him and his favorite opponent, Jock Kiley of Wianno. Kiley attributed Jack's success to the Flash //, which was the fastest Star boat around. The Kennedys main­tained, of course, that it was just a question of skill. Finally, to settle the matter, Jack Kennedy and Jock Kiley switched boats for one race. Flash // with Jock Kiley at the helm jumped to an early lend. The boat was running true to form, when in the middle of the race both boats were becalmed. As a little breeze began to stir, Jack took a different lark, as he often did. In the trailing position, he was the first to feel the effect of the wind. He hugged the shore line where the breeze was freshest and began to close the distance, managing to pull ahead at the end and-just barely-to win the race. There was no more switching of boats after that. Jack Kennedy at the helm of Flash II went on to win the Nantucket Sound championship in 1936 and represented the Sound in the Atlantic Coast championships, where he won one of the four races but not the title." (page 28).

    "From my first race on Nantucket Sound many years ago to my most recent outing as a weekend sailor, sailing has given me some of the most pleasant and exciting moments of my life. It also has taught me something of the courage, resourcefulness and strength of men who sail the seas in ships. Thus, I am looking forward eagerly to Operation Sail. The sight of so many ships gathered from the distant corners of the world should remind us that strong, disciplined and venturesome men still can find their way safely across uncertain and stormy seas." -Excerpted from a 1963 letter published in The Letters of John F. Kennedy, edited by Martin W. Sandler, (Bloomsbury Press, 2013), page 342.

    In 1940, JFK removed his brother's name from the boat's ownership record; Joseph had gone into officer and flight training in the U.S. Navy where he would earn his wings and pilot quite a different type of ship. John, who had joined the Navy and would skipper PT109, then sold the boat to Millard Vanderward of Casco Bay, Maine, who kept the same Flash II name. In 1948, Vanderward sold it to Ken Schwartz of Larchmont. In a letter written by Schwartz to a previous owner (copy included with lot) he relays his memories of #721: "In 1948 I swapped a Lightning I had restored for Star #721 from So. Portland, Me. and raced her out of Larchmont Yacht Club for two years until I sold her to a young man from, I believe, Portchester, N.Y. I never knew that J.F.K. had been a previous owner. I remember visiting H. B. Atkins, who in 1948 was residing in a hotel in Greenwich, CT., about his old Jubilee. I renamed 721 Sabik mainly because I could more easily center that name on the transom... I had a lot of fun in 721 although it was sometimes pretty wet and miserable beating to the finish line against Western Long Island Sound late afternoon chop."

    In 1950, #721 was sold to a Richard Percoco of Mamaroneck who gives his account: "I purchased her from paper route money in 1950, raced her on L[ong] I[sland] Sound, Mamaroneck area till 1955, Milford, Connecticut 1956-60, and day sailed her for many springs on St Georges Sound out to Dog Island when as an undergraduate at FSU, in 1962 Old Ironsides sold to Charles Morgan." The next owner of record was D. William Ehler of Clearwater, Florida, who purchased her in 1963. Ehler kept the boat in a shed from 1972 on and when he died in 1996, #721 came on the market through an auction.

    The most recent nineteen years of this venerable sailboat's life is incredibly well documented (a file of related research and correspondence is included). It was purchased by a car and boat restorer named Ole Anderson from the above-mentioned auction for $19,800 with the intention of restoring and then selling the historic sloop. With the help of shipwright Marshall Chap­man at the Marblehead Trading Co., Anderson stripped off the layers of fiberglass that had been applied to the hull, exposing the original wood. They repaired the spruce mast and keel, and replaced the pine deck. After weeks of filing and smoothing dents, Anderson applied eleven coats of white paint. With its polished fittings and varnished wood trim, Flash II was now restored to its original 1930s glory. "I'm kind of cursed with perfection­ism," said Anderson. "There is no halt on this project - it's a Rem­brandt. It has the appearance of a boat that was dipped in a big bucket of paint like a big, white candied apple. Everybody is pretty amazed it's not fiberglass." Meticulous repairs and restoration as needed were completed to the highest standards, and Flash II was exhibited at various museums and shows as Anderson sought a buyer at a million dollar price (an offer of $800,000 was reportedly turned down).

    The boat was seized by the DEA in late 2004 as "property derived from the proceeds of narcotics distribution" based on Anderson's conviction as a marijuana trafficker. Civil forfeiture proceedings were filed in February 2005 and the Flash II was sold at auction later that year arranged by the United States Marshals Service. This is how the current owner came to be the clear title owner of this piece of nautical and presidential history.

    Included with this lot is one of the trophies JFK won with Flash II. It consists of an art deco style base which held four deep blue glass tumblers decorated with white rope and anchor (two tumblers now missing). The base is engraved "Atlantic Coast Championship 5th Race Jack Kennedy." JFK apparently gifted the trophy to his trusted aide Dave Powers, and the present owner of the Flash II purchased it in the November 2013 auction of items from Powers' estate. The width of the trophy is 21 inches and the height of the glass tumblers is 3.5".

    Imagine putting to sea in the very sloop that JFK and his brother used to navigate the choppy waters of Nantucket Sound. The physical strength, competitive spirit, and mental sharpness that Kennedy gained from those years on Flash II served him well as he later guided the ship of state through some perilous times. An extraordinary and unique opportunity to own such a personal and important relic from such a beloved and revered leader as John F. Kennedy.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2015
    18th Monday
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