Three Generations of Sailors

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For the Albrechts, sailing is a family affair.

Avalanche, owned by Al and Craig Albrecht at the 2014 New York YC Race Week
Avalanche, owned by Al and Craig Albrecht at the 2014 New York YC Race Week

Sailing is a family sport. In the ’50s, the late Walter Cronkite started looking for some kind of recreation his growing family could enjoy together. He’d been racing cars, but realized that “was not much of a family sport.” Then he happened on sailing one summer in upstate New York. “I loved it from the start,’’ he once said.

Avalanche is rounding the mark at a recent Manhasset Bay YC Fall Series.
Avalanche is rounding the mark at a recent Manhasset Bay YC Fall Series.

Many families have had the exact same experience. Al and Karen Albrecht were introduced to sailing during their honeymoon in Bermuda in 1965, got hooked, and when their son, Craig, was born, they introduced him to sailing at an early age.

Al and Craig would venture out for day sails and rented Bullseyes (16-foot daysailers) from the Sigsbee boat yard, before joining the Port Washington Yacht Club (YC) in 1978. Their first family boat was a Hunter 30. The father and son began competing in the Cow Bay Cruising Association Series known as Thirsty Thursday—big boat racing on Manhasset Bay—for several years and were eager to be more competitive.

In 1982, the family upgraded to a C&C 37. “After finishing second in the Around Long Island Race in 1982, we were hooked on racing,” says Al. In addition to racing, the Albrechts regularly cruised with the Port Washington YC fleet to other ports on Long Island, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Here's the good-looking and very experienced crew on board Avalanche during a recent New York YC Race Week
Here’s the good-looking and very experienced crew on board Avalanche during a recent New York YC Race Week

After some time in junior sailing, Craig graduated to big boat racing. “I was very fortunate to get involved with some great programs and sailed in regattas from Rhode Island to Florida,” he says. In 1989, after a few years with other programs, Craig and Al began campaigning a J29 named Instigator, which continued for several years. In 1996, they upgraded to a J105 named Avalanche, which they sailed until 2000.

Subsequently, in 2001, a new Farr 395, also named Avalanche, was commissioned. In addition to the family component of racing, much of the crew is comprised of longtime friends and local sailors who have been sailing with the Albrechts as far back as 1989. Local sailors Arthur Buhr, Kurt Finkbeiner, Paul Famighetti, Anthony Dekkers and Kevin Bachner have all been part of the sailing team for years. Speaking of their loyal crew, Craig says, “It’s been a key to the longevity and success that we have had…having a core group of longtime friends and family sailing together is especially rewarding.”

The first generation of sailors, Al and Karen Albrecht, parents of Craig and grandparents of Griffin and Carson, enjoyed an evening by the bay at Port Washington YC.
The first generation of sailors, Al and Karen Albrecht, parents of Craig and grandparents of Griffin and Carson, enjoyed an evening by the bay at Port Washington YC.

Craig’s oldest son, Griffin, began sailing in an Optimist boat, a small pram type of boat that everyone refers to as Optis, at the Port Washington YC, and eventually moved up to a Laser. He often sailed with his father and grandfather at local events and competed in his first Vineyard race at age 14. This 238-mile yachting classic, started by the Stamford YC in 1932, takes racers from Stamford to Buzzards Bay and back. As a result of winning Block Island Race week in 2009, another prestigious East Coast regatta, Craig was invited to sail in the Bitter End Yacht Club Pro-Am Regatta in Virgin Gorda. Craig jumped at the chance to bring Griffin as his guest since it was a unique opportunity to sail with and against Volvo Ocean Race and America’s Cup sailors Ken Read and Paul Cayard, among others.

From left: Second-generation sailor Craig is flanked by his sons Griffin and Carson
From left: Second-generation sailor Craig is flanked by his sons Griffin and Carson

Griffin captured the essence of this regatta: “It was a great experience—not just the racing, but getting to meet professional sailors off the water.” The experience was the basis of Griffin’s college admission essay. He is attending the University of Vermont and was a junior sailing instructor at Manhasset Bay YC this summer.

Griffin’s younger brother, Carson—an avid lacrosse and football player—also began sailing at an early age in the Opti program at Port Washington YC. He often joins his grandfather, father and older brother at local events such as the Port Washington YC Day Race and Charity Cup. Sailing is in their blood.

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Andrea Watson is a Port Washington-based maritime photographer and journalist. She writes Port Washington News' column On The Bay and is currently the Executive Secretary of the Yacht Racing Association of Long Island Sound (YRALIS).

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