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The Daily



08-30-03: Celina doctor races across waves


Dr. John Wilding likens the experience to winning the famed America’s Cup sailing competition. Only someone else took home the trophy.
The ophthalmologist, who operates Ohio Vision at 801 Pro Drive, participated in the third annual Victory at Sea Regatta July 19 and 20 in his native Massachusetts. This marks the second time he has taken part in the charity event which supports the mission of Battleship Cove, a maritime heritage museum.
American Eagle, Intrepid, Weatherly and Nefertiti, all 12-meter yachts with a rich America’s Cup heritage, took off like graceful birds, their wings folded and noses pointed into the wind, spectators later told him.
“I requested to be on board the Intrepid,” Wilding said. “She’s one of the most famous racing yachts of all time, coming within one race of being the only three-time America’s Cup defender.”
A smile breaks across his face as he talks about the three-hour experience that began on the waterfront at Fall River, Mass. He and fellow crew members saw plenty of action on the journey across picturesque Mount Hope Bay.
A light breeze ruffled colorful flags arrayed on each vessel as the sun rose higher in the cloud-strewn sky. The retired battleship U.S.S. Massachusetts, affectionately dubbed “The Big Mamie,” fired its canon signaling the start of the race. The thundering retort effectively drowned out cheers and war hoops from people on deck and those lining the waterfront.
“We were running several boat lengths behind a quarter of the way through the course,” Wilding recalled. “We actually were coasting and not even approaching 1 knot. Then we made some strategic moves to get free air and reached a maximum speed of 9.6 knots. We were flying at that point.”
Crew members, including those like Wilding who paid $400 to take part, stayed busy grinding winches, calling out nautical marks, trimming the sails and tacking or turning the watercraft. No one slacks with victory and bragging rights at stake.
“We really go at each other,” he added with a chuckle. “Everybody wants to be aboard the winning boat.”
Excitement dances in Wilding’s eyes as he talks about feeling the wind in his face and being so close to the other boats that he could reach out and touch them. Waves lapping against the hulls and air filling the sails created a distinctive sympathy.
He also remembers the incredible rush of adrenaline as the proud Intrepid nipped the American Eagle at the wire to claim the victory.
There was only one mishap — a winch handle struck one of the crew as the Intrepid’s 95-foot tall mast slipped beneath the imposing Braga Bridge. Everyone ducked perceptively but there was no fearing of hitting as the center span has a 135-foot clearance.
As shipmates celebrated, the unfortunate crew member looked for an ice pack to hold against his injured nose. Photographs indicate he settled for the next best thing — a can of beer from a well stocked cooler.
“People liken sleek yachts to ballerinas dancing gracefully across a stage,” he said. “Being out on the water can be so peaceful. However, it is one thing to go sailing and another thing entirely to go racing.”
A banquet followed the race, with the ship’s captain receiving the distinctive trophy fashioned from one of “Big Mamie’s” 3-foot shells. The captain admitted his wife had designs on the coveted memento — turning it into an umbrella stand for their foyer.
Decorative crystal pieces went to the regular crew for shipboard display. Wilding and others who signed on for either the Saturday or Sunday race brought home certificates, photographs and sunburns.
The race draws celebrities and this year was no exception. Former Red Sox slugger Dom DiMaggio returned as host and “Law and Order” star Sam Waterston came along for the ride.
“The dignitaries all sail aboard the American Eagle,” Wilding said. “Organizers put them on the boat they expect to win. Let’s just say things didn’t work out as planned this time around.”
Wilding took longtime friend Bob Tooley along as a 50th birthday gift. Their families remained on the dock.
The success of the Victory at Sea event enables Battleship Cove to provide educational programs to more than 60,000 youths throughout New England. The committee easily surpassed its $160,000 goal thanks to eager supporters like Wilding.
One of those programs matches young people with military veterans to foster values of duty, honor and patriotism. Another teaches underprivileged youngsters to sail as a means of helping them take charge of their lives.

The U.S.S. Massachusetts, part of the Battleship Cove Corporation, serves as the state’s official memorial for World War II, the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf Wars and the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Wilding, who learned to sail during his undergraduate days at the University of Rhode Island, has not been able to shake the sailing bug.
“Will I go back again next year?” he says pondering the enticing possibility. “Probably because I just can’t pass up the opportunity. It doesn’t get any better than this.”


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