By MARGIE WUEBKER
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
He also remembers the incredible rush of adrenaline as the proud
Intrepid nipped the American Eagle at the wire to claim the
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
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
“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