By RENALDO DORSETT
AS the Bahamas continues to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Sir Durward Knowles and Cecil Cooke winning the country’s first Olympic gold medal, another member of the sailing community seeks to honour the feat at the upcoming National Family Island Regatta.
Eleazor Johnson said his Lady Natalie will sail under the name “Gem” at the 61st edition of the NFIR, April 23-26, in Georgetown, Exuma.
“Gem” was the edition of the sloop which Knowles and Cooke sailed to a gold medal finish in the Star Class at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
The “Gem IV” was sailed by Knowles and Sloan Farrington to a bronze medal finish at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia.
Johnson said the gesture was just a simple tangible means of expressing his gratitude to an accomplishment he called “one of the greatest sports moments in the history of the Bahamas.”
“I don’t think we can ever honour that achievement too many times because for the whole Bahamas, not just the sailors, but the whole Bahamas it was something to make us all proud. To know that this small country could rise all the way to the top and be the best in the world at something, we can never honour it too much,” he said.
Johnson, one of the sport’s most colourful characters, said it was fitting for the country’s greatest boat to be reincarnated by his “world famous” Lady Natalie in the marquee event on the sailing calendar.
“Well you know the Lady Natalie is the superstar of any regatta and this is the biggest one we have every year so this was the right opportunity to put all the best together,” he said. “That’s a gold medal name, ‘Gem,’ so we plan to go all the way and sail like we are worthy of it. Hopefully we can make Sir Durward proud.”
Last year, Johnson was one of four individuals to be honoured at the NFIR for their “substantial and invaluable contributions to the growth and development of the regatta,” along with Captain Emmett Munroe, Captain Henry Harding and Captain Brooks Miller.
“My first time competing in the regatta was 1980. I had many good memories in Exuma and I have been supporting the regatta from then. I don’t think there will be any regatta in the country like Georgetown, Exuma, because everybody goes there to be a part of it,” he said. “I was thankful to be honoured last year but it will mean even more to me to win this year.”
It has already been a busy year of celebrating for Knowles as plans continue to mount for the 50th anniversary celebrations.
The legendary sailor and philanthropist recently released his second book called “Captain of Industry” with his co-author Albert E Cox Jr.
In addition to several book signings, the Bahamas Government through the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture along with the Bahamas Olympic Committee, are planning a number of events for Sir Durward and the late Cecil Cooke to immortalise the historic feat of winning the first ever gold medal for the Bahamas.
Many more accolades are expected for Sir Durward to honour him for his humanitarian and philanthropic contributions. “No other Bahamian who came to fame through their sports accomplishments have done so much for an entire country as Sir Durward. His assistance spans from sailing to all forms of sports, as well as cultural, societal, religious and political endeavours. A true champion of the Bahamas,” said a press release.
Knowles, 96, sailed in a record eight Olympics, the last in Korea in 1988 at the age of 70. He is the second oldest living Olympic gold medallist behind 100-year-old Sandor Tarics of Hungary.
“Sailing enthusiasts all over the Bahamas will join the Bahamas Olympic Association this entire year in giving our full support and we pray that as we celebrate, we pray that somewhere along the line, there will be a sloop race in honour of Sir Durward in Montagu Bay,” said BOC president Wellington Miller.