Descendants of
 Captain Robert Brown
                            1809 – 1894



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Heppingstone-Brown Challenge
          Sandusky Bay, Ohio —  June 30 - July 1, 2007

The first running of the Heppingstone-Brown Challenge opened a new chapter in our family history. About 35 members of the clan traveled from as far east as Essex, Massachusetts, and as far west as Honolulu, Hawaii to attend the gathering. Although a few of us sneaked off to the lake earlier for some trial runs in the race boats) and the kids did some fishing in the pond, the event officially began Friday evening at the picnic pavilion of the Surf Motel in Marblehead, Ohio, with a barbecue dinner complete with ample storytelling, drinking, and lying.

Saturday was our designated race day. Someone likened getting everyone to the launch site to “herding kittens”, which wasn’t very far off. However, we all got to the water eventually. We launched boats at Dempsey's Access on Sandusky Bay and based our group at a little beach just south of the breakwater.

For the actual racing, we had two Cape Dory 14’s, which were as evenly matched as anything else we might have come up with. The Cape Dory company only ever made about 650 of these boats between 1964 and 1973, so we considered ourselves very fortunate to have two of them at our disposal. Ellen brought one that the Lloyd family got directly from the factory in 1971 (look for a black sail insignia). The other was Louise’s boat, “Moku o na Makuahine” (look for registration numbers on the bow and red sail letters), an earlier hull number, but largely restored to her original condition. Everybody who wanted to was offered a chance to sail in them, and – to our knowledge – everybody enjoyed them.

The original plan had been to use Middle Sea (the Fosters’ Southcoast 22) as our “whaling ship” and a smaller motorboat for a committee boat. In fact, we had all manner of plans for racing teams and themed races that would have involved transporting crewmen to the whaling ship, “hunting” inflatable whales, and capturing a bottle of rum. Most of these plans were tossed overboard (which really wasn’t such a bad thing) after the motor on the committee boat wouldn’t start, several crewmen deserted, and the ship and shore parties couldn’t agree on a mooring position.

Ultimately we ended up with a series of short match races between various skippers and crew combinations. The more successful heats were generally the ones in which both boats realized there was a race underway. On the other hand, the races that put more emphasis on soaking the other boat were probably more fun. The clear front-runner at the end of the day was Mike Rothwell, which we had all expected given his racing history with the Olympics, Trans-Pac, and Waikiki Yacht Club. However, it took an act of piracy for Mike to realize there was more to Middle Sea’s skipper than he anticipated. Mike’ brother, Pat Rothwell, had boarded Middle Sea to steal their rum, and a tacking duel ensued when Mike tried to retrieve his crew. “She was just playing with me like a cat with a mouse," Mike said.

Given the unsettled challenge at the end of the day, the race committee deferred awarding the trophy until the final grudge match between Mike and Vicki Foster could be settled the following day.

We did, however, award the Lolo Hula prize for exceptional grace and style to Eileen – not, as one might assume, for her half-twist-triple-gainer dive off the breakwater (we were very glad to hear that her leg is healing nicely, by the way). No, she won this award for – in full view of the company – cursing her skipper and taking the boat with a jammed center board and no rudder, then rowing back to the beach. (We’ll have to see if anybody can top that one next time.)

Saturday dinner was a real treat. The Chadwicks fed us royally on kalua pork and huli huli chicken. Mike Rothwell might have thought nobody knew about his birthday, but with so many genealogy buffs in the family, he wasn’t going to sneak it past us. So, dessert had to be ice cream and cake – nautical decorations, candles, and all.

Sunday’s weather was every bit as perfect as Saturday’s. Boats in the water, spectators on the beach and breakwater, and the skippers were ready to race, Vicki in Moku o na Makuahine, and Mike in Ellen’s boat. With no committee boat and a single windward marker, the boats raced a series of short races using rabbit starts, in which all boats stay downwind of the designated “rabbit” until it creates a starting line by crossing in front of the others on the port tack.

The finish line was determined by the race committee on the breakwater lined up with a point of land to the south. Mike’s outhaul parted, which delayed the start of the first race, but it was quickly fixed. “I wouldn't say that I easily won the single-hand races,” Vicki said. “The third one was pretty close. I think that rather than winning them, I managed not to lose. The fresh-water gods were in my boat and not with that interloper from the tropics!” After that, they picked up one and then two crew members each and raced three more heats. Mike won one of these heats, but Vicki was the clear victor of the match.

After a picnic lunch at Dempsey on Sunday. (Once again, I think Frank Foster will be due for sainthood for his ground support here.), we awarded the trophy, took group photos, and did just a bit more sailing before packing up. A few members of the group headed for home on Sunday afternoon, but the rest of us went out for a late dinner – freezing on the restaurant patio.

So far, comments from the assemble masses have observed:

  • The weekend was everything I hoped for - lots of crazy fun
  • One sore stomach weekend - too much laughing!
  • The reunion was a blast ...
    I'll be looking forward to the next one.

** Mark your calendars**
We’re in negotiation with an ideal venue for the next Heppingstone-Brown Challenge to be held on the East coast in the summer of 2009.

Which Rob is this?

Born to sail, forced to cook.

Here's the water. Where are the boats?

the fleet

“Happy Birthday to you!”


Vicki sailing Moku o na Makuahine

Mike in Ellen’s boat


Who ever remembers to put sun screen on their feet!

Mike was a good sport about losing the trophy...

but we all know that secretly he REALLY wanted it.

(If anybody has pictures, corrections, or
comments to add, please send them along!)

The trophy is actually an antique wooden pulley. The fact that it comes from a barn in Ohio acknowledges both the ranching portion of Captain Brown’s career and the first challenge venue on Lake Erie.
(Give us enough time, and we can rationalize anything!)

Sneaking off to get the feel of the boats before race day.

Party time at the Surf.

Who, me? I always have ideas...

Moku o na Makuahine captured a whale.


Rabbit start

Vicki clearly ahead

Carrying crews

In the end, he had to admit defeat.

Since Mike was such a good sport about all the nonsense we put him through (and because we conveniently found ourselves with a broken oar handle), the race committee opted to make him the recipient of a new trophy. We like to think of it as something between an honorable mention and Miss Congeniality award.*

The Sea Dog Award was established to recognize an individual or individuals who:

“... by virtue of their participation, significantly and substantially enhance the enjoyment of all who attend a meeting of the Heppingstone-Brown Challenge Cup.”

* The winner of this award need not actually race in order to win ... in fact, the only stipulation is that it cannot be awarded to the concurrent year’s challenge cup winner.

Seated: Front row (left to right) – Keith, Ryan, Veronica, Owen, Evan, Hannah in Maggie’s lap
2nd row – Eileen, Osie, Erik, Jessica, Sarah, Tommy, Jim, Vicki
Standing: 3rd row – Abby, Louise, Rob H., Pat, Trevor, Cathy, Johnny, Ellen
Back row: Bob, Mike C., Rob R., Frank, Rob F., Mike

One big, happy family?


well, technically second-cousins-once-removed

If there’s a bar, we’ll find it!


Look Ma! No rod!


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