Sailboat mast for sale

John F. Kennedy sailed Flash II during summers on the Nantucket Sound and while at Harvard. Decades later, it was seized by the Drug Enforcement Agency. Credit Photograph by Rex Features via AP

After going up for auction on Monday, with a starting bid of a hundred thousand dollars, President John F. Kennedy’s boat is still for sale. Nobody has yet taken the chance to add their name to a long line of owners, ranging from the young President to, far less reputably, a pot smuggler.

The sailboat is a twenty-two-foot International Star sloop, a class designed by the draftsman Francis Sweisguth in 1910, according to Heritage Auctions, which organized the sale. The relatively tall mast and narrow hull give the boat a massive mainsail, which made it extremely responsive and sensitive to touch but also meant it was tricky to handle and required tremendous skill to race. The Star class has been used for the Olympic keelboat event since 1932, with the exception of the 1976 games. More than eight thousand Stars have been built since 1910. Kennedy’s boat, Star No. 721, was built in 1929 and 1930 by the original owner, H. B. Atkin, of Manhasset Bay, Long Island. Atkin raced it under the name Jubilee from 1930 to 1933.

It was swift and impressive enough to catch the eye of the teen-aged Kennedy and his brother Joseph, who already owned a Star class boat (No. 902), which they called Flash. The Kennedy brothers bought Jubilee in 1934 and renamed her Flash II (records show that they sold the original Flash in 1936). It quickly became John’s favorite racing boat and gained a reputation among East Coast sailing clubs as being the fastest in its class. Jock Kiley sailed against Kennedy in the waters of Nantucket Sound, and he insisted that Flash II, not Kennedy’s sailing skills, was to thank for the streak of wins. According to Tazewell Shepard’s “John F. Kennedy: Man of the Sea, ” the ribbing proved too much for Kennedy, who in the summer of 1936 finally made a proposition to Kiley: let’s swap boats and race. Shepard writes:

Flash II with Jock Kiley at the helm jumped to an early lead. The boat was running true to form, when in the middle of the race both boats were becalmed. As a little breeze began to stir, Jack took a different lark, as he often did. In the trailing position, he was the first to feel the effect of the wind. He hugged the shore line where the breeze was freshest and began to close the distance, managing to pull ahead at the end and—just barely—to win the race. There was no more switching of boats after that.

Kennedy went on to win the Nantucket Sound Star Class Championship that year, and then competed in the 1937 Atlantic Coast Star Class Championships, winning one race by a massive four-minute margin. He raced Flash II at Harvard, as well, and won the prestigious McMillan Cup on the Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis, in 1938.

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