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Over the weekend, theMontagu Bay, Memorial Regatta took place in Montagu Bay, New Providence.
John Dunkley, who is one of the primary catalysts for international sailing in the country these days, coordinated the event which evoked memories of one of the greatest sports figures in Bahamian history. The truth be told though, Cooke is an unsung hero, much like Sloane Farrington.
They have never really been celebrated in the manner they deserved. I doubt it was intended. Perhaps it’s because the other man in the boat when they rose to international fame in Star Class sailing was so particularly captivating, their contributions have been dwarfed.
That other man was the Sea Wolf, who came to be known fondly as Sir Durward Knowles and was a living legend for many decades. He lived all the way through 100 years while both Farrington and Cooke passed on relatively early, decades ago.
Nevertheless, it is fitting that on occasions, Farrington and Cooke are saluted for the major roles they played in helping to take The Bahamas to the top spot in the world in Star Class sailing.
Knowles and I spoke many times through the years about his exploits with the two master crewmen, Farrington and Cooke. He always felt he was blessed to be partnered in the boat by two tall, rangy, considerably nifty and nimble crewmen. He marveled about their wingspan which enabled them to be diversified and especially valuable in keeping the boat sailing evenly, while Knowles had the luxury of concentrating on being the skipper.
“I was the skipper and I paid attention to my job, knowing that Bunty (Sloane), during my early successes, and then later on, Cecil would handle the rest,” Knowles would say often as we reminisced.
The legacy of international sailing success for The Bahamas began in 1947 when Knowles and Farrington won the Star Class World Championship. The next year, the duo traveled to London and captured the elimination series to determine who would represent Great Britain at the 1948 Olympics.
A broken mast busted a chance for an Olympic medal however.
In 1956, though in Melbourne, Australia, being able to carry this country’s flag under the jurisdiction of the Bahamas Olympic Association, Knowles and Farrington were not to be denied. They captured the Star Class bronze medal, the first ever Olympic medal for The Bahamas.
In 1964 in Tokyo, Japan, Cooke was in the boat with Knowles and they achieved another Olympic milestone for The Bahamas. They won the gold medal, the first of its kind for their country.
So, there you have it.
Farrington was teamed with Knowles for the country’s first sports world championship.
Cooke was the crewman when The Bahamas entered the Olympic golden circle for the very first time.
Every year with an event staged in his honor, Cooke’s name comes alive again. The suggestion here is that a similar tribute is due Farrington.
In any event, on this occasion, it is most satisfying to go down memory lane to showcase two stalwart sons of the soil, Sloane Farrington and Cecil Cooke.