Friday, November 29, 2019

The Playboy Bunny

Next year is the fiftieth anniversary of the Teacup Regatta, the regatta famous for introducing the world to the Laser (originally named TGIF, Thank God it's Friday). The above photo is from the article on the Teacup Regatta in the December 1970 issue of One-Design and Offshore Yachting. OD-OY came up with the idea of pitting all the 1970 American off-the-beach sailboats in a regatta and judging competition and did all the leg work in putting the event together. The Teacup Regatta was held on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, about a two hour drive from Chicago. In 1969 Hugh Hefner had opened a huge Playboy resort on Lake Geneva, hence this photo of a trio of Playboy Bunnies taking a spin on one of the competing dinghies between races.

This photo jogged the old memory banks about my own Lake Geneva and Playboy Bunny story. Two or three years later, as a poor college student on summer break, I decided to enter the O'Day cup, a singlehanded championship of the old USYRU (U.S. Yacht Racing Union). You qualified in ascending elimination rounds (club to district to region and then to the finals). I didn't have any lofty aspirations; my racing skills were somewhat rudimentary, but it was a cheap way to get in some sailboat racing as the host club supplied the boats and entry fees were either free or nominal. My local club, Berlin Yacht Club, put my name forward and I awaited being told where to go for the Ohio-Pennsylvania district eliminations. It turned out that there was only one other club to put up a name and he dropped out. Without sailing a race I had qualified for the Midwest Regional O'Day eliminations.

The Midwest Regional O'Days were to be held by the Lake Geneva Y.C. in Lasers, a 500+ mile trip from my home and I didn't own a car. During the 1970's this was no problem  as hitchhiking was a viable means of getting around. I had already crisscrossed the Midwest several times on the kindness of others stopping to give me a lift. I duly made it into Lake Geneva. (This may have been the time the rides dried up late at night and I had to spend the night at the Milwaukee Airport; elevator music, bright lights and trying to sleep across three hard seats.) The regatta was midweek and there were four or five of us racing in typical on-off, shifty lake conditions. I finished third or a close fourth, the memory is hazy, but I was fine with that. I had no plan B if I had improbably qualified for the finals and had to figure out how to get to a regatta during the school year and far away.

The Lake Geneva YC had their midweek evening summer series during the O'day eliminations and I got a crewing job on a M-16 scow. (Which has now morphed into the very popular cat-rigged MC scow; the M-16 was main/jib). I remember being miffed at having to handle leeboards on every tack and came away with a better appreciation of my Dad's Y-Flyer scow which was my Berlin YC racing ride.

In the fog of long-ago recollections there is one searing memory from that race and that is of another fellow crew. One of the leading competitors in the M-16 scow class had married a Playboy Bunny who was now his crew. We were far enough back in the race that we didn't cross tacks often with the couple but I did join the gaggle of sailors that surrounded her (bikini-clad) apres-racing. I came away with the impression of a separate female race; not so much titillated by her but more having encountered something genetically unique. Hugh Hefner's vision of an ideal American woman was rooted in the 1950's and 1960's, all jutting breasts, small waist, small butt, very much top-heavy. I had the good sense, even back then, to realize this wasn't the real world.

I never went to the Playboy Club at Lake Geneva during that trip. No money and besides, when hitchhiking, travel times were always open-ended. No time to dawdle. Best to hit the road when things were wrapped up. The Lake Geneva Playboy Club closed in 1981.

Two videos of the Lake Geneva Playboy Club.

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