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"I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it is because in addition to the fact that the sea changes and the light changes, and ships change, it is because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it we are going back from whence we came." - President John F. Kennedy speaking at the America’s Cup in 1962.

One of President John F Kennedy’s first loves was sailing, the culprit? The Victura, a Wianno Senior 25-foot (7.7 metre) gaff rigged sloop. Though he had enjoyed sailing since he began as a child, his 15th birthday present The Victura, which he received off his parents was his favourite boat, and he avidly sailed The Victura off Cape Cod. The Victura is made entirely of wood, it was built in Osterville, Massachusetts by the Crosby Yacht Yard in 1932.

Today, The Victura, now stands on the lawn of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, with its bow pointed toward the horizon.

Senator Ted Kennedy with then Congressman John Culver in the 1960s.

Ted Kennedy and John Culver first became friends at Harvard College in the fall of 1950 and were also teammates on the Harvard Crimson football team, Culver at fullback and Kennedy at tight end. 

Professionally, the two teammates joined forces in the early ’60s when Culver served on Kennedy’s staff as the Legislative Assistant to the Senator and in 1964, Culver was elected to a seat in the House of Representatives. In 1975, John Culver was elected to the United States Senate representing the state of Iowa and served a term with Ted Kennedy. 

John Culver also had his first sailing experience ever with Ted in the early 1950s aboard the Victura, a humorous story which he shared in 2003 with those at the JFK Library as part of an oral history project (x):

"We were at summer school, Ted and I. Coming from Iowa, I’d never been in a sailboat. What’s that sailboat called? It’s the Victura, isn’t it? I think so. V-I- C-T-U-R-A, Victura. I hope that’s right. I think it is. 

The sailboat that’s now in front of the Library, the Victura, I believe, was John Kennedy’s boat. One day at summer school at Harvard, when Ted and I were there at the same time, he said, ‘How’d you like to go down to Hyannis this weekend and be in the Nantucket Regatta sailboat race?’ And I said, ‘Well, Ted, I’ve never been on a sailboat. With all due respect, I haven’t had a lot of experience doing that coming from Iowa. I don’t know if I’d ever seen a sailboat.’ He said, ‘Oh, it’s a lot of fun, you know. We’re going to do it.’ So we started driving down to the Cape, and the radio was on, and the radio report is terrible tornado storm warnings, and the sky was black as we drove toward the Cape. 

You know, it’s sort of “don’t dare leave your cellar for the next weekend” or something. And I said, ‘Well, Ted, it doesn’t look like we’re going to go sailing.’ He said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘Well, pay attention to the weather report.’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘that’s not a problem.’ ‘Not a problem?’ ‘No, it’s not a problem.’ That sort of didn’t do much for my confidence.  So we get down and got into the house, and we go in, and we go in the kitchen, being young boys, you know, 19 or 20 years old, whatever. We needed something to eat. Well, they had salmon salad prepared. And the cook there said, ‘We’ll make you some salmon salad sandwiches.’ Well, I haven’t had one since, I’ll tell you.So we wolfed down about three sandwiches or something like that. Then I said, ‘You know, it really looks dark out there.’ He said, ‘Oh, let’s get going.’ I said, ‘Really?’ He said, ‘Yeah, we’re going to go.’ 

So we go out, and here’s this sailboat. The first thing I thought of was a Japanese one-man submarine, it was so little, it was so small. And he and I are going to get in this thing and somehow sail it to Nantucket. Now it’s four o’clock in the afternoon or something. And the storm and the wind and the water. We get in there. We no more get in there, and I had my first experience with a captain of a sailing boat suddenly being totally changed in personality, yelling at me to do this and to lift this rope, tie that down, and do this. I had no idea of what we were even talking about, and this guy’s yelling at me to do this and do that. And of course it’s just the two of us. 

We’re out there. And of course we didn’t get very far, and I got quite ill and didn’t keep the salmon sandwiches very long. At the same time I’m taking care of that, I’m being yelled at to, you know, lift this, or pull that, and secure this, and I didn’t know what end we were talking about. So anyway, we launched offshore, we go all the way over there, and we get there long, long after dark. I mean it must have been ten o’clock or whatever it is, all the way to Nantucket. 

We get there, and of course I say, ‘Where are we going to sleep?’ He said, ‘We’re going to sleep in the boat.’ And I looked at this boat, and we had about six inches of water, and all we had were a couple of these seat pads to lay down on in the boat. And we’re in the water. I mean it was unbelievable. Then we wake up the next morning, and we got a third fellow for our crew that we knew that we really just shanghaied off the street that we’d known from Harvard, and got him aboard. He didn’t know anything more than I did. 

And off we go in the race. It’s this long race, and of course you had to move to the front and take the full blast of this cold water and the wind, and I thought I was Admiral Rickover [Hyman G. Rickover] lost at sea during World War II or something. I couldn’t believe this was really happening. We raced all day, and I had no idea what we were doing except, you know, it’s a nightmare. 

…And it’s not over. So at the end of this race, and I had no idea what we were doing or how we did, but the plan was then his father was watching the race with his Honey Fitz, the yacht, he had this big boat, with about three or four of his friends, and the plan was then to be towed back here—again, it’s this little boat out here in front—to be towed back by his father’s boat.  So when I saw that boat, I mean I just…. I never saw anything so beautiful in my life. 

We were rescued at sea. And so we come alongside, and his father had like a bullhorn, and he said, ‘Boys! I’ve got some bad news for you.’ He said, ‘The captain says it’s too rough to tow you back. You’re going to have to sail back to Hyannis.’ I could not believe it. He said, ’But I do have something for you. I know you’re probably hungry after the race.’ Hungry? And he lowered one of these huge vacuum containers of oyster stew and so forth. Ted to this day claims that I didn’t even unlatch it. I just tore the top off and held it up and consumed most of it without even offering him any, and down my shirt front and everything else. 

So anyway then we had to start sailing back. About midnight or sometime, we become becalmed off the shore at Hyannis. You could see his family lights of the house. But we were, I don’t know, maybe as much as a half mile, or better than a quarter mile, certainly better than that. And so we waited, and we waited, and we waited. Finally he says, ‘Well, I guess we have to get in the water.’ I said, ‘Get in the water?’ ‘Yeah,’ he said, ‘you pull, and I’ll push the sailboat.’

Anyway, we finally get ashore, and that was my first experience sailing with Senator Kennedy. He never has, to this day, hasn’t quite understood why my Swedish Viking grandparents never—none of those genes made it down to the Iowa boy. But if that was the first and only time you’d ever been on a sailboat, it was quite an experience. I don’t think I got seaweed out of the taste in my mouth for months. And he said I wouldn’t talk to him for two weeks. That was my joyous sailboat experience in Hyannis.”

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