John F. Kennedy’s Star Class sailboat, Flash II, which he owned and raced with his older brother, Joseph P. Kennedy, is getting ready for the auction block in Texas.
It will be sold as part of Heritage Auctions’ May 18 Americana & Political Grand Format Auction. The opening bid is $100,000.
The 22-foot boat, registered as No. 721 by the International Star Class Yacht Racing Association, was owned and raced by JFK and his brother Joe between 1934 and 1940 in the Nantucket Sound Star Fleet, as well as for pleasure sailing.
Flash II was built by its original owner, H.B. Atkin of Manhasset Bay Yacht Club, in 1930 and the Kennedy brothers bought it in 1934, according to the International Star Class Yacht Racing Association.
In 1938, sailing with his older brother Joe for Harvard University, JFK won the MacMillan Cup, the East Coast Collegiate Championship, outsailing two future America's Cup skippers.
JFK's love for racing was captured by author Tazewell Shepard in his 1965 non-fiction book “John F. Kennedy: Man of the Sea.”
"Jack did not really like to crew; he preferred the greater challenge of command, where the competition was more keenly felt,” Shepard writes. “His behavior in a race contrasted sharply with his usual witty and light-hearted attitude; racing was a serious matter, and a laggard performance by one of his crew did not pass without comment.”
The most impressive win the boat had with JFK at the helm was in the 1937 Atlantic Coast Championship, where he won a race (but not the championship) by an unprecedented 4-1/2 minutes.
Long after the boat moved on from the Kennedy clan and a series of owners and restorations, Flash II’s history had an ignominious chapter. In 2004 DEA agents seized the sloop, alleging that its owner at the time bought the boat with money from marijuana distribution.
Flash II was sold in 2005 at an auction arranged by the U.S. Marshals Service, which is how the current owner came to own and restore it.