Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Mitchell Chance Gibbons-Neff

Recently came across the below tribute...I never knew Mitch but of course, like many life-long sailors from the Northeast U.S. (and beyond) certainly knew of him. This was penned by his brother Peter, the father of an old friend of mine. Mitch passed on February of this year. We are the poorer for it.

Mitchell Chance Gibbons-Neff
1941- 2007

My brother, Mitch wouldn’t want me writing about the quick onset of his cancer or how soon after the diagnosis he left his family, friends and colleagues. But, on February 4, 2007 Mitch finished his race and we are all short a phenomenal member of the crew.

Sailing was in Mitch’s blood. Both parents were avid sailors, so it was appropriate for him to be in a dinghy cockpit at a very tender age. Mitch had a Sneakbox, named Odd Socks, in his youth. One afternoon, he let me take her out on Barnegat Bay. I landed her downwind and smashed the bow. Not only did he not tell our folks (‘tho he did holler at me for a moment), he didn’t begrudge my tactical error. That is an attribute Mitch displayed again and again throughout his life. His character was strengthened by the will to “move on”. Perhaps that’s what got him through swift boat duty off Viet Nam, Harvard Business School, and then the hard sell of yacht design and brokerage for over 30 years at Sparkman & Stephens under the tutelage of Rod and Olin Stephens.

Mitch loved just about every type of boat. Sailing with Mom and Dad (Sunny & Flossie) on the family boat Prim was an important part of Mitch’s life. He was Dad’s right hand man on Souther, Blue Star, and Serenade, as well. Mitch taught his sons T.M. and Paul the characteristics of a proper yacht by the time they were in elementary school. He was a member of the Cruising Club of America, New York Yacht Club, and Noroton Yacht Club. Although Mitch’s offshore miles are too extensive to count, he logged enough to complete 20 Bermuda Races and two trans-Atlantic races. His first Bermuda Race was on Prim in 1958, and the last was on a NY32, Siren, in 2006. His membership with CCA began in 1966 and as a member he set a fine example of excellent yachtsmanship and good seamanship. Mitch was a corporate member with Sea Education Association.

This year a trophy was donated in his name in the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta for NY32 class by his friend, Bob Scott.

If you knew Mitch, you knew he cared about you and cared about what was important to you. If you knew Mitch, you also knew all phone calls never lasted more than two minutes! Who can blame a fellow who’s set to meet a client in Europe on Saturday, help his father fix a boat in Maryland on Sunday, attend an S&S meeting in Manhattan on Monday and make Key West Race Week on Tuesday? The man loved his boats and got a kick out of all the people who went with them.

In the physical sense, Mitch has “moved on” again; but his close friend Dr. Fred Callahan coined it all best by saying; “For the wind still blows, the water still beckons and Mitch sails with us in our hearts – then, now and forever.”

~ Peter Gibbons-Neff


Anonymous said...

Seet dude Welded Jet Fishing Boats

Anonymous said...

this is so sweet!

Unknown said...

I think of you as one of the founding fathers of sailing blogging.

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