OPERATION SAIL NAMES NEW LONDON WINNERS OF ART AND ESSAY CONTESTS
Award-winning high school senior with ties to first OpSail in 1964 and Coast Guard Academy ambitions will join Ledyard sophomore for ride on EAGLE during OpSail 2012 CT
NEW LONDON (June 27, 2012) -- An ambitious high school senior from Austin, Texas, and an inquisitive sophomore from Ledyard High School in Ledyard, Conn., have been selected as the winners of the New London portion of the Operation Sail art and essay contests and will ride America’s tall ship, the U.S. Coast Guard barque EAGLE, as guests of honor as it sails into New London at the start of OpSail 2012 CT on Saturday, July 7.
Richard Barr Dent, 17, of Austin, Texas a 12th grader at Stephen F. Austin High School in the Academy for Global Studies, won the art contest. Kenneth Tran, 14, a sophomore at Ledyard High School, won the essay contest.
Only after Richard Dent was named the winner of the OpSail contest did he discover a very personal connection to EAGLE and the first OpSail in 1964: his maternal grandfather Luther Barr, a retired Coast Guard officer, was chief engineer on the Coast Guard Cutter COOS BAY when it escorted EAGLE into New York for that first OpSail event.
Richard had hoped that his grandfather would be able accompany him on EAGLE. It turns out that although Mr. Barr, now 84, was unable to make the trip from his farm in Ala., he was still able to offer lots of encouragement to his grandson.
In 1964, COOS BAY was assigned to cleared the path for EAGLE and other tall ships from around the world as they sailed into New York Harbor for Operation Sail.
“I remember as we came up the Hudson River there were tons and tons of small boats, and people watching us as we came in,” Mr. Barr recalled recently. “There were TV news people on our ship, and it was very exciting.”
Student Richard Barr Dent’s winning pencil drawing, "A Single Ship Engagement", depicts the scene from behind one of the 24-pounders on the deck of the USS UNITED STATES the moment before Captain Stephen Decatur, hero of the Barbary War, fired his first long-range broadside at HMS Macedonian on October 25, 1812.
After Decatur and his crew won the battle and captured the prize, HMS Macedonian was escorted into New York Harbor as the first captured British warship ever brought into an American port, an event that served as an important morale-builder for Americans. The U.S. Navy bought the HMS Macedonian and rechristened her the USS MACEDONIAN. Both the USS UNITED STATES and the USS MACEDONIAN were blockaded by the British at New London, Connecticut from June 1, 1813 until the end of the War of 1812. The seamen took to land and fought with the local militia until Decatur and his crew were reassigned to the USS PRESIDENT.
Richard is a Life Scout with Troop 30, Capitol Area Council, Boy Scouts of America and will be an Eagle scout by the end of summer. He was a leader at the 2010 National Scout Jamboree at Fort A. P. Hill, Virginia and at the 2011 World Scouting Jamboree in Rinkaby, Sweden. He is a member of Boy Scouts of America's National Honor Society, Order of the Arrow. His latest 2012 trip was to Rotary Youth Leadership Award Camp in Americus, Georgia. In high school, he has lettered in varsity golf, theater and orchestra.
"My love for the sea started when I was three," says Richard. "I would watch movies of tall ships and submarines with my grandfather Luther Barr who served both as an enlisted man and as an officer in the United States Coast Guard. He's told me stories about serving on lighthouses, close encounters during the blockade of Cuba and about going to school in Groton and New London."
Richard takes a journal or sketchbook when he travels. "I've been sketching ships since I was in the fifth grade," he says. "I chose a pencil drawing because seamen from all times in history have used sketches to capture their perspective."
Richard says he has planned to be an officer serving in a ship of the United States fleet since he was 12. This fall, he says, he will finally have the opportunity to formally apply to a service Academy, and his family knows where he wants to go.
“He wants to get into that Coast Guard Academy in New London so bad he can taste it,” says grandfather Barr. “But he knows there is a lot of competition.”
Richard will be accompanied on the EAGLE transit by his mother Lori L. Barr, M.D., an internationally recognized physician scientist, author, and expert in the fields of pediatric diagnostic medical imaging, stress and vibrant living.
The essay contest winner, Kenneth Tran, was inspired to write about the USS CONSTITUTION because he had actually handled a relic from Old Ironsides.
“My favorite subjects include history and current events, which stemmed from my initial interest in archaeology,” Kenneth said. “I participated in the OpSail essay contest because one of my friends had shown me an original piece of wood from the USS CONSTITUTION. Knowing how CONSTITUTION got its nickname ‘Old Ironsides’, and the wood being over 200 years old, I got interested what that piece of wood had actually been through.
“The piece was about the size of a small matchbox in a plastic package with a certificate of authenticity. I had almost forgotten about it until I heard about the essay contest. I checked out a few books from the library to learn more about the ship. I had difficultly finding information because the books on the War of 1812 covered little on the CONSTITUTION. I found it interesting that CONSTITUTION’s victories raised the morale of Americans through its tactics that tarnished the British Navy’s reputation as a superior fleet.”
He says the experience has taught him a lot about the ship’s importance in American history.
“The USS CONSTITUTION, now 216 years old, has a very impressive record as a victorious ship and the oldest surviving commissioned ship in the world,” Kenneth says in his thoroughly documented essay. “A feat of American ingenuity, CONSTITUTION played a critical role in the War of 1812 by shattering British Navy’s image as a supreme power of the sea, which raised American morale that then prevented British reoccupation of America. The perfect winning streak owes to a group of talented commanders and the crew who rose into American legend because of their achievements from the Mediterranean, to the Atlantic, and to Brazil.
“During restoration, some of its original wood was taken off and sold as souvenirs. The fragments of wood removed during restoration are American national treasures, reminding us about how CONSTITUTION received its famous nickname: “Old Ironsides”.
Kenneth will be accompanied on EAGLE by his father, Tuan Tran, a Pfizer chemist who has worked in the fields of antibacterial and neuroscience for the last 14 years, the last five in Connecticut.
The Operation Sail essay contest is sponsored in the New London area by a generous contribution from TJX, Inc., Bank of America, and nationally in association with the USS Constitution Museum, the National Maritime Historical Society, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard.
NOTE TO EDITORS: the winning essay and art are available upon request.
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Media contact: William G. Armstrong Jr., Director of Communications, Operation Sail, Inc. -- 203-904-8115 -- email@example.com
About Operation Sail, Inc.
Operation Sail, Inc. is a non-profit organization established in 1961 with the endorsement of President John F. Kennedy. Backed by a Joint Congressional Resolution, its mission is to advance sail training and promote goodwill among nations. OpSail has produced five international sailing events in 1964, 1976, 1986, 1992, and 2000, each tied to a patriotic or historical event. OpSail 2012 is producing events in New Orleans, New York, Norfolk, Baltimore, Boston and New London. For more information, visit www.opsail.org.