Photo Credit: FRIED ELLIOTT / friedbits.com
Last of his Generation
It is my sad duty to inform you that my father, Darke de Mattos, passed away last November 7 at the age of 86. A sailor, an aviator, a lawyer, and a self-made engineer, he shared his name with the oldest sailing race in Brazil, the Darke de Mattos regatta. My father lived through tumultuous periods of Brazil’s modern history. He lived his life in accordance with a tradition handed down from his grandfather: a deep love for the ocean.
Darke de Mattos was a passionate advocate for sailing in Brazil throughout his life, and a pioneer of the Star class internationally. Of the first forty-two Stars, he received number 2209, built in the late Clube’s shops, and named her Enif. In the first Darke de Mattos regatta in the early 1940s, he participated as crew, since at that time the class rules didn’t allow anyone his age to be a skipper. After that, he was a constant presence at Star regattas up to the day he could no longer sail on a Star at all.
He often told me the amusing anecdote about how, at age seven, he got his start in sailing. His father had decided to take his sixty-foot sloop to Cabo Frio with some friends. Darke was permitted to go along, and to bring his friend, Carlos Wanderley. At a certain point well after dark, my grandfather began to feel sick with a cold and went down below to rest. Meanwhile, the other adults on board had had just a bit too much to drink. They wound up leaving the two boys to mind the helm with just a single instruction: to set a course for a certain star until someone would come up to relieve them. The boys were so small and young that they had to stand on crates in order to see the compass and handle the helm. But they carefully followed instructions throughout the long night, and when, after dawn, my grandfather came up, they pointed proudly -- as any young kids would – to the star they had set their course by: it was the light at the top of the mast! This incident gave birth to a long friendship between my father and Wanderley, who predeceased him, during which they achieved several outstanding results in both in-shore and offshore racing.
Dad sailed across the Atlantic--North and South--and participated in races in the Mediterranean Sea, collecting great stories that, with his passing, will now be silent.
He went in peace and I imagine he must be enjoying his passions, sailing and flying, with his many departed friends.