Remembering two of our fallen heroes
Nassau Guardian Columnist & Sales Executive
Published: Jul 04, 2013
Who are Sloane Farrington and Cecil Cooke?
Sailing is an interesting sport. There are some classes of sailing that require just one competitor. For the most part though, there is at least one crew. Very often, and supposedly it is to be expected given the nature of humans, most of the credit goes to the skipper, the captain, the chief of the boat.
This is so unfortunate, particularly in cases when there are just two in the boat. In this country, there is a situation that has gone on for years.
Who are Sloane Farrington and Cecil Cooke? They are two sporting giants who have been historically under appreciated. Farrington and Cooke are important names in the full history of this country. Their accomplishments with Durward Knowles (now Sir Durward) transcended sports. What they helped to do electrified a nation and put sports into the limelight, upstaging all other happenings at the time.
I refer to the 1947 World Star Class Championship when Farrington crewed for Knowles and they achieved the first international title in sports for a then colony of Great Britain known as the Bahamas Islands. The next year, Knowles and Farrington outclassed all sailors from the British Empire to qualify to represent the region at the Olympic Games in London. An unfortunate incident, a broken mast, killed their chances for a first Olympic medal for this country.
Eight years later, the team was still together and they brought glory to The Bahamas again. In Melbourne, Australia, they captured the country’s first Olympic medal, a Star Class bronze. By 1964, the Knowles/Farrington combination had gotten broken up for a reason or reasons that have never been elaborated on. In stepped another sailor (Cecil Cooke) from the ‘Out East’ district of New Providence. Knowles today still refers to that ilk of sailors “of the day” as the “Eastern Dergens.”
Cooke was on board with Knowles, lined up for The Bahamas in the Star Class competition at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. When the sailing was completed in the Star category, Knowles and Cooke of The Bahamas were first and owners of the gold medal. Arguably the 1947 World Championship, the 1956 Olympic bronze medal and the 1964 Olympic gold medal were the most significant sporting achievements in Bahamian history and they rank right up there with accomplishments from any other aspect of society.
The 1964 success was the signature moment in competition for Knowles and Cooke. They parted ways not long afterwards. The question of how many glorious moments of victory and bliss Knowles would have enjoyed had he continued his illustrious career with either of the two gentlemen will live on forever.
It figures though that the sailing history in The Bahamas would have been much more decorated. As it was, the names Farrington and Cooke remain attached to that which most glitters for Knowles. In the two, Knowles was fortunate to have great exceptions to the rule. They were both very tall, around 6’4” and nimble beyond one’s imagination.
“I never knew how they did it. They could move around the boat as quick as a flash. They complemented me tremendously and I enjoyed working with them both. Let me tell you something. When Cecil and I won the gold in 1964 and we came home to the celebrations, it was bittersweet for me. I was happy, very happy for what Cecil and I did, but when we hit the airport, my mind went quickly to Sloane,” Sir Durward informed on an occasion while reflecting.
Who was the best? The combination of Knowles and Farrington lasted much longer. However, there was little to choose between Farrington and Cooke skill wise. It is important though for a balance to history, that Farrington and Cooke get the full attention deserved. It has been kind of one-sided, through no fault of Sir Durward’s.
Imagine Debbie Ferguson who anchored the 2000 Olympic female sprint relay gold medal winning team, getting always the vast bulk of the credit. Let’s fast forward to 2012 and think of a scenario whereby Ramon Miller gets mentioned for the most part, while the other stalwarts of the Olympic gold medal team are virtually ignored.
As we celebrate 40 years of independence, Bahamians are invited to salute all of those (not just some) who helped to pave the way for the sporting success over that period. Sloane Farrington and Cecil Cooke should be constantly lauded, just as the “Golden Girls” and the “Golden Knights” of athletics are.
• To respond to this sports feature, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at email@example.com.
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