Regatta for the ages

September 30th, 2013

04features-woody-2Dr. Ron Woody on the schooner America with son, David, and daughter-in-law, Vickie.

After performing a whirlwind wedding ceremony on board one of America’s most celebrated ships, this restorative sciences professor can now add a temporary ‘Doctor of Divinity’ title to his credentials.

For years, there was a quip Dr. Ronald Woody reserved for his three sons.

“If you want, I can marry you on board our boat,” the lifelong sailor would say. After all, a captain is the ultimate authority at sea.

He never expected they’d take him up on his offer. Then came Labor Day 2013. Woody, professor of implant dentistry in restorative sciences, who returned to the college on a part-time basis after his June retirement, gathered with family that weekend.

They were sitting in the living room when his son David proposed an idea: The family would be traveling to San Francisco the following week to watch the start of the America’s Cup — an international sailing regatta with several days of races, dating back to 1851. Why not have Woody marry him and his fiancé, Vickie, on the deck of the schooner America, a replica of the original ship to win the racing competition?

Woody’s wife, Jan, took to the idea. She didn’t waste any time reminding him of all those years spent kidding their sons with offers of maritime nuptials.

04features-woody-1Photos: Tahra Makinson-Sanders

The prospect held intense meaning for Woody. He sailed the same ship three years before through The Dennis Connor America’s Cup Experience as a Father’s Day gift from another son, Michael. The proposed wedding date, Friday Sept. 13, also carried sentimental value — the family has found the notorious number especially lucky — weddings, births, even Woody’s acceptance to dental school in 1959 seem to fall on that date.

But could they really plan a wedding 1,700 miles away in 11 days?

“I was skeptical at first if it would all get pulled together,” Woody admits.

Somehow things started to fall into place.

The schooner America would be in San Francisco for the America’s Cup regatta, and Michael Woody was able to glean a bit of time for them as a result of their 2010 venture. They could have one hour on board that Friday evening after the races. An oath of office from the state of California had to be secured to make it legal, making Woody a deputy commissioner of civil marriages, even if just for a day.

Sample vows were obtained from their minister, and sailing lore was thrown in for good measure. To make it all official, the vessel’s owner and captain, Troy Sears, dubbed Woody honorary captain for the occasion.

“For us it was a culmination of a lifetime of sailing,” says Woody, who has participated in the sport since age 5.

Just 12 days later, Oracle Team USA went on to make the greatest comeback in the history of the trophy sport. After an 8-1 disadvantage against Emirates Team New Zealand, the U.S. charted an unprecedented change in its course, effectively winning the 19-race competition in as many days.

“It just made it more special,” says Woody. “Even more positive, that the U.S. won the America’s Cup, and that’s what we were there for.”

Read more about dentists who sail in the Fall 2013 Baylor Dental Journal, with a feature about 1965 alum Dr. William T. Johnson, aka Capt. Willy T.

— Jenny Fuentes

— Jennifer Fuentes