Eight Bells Sandra Tartaglino: Where Boats Met Brownies

Last Sunday, Sandra Tartaglino was mowed down by a 25-foot powerboat while racing her favorite sailboat, the F18, on Narragansett Bay. High-performance catamarans go very fast, so maybe that powerboat driver misjudged their closing speed. Maybe there was a distraction, or too many cold ones, or a simple lack of understanding that power gives way to sail. All we can be sure of at this point is that the sailing community has lost a great friend.

Sandra at the 2019 Snipe Nationals. Photo courtesy Benja Sans Photography

I first met Sandra a few years ago when she showed up at a Snipe regatta with one of my first skippers, boatbuilder Andrew Pimental. Snipe crewing takes a lot of time and effort to master; with her catamaran background, Sandra had the additional challenge of learning to balance as the boat heeled over. (Boats with two hulls do a lot less of that.) I remember laughing with her after sailing about falling down, pulling the wrong line, getting tangled up in tacks… all the usual newbie Snipe crew issues, plus a few. She asked a lot of questions in her quest to improve—a trait that helped her stand out from most of our age group.

We also talked about fitness, nutrition, hydration, Rhode Island traffic—and, of all things, brownies. They were her trademark in the catamaran world, she told me proudly. This week, reading through memories posted by her many catamaran buddies, I now understand how true that was. At most major regattas, she brought brownies to the boat park to share while everyone unrigged. On one rare occasion when she couldn’t make it to the F18 North Americans, she even mailed a batch to Texas.

Sandra joined the tight-knit Snipe class for only a few regattas, but I was already looking forward to our next discussion. She loved to sail, she wasn’t scared to take on a fresh challenge, and she listened well. “She was such a terrific blend of sweet and tough,” Kim Couranz commented—a perfect description. 

We may never understand why Sandra died with so many races still unsailed, while racing the boat she loved most (at a regatta she’d organized). All we can do is remember her. And, maybe, try to catch a whiff of all those brownies baking, up there in catamaran-heaven.

8 Replies to “Eight Bells Sandra Tartaglino: Where Boats Met Brownies”

  1. Hi Carol –

    I was on RC for the F18s at BBR last weekend and had the opportunity to “meet” Sandra. A tragic loss. Was quite surprised to see your reference to “cold ones” in this piece, as all accounts that I have read immediately and continue to rule out alcohol. Did I miss something? Best – Pat Crawford

    1. Pat,
      I too saw the reference to “alcohol was not a factor” in the press release but you never know. Pure speculation on my part, about any of this. Thanks for helping with RC, and I’m glad you got to see her win her last regatta. A very special human.

  2. Is very sad to read this Carol. What a tragedy.
    I feel for her love ones and the sailing Friends up there.
    We are loosing to many sailors the las few years. They will be missed.
    Love from Argentina to all of you

  3. All of the reports I have heard, including real time vhf on various channels indicate that alcohol wasn’t (likely) involved. While this is still a very important message, this does not seem to be related to the tragic circumstances of this incident.

    1. Jared,
      Thanks for the comment. I hope we eventually learn the cause so that others can perhaps learn from it.

  4. Such a tragedy. Even if alcohol was not a factor, there’s NO excuse for a 25 foot speedboat to hit a sailboat. Driver was: distracted , going too fast, looking at a phone, doesn’t matter at this point. I remember teaching my daughter to sail on a wide open, practically empty bay , clear day, no waves , etc. A 50 foot tourist speed boat was coming right at me, bow hadn’t planed off yet. He couldn’t see my large Sunfish sail at 12 o’clock! …… at the last minute , he turned away. Teenage operator gave me a , sorry man ,look as he sped by. RIP Sandra

    1. Steve, thanks for these thoughts (and sorry about your close call, but we’ve all had them). I agree with you and Scott Ferguson: NO EXCUSE.

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