Friday, March 19, 2010

From the Archives: August 31st, 2008

Victoria Beach - A community lost an icon last night at the Victoria Beach Yacht Club’s annual wind-up soiree when a reveler seemingly fell onto a storied white Styrofoam cooler. Details are sketchy but eyewitness accounts claim that VBYC member Ben Peterson was dancing wildly when he lost his balance and fell onto the cooler which exploded releasing water, ice and ice cold cans of beer across the club’s plywood floor. Attempts to resuscitate the cooler were made at the scene, but were unsuccessful.

The coffin-shaped Styrofoam cooler was sent to the club by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabo in the early 1980s as a threat after the VBYC Sailing School chose to buy German-built optimists over the Chinese design. It immediately became a fixture at the club’s wind-ups. Bruce Guest remembers the first wind-up with the cooler. "As we filled it up, we knew it looked like a relatively decent cooler, but when we started pulling beers out of it, we knew how special it really was," said Guest. "God those beers were so cold."

The coffin, as it was known to the club’s members, became an ironic symbol of hope during the dark years of the late 1990s and early 2000s when the decline of the monohull fleet decimated races and Commodore power struggles led to deep divisions among the sailing community. In the last few years an influx of windsurfers has powered the club’s resurgence, and the cooler, having long been half-empty, again seemed almost to burst with beers for the burgeoning community. Long time member and former Chief Safety Officer, Jeff Hughes, could only shake his when told of the news. "Through thick and thin," he said, "we always had the coffin."

Police Chief Stewart McPherson said that the incident is being treated as an accident and that there seems to have been no malice in Mr. Peterson’s actions. "Though Mr. Peterson is known to us, we have no reason to suspect this was anything other than an unfortunate set of circumstances," said Chief McPherson. Mr. Peterson is best known as the older cousin of windsurfing phenom Andreas Sudermann. He was last in the news after a widely publicized incident at a Victoria Beach reunion of his prominent family. Mr. Peterson was not available for comment.

- Herald Staff Reporter

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