• JFK’s Old Racing Boat Headed To The Auction Block

A 22-foot sailing boat once owned by former US president John F. Kennedy is headed to the auction block at the Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas. As you can expect, the boat doesn’t come cheap as the starting price for bids is at $100,000.

The historical boat, called the Flash II, traces its historical ties with Kennedy back in the 1930s when the assassinated former US president and his brother, Joe, raced the vessel in a number of regattas during the decade, including several victories in the Nantuckey Sound Fleet racing circuit.

Kennedy eventually took ownership of the boat in 1940 but was forced to sell it when he joined the Navy during World War II. Since then, the boat has had several owners, not to mention several encounters with law enforcement authorities, before ending up in the hands of current owner Frank Harvey, who bought the boat back in 2005.

After a decade of ownership, Harvey’s putting the boat back on the market where it will be part of Heritage Auctions’ lot during the auction on May 18, 2015 in Dallas, Texas, the same city where its one-time owner was assassinated.

According to Mark Prendergast of Heritage Auctions, the boat is not only sea-ready, but is also a unique piece of American maritime history, thanks in large part to its ties with one of the most beloved US presidents of all time.

If that connection is established ahead of the auction date, you can be sure that its starting price of $100,000 is going to get blown out of the water, no pun intended.

Continue reading to read more about John F. Kennedy’s auction-bound former sailboat.

Why it matters

On it’s own, a sea-ready 1930’s sailboat should fetch a handsome amount in any auction setting. But if said sailboat can trace its roots to one of the most beloved US presidents of all time? The sky’s the limit for that.

Granted, I don’t know enough about a boat auction setting to have a fair estimate on how much this JFK-owned sailboat but for it to have a starting price of $100,000 makes it sound like it’s going to be a hot auction item when it hits the block.

I personally won’t be surprised to see if it goes for $500,000 because that figure really isn’t too far away from the starting price. The question is whether it can reach $1 million.

That’s the part I’m most interested about because without the JFK connection, I don’t see this sailboat approaching that number. But because JFK and his brother Joey rode it to numerous sailing victories back in the 1930s, a lot of people will be bidding for it simply because of its lineage.

Fortunately, the auction is only a few days away so whatever happens, we’re going to have the answer really soon. I hope it breaks the $1 million mark, only because I think there are still a lot of people who still love John F. Kennedy to this day and that they’re willing to pay a king’s ransom just to own an item the former president once called his own too.

Kirby Garlitos
Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read full bio
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Press Release

The Star Class Sailboat, Flash II, owned and raced by John F. Kennedy between 1934 and 1940, is getting ready to cross the auction block in Texas. The boat was raced by JFK and his older brother Joseph P. Kennedy — also part-owner of the craft — in the Nantucket Sound Star Fleet, but was also used frequently by the brothers for pleasure sailing. It will be sold as part of Heritage Auctions’ May 18, 2015 Americana & Political Grand Format Auction.

The boat, registered as #721 by the International Star Class Yacht Racing Association, is 22+ feet long, with a 30+ foot tall mast, fully conforming to Star Class standards.

"The Kennedy brothers made quite a name for themselves in the Nantucket Sound Fleet racing circuit with this boat in the late 1930s," said Mark Prendergast of Heritage Auctions. "It’s also been the subject of extraordinary and painstaking restoration. Not only is it a piece of American history, it’s also seaworthy and ready for adventure."

This boat was actually the Kennedy brothers’ second Star sailboat (thus the "II" designation). They had previously purchased Star #902, the first Flash, which they sold in 1936 after discovering Flash II was simply a superior boat when they won the Nantucket Sound Star Class Championship with it that year. Racing for Harvard in the East Coast Collegiate Championship in 1938 they won the MacMillan Cup, besting two future America’s Cup winners. The most impressive win of all that this boat would lead JFK to was in the 1937 Atlantic Coast Championship, winning a race (but not the championship) where he won by an unheard of 4-1/2 minutes – a testament to both the boat and to the future president’s superb handling skills.

"It’s well-documented that JFK loved to race this boat," said Prendergast. "It’s not hard to picture the young future president at the command, exhorting his crew toward victory. JFK obviously loved to compete and, prior to World War II, this was his favorite boat to race."

The most recent 19 years of this venerable sailboat’s life is incredibly well documented and quite colorful, all of it relating to car and boat restorer Ole Anderson, who purchased it at auction with the intention of restoring and then selling the historic sloop. In a bizarre turn, the boat was seized by the DEA in late 2004 as "property derived from the proceeds of narcotics distribution" based on Anderson’s conviction as a marijuana trafficker. Civil forfeiture proceedings were filed in February 2005 and the Flash II was sold at auction later that year by the United States Marshals Service, which brought the boat to its current owner, Frank Harvey, of Houston, TX.

Mr. Harvey does not sail, but he has cherished and preserved this historic boat because, as a young man, he campaigned on behalf of JFK’s presidential election in 1960.

"Imagine, if you can, putting to sea in the very sloop that JFK and his brother used to navigate the choppy waters of Nantucket Sound," said Prendergast. "All the skills JFK gained from those years on Flash II served him well later as he guided the ship of state through some perilous times. This an extraordinary and unique opportunity, really. It’s a piece of American royalty and it’s ready to set sail again."

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