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What an amazing idea! Founder of the famous "Tiller & Kites" sailing program in Phoenix, Arizona- Victor Felice- has been finding and fixing up "seriously loved" old J/24s and transforming them into "almost new" sailboats for students and members to use in their sailing program on Lake Pleasant. Here is Victor's commentary on "why" he decided to take one of his more recent J/24 purchases and turn it into an "art project" for the VA Phoenix "Recreational/ Art Therapy Program".

Last fall, sailing less because of the covid pandemic, I was looking at some of my J/24s and one, in particular, always had a special ‘something’ about it. My first thought was that this J/24 would be a perfect ‘second primary boat’ (the "blank canvas" pictured above).

Of course, the primary boat is the bright pink J/24 MERMAID RESCUE. Taking a step back, it did occur to me that although entertaining, that really is a less than genius idea.

A second primary boat? I could justify it; but I just could not explain it!

I always wanted to create an ‘art boat’, similar to what BMW had once done with their cars or the German J/70 Sailing League did in cooperation with a famous German artist and the United Nations UNESCO Project for the 17 mainsails reflecting global environmental goals. But, ours had to be local, indigenous, hand-painted with a cause and a purpose. It had to tell a story. Now that is a good idea!

My neighbor, Benjamin Metelits, is a therapist at the Veterans Administration in Phoenix, Arizona. One call to him and he immediately put me in touch with Beth Dietrich (Recreation Therapy Supervisor), who in turn introduced me to Josh Parks (Adaptive Sports Coordinator). Josh then invited Kristina Ritter, an accomplished artist who also works at the VA Art Therapy program. With a few emails, phone calls, and a visit to Tiller & Kites sailing program at Lake Pleasant, the "art boat" named REBEL YELL, was born.

From my perspective, I did not want to have any influence or input in what the boat will look like. Tiller & Kites, my sailing school, provided the boat, the paint, rags, tape, and materials. The rest was left completely to the veterans to represent whatever they wanted, however they wanted. Yes, they do have a story to tell, and the boat is full of subtle nuances and suggestions that in most cases only another vet will recognize and appreciate.

The painting was completed over the weekend of January 28th-30th at the VA in Phoenix. We were provided a spot to work on the boat. All the vets who participated were initially cautious about brushing paint on a perfectly good boat. But, once they started, there was no stopping them! New ideas were incorporated, color added, plan A became plan B, and finally we all stepped back and said, “Yes! She’s done!”.

REBEL YELL will be sailed in the future as part of the VA Adaptive Sports program that Tiller & Kites is introducing to Lake Pleasant. This boat will create interest and support for the program.

Of course, none of this could have been accomplished without the patronage and support of some very special people:

For those who think Arizona is ‘the desert’, you have no idea what you are missing! Yes, we sail. A lot! We have amazing weather, a superb marina, lots of sunshine, winds from drifters to epic squalls laced with thunder'n'lightnin' and 'blowing dogs off chains'. It's a great community and lots of new residents in Peoria and the North Valley are always impressed at what we have and what we do... in the desert! REBEL YELL is just the start."