To truly understand the dynamics and magic of the Kennedy family, one must understand their passion for sailing and the sea. Many families sail together, but the Kennedys’ relationship with Victura, the 25-foot sloop purchased in 1932, stands apart. Throughout their brief lives, Joe Jr., Jack, and Bobby spent many hours racing Victura. Lack of effort in a race by one of his sons could infuriate Joseph P. Kennedy, and Joe Jr. and Jack ranked among the best collegiate sailors in New England. Likewise, Eunice emerged as a gifted sailor and fierce competitor, the equal of any of her brothers.
The Kennedys believed that Jack’s experience sailing Victura helped him survive the sinking of his PT boat during World War II. In the 1950s, glossy Life magazine photos of Jack and Jackie on Victura’s bow helped define the winning Kennedy brand. Jack doodled sketches of Victura during Oval Office meetings, and it’s probable that his love of seafaring played a role in his 1961 decision to put a man on the moon, an enterprise he referred to as “spacefaring.” Ted loved Victura as much as any of his siblings did and, with his own children and the children of his lost brothers as crew, he sailed into his old age: past the shoals of an ebbing career, and into his eventual role as the “Lion of the Senate.”
In Victura, James W. Graham charts the progress of America’s signature twentieth-century family dynasty in a narrative both stunningly original and deeply gripping. This true tale of one small sailboat is an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the great story of the Kennedys.