Ocean Reef Club Vintage Weekend

By admin ~ January 11th, 2012. Filed under: Features.

Synergy By The Sea

It all adds up to more than just the sum of its parts during Vintage Weekend at Ocean Reef Club.

By L.J. Wallace, Jr. & Laura Dunn Staff, ORC and Sara Vathauer Photos

Some of the most successful ventures occur primarily because there is a synergistic component present in the process. Keeping this in mind, one doesn’t have to wonder too hard why Vintage Weekend at Ocean Reef Club (ORC) on Key Largo just celebrated its 17th year, enjoying ever increasing success as it begins closing in on a two decade run of it.

Originally conceived to fill a void in the pre-season social calendar, Vintage Weekend featured classic yachts, cars and aircraft, showcased against the backdrop of one of the most understatedly graceful and refined settings in South Florida.

The collections featured in the event are not flashy and opulent in the modern sense that one would equate to fashion—which comes and goes with time. It sometimes even repeats itself as those who need something new and different start regurgitating that which was popular in the past. Rather, the yachts, cars and aircraft on display were timelessly classic in style, like a woman’s little black cocktail dress or a man’s gold-sleeve buttoned blue blazer. There was no ostentatious opulence at Vintage Weekend, just rarified gracefulness. It’s rather akin to attending the Masters at Augusta national. True, there are more dramatic and challenging links, but none that are more genteelly refined.

But back to the synergy at Ocean Reef Club. What began as a modest and remote fishing camp back in 1945 has grown and evolved into a singularly special sort of place with casual and laid-back elegance, where attention to detail and the preservation of an “Old Florida” feel takes precedence over constant reinvention and one-upmanship.

Yes, it’s all meticulously groomed and maintained, but you’ll see little guilt edging and gold fixtures in the buildings, and don’t expect to encounter the sort of landscaping which a gardener spent hours forcing to conform to his crafting. It’s this matrimony of timeless classics, on display and where they’re displayed, that has become the hallmark of Vintage Weekend. held the weekend following Thanksgiving each year, things kicked off on Friday with a drive-about—The Reef & Road Rally. It went to, of all places, the rustic Alabama Jack’s where such beautiful cars in such a bucolic location elicited a feeling of whimsically delightful disparity. Attendees were transported via bus, everyone had a grand time of it and thus the tone was set for the next day.

There were 58 vintage automobiles that participated in the Concours d’elegance event which kicked things off Saturday morning. ORC member and Vintage Weekend committee member, Ron elenbaas—a car aficionado himself—provided lively and thorough commentary on each car and the respective owners. Between Ron and his wife nanette, three of their cars were showcased. The Off Brothers Collection contributed the oldest automobile, which was a 1910 Thomas Flyer, and Derek Wachob brought the newest, a 2003 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible.

Back over at the water’s edge there were 20 classically archetypal yachts docked stem to stern and in Bristol fashion, where people could feel free to take off their shoes, step over the red carpet that indicated visitors were welcome to board, and get a self-guided tour of each vessel. Paul and Tracy Berger were the owners of builder John Trumpy’s Washingtonian, built in 1939, the oldest yacht there. When we asked Robert Meierhoff, owner of Diane, (Burger Boatworks steel hull #1) if he actively used the boat, he replied, “Oh no, I just love to restore and preserve her.” It’s that sort of motive that seems to permeate this event. Make no mistake about it, yes, many of the participants are financially well-heeled, but at the same time that affords them the luxury of not only preserving such classics, but also altruistically presenting them to the public merely for pure enjoyments sake.

As part of the festivities on Saturday there was a Chuckwagon luncheon on the beach where an airshow took place. Registered guests were able to partake in a delicious buffet spread on a beautiful winter day while also enjoying aero acrobatics from noon until 2PM. There were 19 aircraft featured at the show ranging in pedigree from 1906 (a replica, actually) to 1995. Shortly following the show, over at the Ocean Reef Airport, was a tour and commentary on the aircraft. A favorite amongst the crowd was a 1945 DC-3. As shown (top right), she’s not cosmetically a princess of the skies (although quite structurally sound), but is still in regular service flying to the The 1945 DC-3 was a crowd favorite, owned by Julio Castro. Bahamas five days a week. On that point, owner Julio Castro of Miami, Florida quipped, “You can tell, she’s no hanger Queen.” (Don’t you just love flyboys?)

Later that evening, the Wild West themed dinner dance got into full swing over at the Town hall, complete with hay bales and a country band which later kicked things up several notches with more modern dance tunes, and the feeling of camaraderie and fellowship in the hall was palpable. Yes, drinks flowed, yet—despite the prevalence of all them pistol packers— no blood was spilled.

Before the dance, we spent cocktail hour with the VP of Sales and Marketing, Richard Weinstein, and the Director of Communications, Molly Carroll, in the Reef Lounge for a nosh and some cocktails. Amidst the gentle background strumming of a jazzy bassist accompanying a female vocalist (whose dulcet voice could make you swoon), the lively conversation ranged upon any number of topics. At one point we mistakenly referred to ORC as a resort, to which Richard quickly retorted, “Oh no, please don’t say that; we’re not a resort, we are a club.” We stood corrected, and rightfully so. The members are the owners here, not some far-off disconnected corporate entity dishing out mirror ceilinged rooms and endless all-you-can-eat buffets for a package price.

Sunday dawned with a northeasterly bluster huffing in off the Atlantic, swaying the Royal Palms and lending a bit of drama

to the radio-controlled sailboat regatta taking place out on the saltwater pond of Buccaneer Island. From our vantage point on a balcony of the Dolphin residence, with light sweet coffees in hand, we watched the diminutive vessels tack and jibe around the marks, and run the downwind leg, wing-on-wing. But that was about the only aggressive or competitive thing we observed throughout the entire sublimely debonair and cultivated weekend.

There’s scant doubt this event will continue to thrive and endure, perpetually bolstered by the intrinsically sound premises on which it was established: fun, sociability, community, a preservationists nod to the past and a celebratory glance to what the future will bring.

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