How one small sailboat taught the Kennedys about life, family, leadership and winning.
To truly understand the dynamics and magic of the Kennedy family, one must understand their intense relationship with sailing and the sea. Many families sail together, but the Kennedys’ relationship with Victura, the 25-foot sloop purchased in 1932 shortly after the family’s move to Hyannis Port, stands apart. Throughout their brief lives, Joe Jr., Jack and Bobby spent long hours racing Victura, joined by littlest brother Teddy when he grew old enough. Joe Jr. and Jack ranked among the best collegiate sailors in New England, but lack of effort in a race by one of his sons could infuriate their father, Joseph P. Kennedy. Likewise Eunice emerged as a gifted sailor and fierce competitor, the equal of any of her brothers.
After the war, the family credited Jack’s experience sailing Victura with helping him survive the sinking of his PT boat in the Pacific. 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 “space-faring.”
Ted loved Victura as much as any of them and in years that followed, with his own children and the children of his lost brothers as crew, 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.
An imprint of the University Press of New England
Available April 2014
272 pages, 6 x 9", 28 images
CBS Evening News, "John F. Kennedy's Beloved Sailboat Back on Display," May 29, 2017, a report based largely on information from Victura.
Historian Michael Beschloss writes about two president-sailors and James W. Graham's book Victura in his New York Times piece, "Sailing Was More Than Respite for Roosevelt and Kennedy," Sept. 13, 2015.
Best Books of 2014
"A compelling story that is at times exciting, heartbreaking and fascinating ... Politics, history, sports — there’s something for just about anyone in these pages, whether those already steeped in Kennedy lore or those coming to the family history for the first time ... What Graham has here is a winner — a first-rate effort well worth the read."
-- Kelli Christiansen, Chicago Book Review
"Chapter A Day" selection, read over 10 days on 28 stations, August 2014.
-- Wisconsin Public Radio
"Graham has crafted a lovingly written, poignant book, and it’s highly recommended."
-- WindCheck Magazine, August 2014
Victura "tacks through their glamorous successes and heartbreaking defeats, always with the sea as a background. Opening with Tennyson and closing with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Graham’s poetic nod to Victura and the Kennedys—embracing all of Camelot’s triumphs and tragedies—is a love story of life."
-- Practical Sailor, January 2015
"This wonderfully-written book takes a well-worn subject -- the Kennedys -- and gives it as fresh a gust as the sailors on the sturdy, little Victura themselves must have felt a thousand times off the Nantucket shore. In going to sea on board the Victura, Joe, Jack, Bobby and Teddy Kennedy entered their metaphor of quest, braced themselves for the unknown, and left their country, in the end, with an imperishable poignancy in its heart."
-- Richard D. Mahoney, author, Sons and Brothers
"The Kennedys saw the world and nature as a magical place, full of mystery and adventure. They especially enjoyed challenges and the freedom of activities like sailing, skiing, river running, climbing and just being outside. Two thirds of the surface of planet earth is liquid: the sea is vital to life -- a huge source of both pleasure and fear -- and a great teacher. Victura, a small wooden sailboat, became the center of adventure, companionship and love for this remarkable family. Author Graham knows the sea, sailing and the Kennedys. Sail on Victura, to new horizons."
-- Jim Whittaker, first American to summit Mt. Everest, former CEO of REI, author of Life on the Edge: Memoirs of Everest and Beyond.
"Victura is more than Graham recounting the sailing experiences of the Kennedys. In this well-researched but warmly written book, Graham sometimes goes several pages describing an election, or a Kennedy family intrigue, and then gracefully brings the story back to the sea, showing how, in best and worst of times, the family pulled together around sailing."
-- Rich Evans, book review, SAILING magazine, March 2014
"Graham, a sailor himself who has worked for decades in politics, has created an epic story, rich with colorful anecdotes and rare interviews about a family pulled together during the best and worst of times by one small sailboat."
-- Sheridan Road magazine, May 2014
"New and Notable Reads for the Summer." Boat U.S. Magazine, June/July 2014