PHOTOS: Showdown on the Sound held Saturday to benefit Shatterproof

All photos Jarret Liotta

Will Herling, chairman of the event, sheds a tear for his late best friend Michael Taylor, during the 3rd annual Showdown on the Sound at Weed Beach on Saturday, June 8, 2019.

Moments of comedy were happily blended with heartfelt care Saturday afternoon at Weed Beach in a fundraising event held in memory of a beloved Darien man.

The Ladies Who Launch team from Darien take part in the boat parade.

The third annual Showdown on the Sound, which featured the silliness of a motley collection of homemade boats and boaters in competition, was also a tribute for Darien native Michael Taylor, who died at 26.

Francis Taylor, Michael’s father, at left, watches as the first boats take to the water

“Mike Taylor, my best friend, passed away from opioid addiction three years ago,” said Will Herling, chair of the event, which donates its substantial proceeds to Shatterproof, a nonprofit aimed at conquering addiction.

Helen Robinson of Darien, a schoolmate of Michael Taylor’s at Darien High School, begins a live painting of the event, which is later auctioned off to raise funds.

“We spend a lot of time on Long Island Sound,” he said, “and so to honor his memory we decided to have (this) event.”

Capsizing, as the Joyride team experienced, is sometimes part of the fun of the Showdown on the Sound.

Homemade boats—aided by large donations of free material from Ring’s End—were constructed by teams of four, which then had to run a relay race out into the water without tipping over or, in the work case, break apart entirely.

The Ring’s End boat team pose for a picture. The store donated substantial supplies so all the teams could construct a seaworthy vessel

“These folks are working very hard on the fundraising, but I would say with mixed results on (their boats) and some of the outfits they’ve assembled,” said Michael’s father, Francis Taylor.

Teams, priding names such as Campbell’s Sloop, Hall and Boats, and Yachty by Nature, combined their sailing skills with fashion sense that included everything from Disney characters to Vikings.

Jessica McKinney of Darien and her daughter Abigail, 2, enjoy a moment in the boat commemorating Michael Taylor at the 3rd annual Showdown on the Sound at Weed Beach.

More than $160,000 was raised, which pushed the total for the three years the event has been held to over $630,000.

Gary Mendell, Shatterproof founder, said the event not only honored Taylor, but was using his memory to create substantial change.

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong was on hand at the event, noting that as national work moves forward to combat the opioid crisis, “We take these actions with Mike Taylor in our hearts.”

“Yes, we’ve had tragedy … but we’re not here to talk about tragedy,” he said, referencing the death of his own son from addiction.

“What this audience represents, all of you (is) the courage to change the things you can,” he said.