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Celebration Spotlight on Olin Stephens

by Barby McGowan on 20 Jul 2008
Happy Birthday Olin © Rolex / Dan Nerney
Although there is still another day of racing to go this weekend and another four days of competition to come next week, today may go down as the most memorable at the New York Yacht Club's (NYYC) sixth biennial Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex.

With 53 classic yachts gathered here to race in celebration of Olin Stephens's 100th Birthday, plenty of friends and admirers were on hand at Harbour Court this evening when the famous designer -- of S&S (Sparkman & Stephens design firm) fame -- joined them for dinner and a birthday cake.

'It's hard to live up to what they say about me,' said Stephens, whose designs comprise more than half the fleet here. 'I don't know what all the fuss is about.' In a presentation to a crowd of 600, John Rousmaniere, Olin's friend, author and NYYC historian, explained, 'I've always said you have to know the man by his works because he's too humble to talk about his contributions to the world of sailing.'

Stephens's birthday cake resembled one of the famous S&S designs competing here: Ed Kane's (Concord, Mass.) 73-foot Bolero, built in 1950. Bolero once belonged to John Nicholas Brown, whose family owned Harbour Court before it became the New York Yacht Club's summer clubhouse. After two races today, Bolero finished third overall in Class 1, which sailed 'outside' on Rhode Island Sound on a course shared by the 12 Metre classes. Trevor Fetter's (Newport, R.I.) 68-foot S&S-designed Black Watch, built in 1938, currently stands in first in that class after two victories today.

Meanwhile, 'inside' and up Narragansett Bay, two more race circles accommodated another six classes. Closely watched in Class 2 was Edgar Cato's (Charlotte, N.C.) 52-foot Dorade, one of Stephens' earliest designs, which revolutionized the future of yacht design and with which Stephens -- then in his early 20s -- handily won the 1931 Transatlantic and Fastnet Races. The accomplishment, unthinkable at the time for a yacht so small and being sailed by a young amateur crew, was rewarded with a Ticker Tape Parade down Broadway in New York during the height of the Depression.

Today, Dorade finished second after posting a 4-1 today, behind Tom Hill's (San Juan, Puerto Rico) newly acquired 52-foot 'Q' Boat Falcon with a 2-2, and ahead of Samuel Croll's (Rye, N.Y.) 52-foot 8 Meter Angelita with a 1-4. All three boats, like most of the entries competing here this weekend, are beautifully restored to lines and perfection reminiscent of classic yachting's Golden Era.

Hill, better known for his race record aboard a line of successive grand-prix ocean racers named Titan, had been looking for a classic yacht and jumped at the chance to acquire the Frank Paine design, which was built in 1930 and sitting in near-perfect shape up in Maine.

'It's got a nice rhythm to it,' said Hill's wife Dottie, who says she is enjoying racing on Falcon while the latest incarnation of Titan is being built. 'We're going to just have some fun with it this summer.' Nevertheless, Titan's Captain Peter Pexton said never to underestimate the intensity of Falcon's six-man crew compared to Titan's crew of well more than double that. 'Classic regattas are more for fun than grand prix regattas, although for Tom, it will always be very competitive. I think you could say that about Edgar Cato and Joe Dockery (sailing the S&S-designed Sonny, also in Class 2) and some others as well,' said Pexton, noting that Cato and Dockery also lead double lives as accomplished grand-prix sailors.

Built in 1928, Angelita won the Olympics that same year, and though her designer, Nick Potter, was not as well known as Stephens, he grew up the boyhood friend of L. Francis Herreshoff and later worked as a designer for L. Francis's legendary father Nat Herreshoff.

Further to that, Herreshoff himself was well represented by the S Boat Class competing here. According to Paul Del Nero (Newport, R.I.), skipper of Vindex, which won the day with two first-place finishes, Herreshoff produced 80-90 of the S Boats, which were designed in 1919. With many of the originals still active, S Boats are considered the oldest one-design class still racing. ' My boat was built in 1927,' said Del Nero, 'and I've been racing it for ten years. There are about 15 S Boats active here on Narragansett Bay.'

Among the S Boat racers was Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse aboard Osprey, which his grandfather commissioned in 1936. Whitehouse only recently re-acquired the boat for his family, after it had traded hands among several different owners over the years. Co-skippering the boat with Newporters Dyer Jones and Michael McCaffrey, Whitehouse finished third overall.

Also represented in today's races were five 6 Metres, boats which were used in the Olympics from 1908-1936. In that class, Joe Loughborough's Belle leads after a 1-2 today.

While the 12 Metre class started yesterday, a day earlier than the rest of the fleet, the eight-boat Shields class sailed today, and for one day only, to determine overall winner Peter Clark (Newport, R.I.). Clark, sailing Virginia, won three of four races to post six points to Jeffrey Gladchun's (Middletown, R.I.) nine aboard Coffee Grinder. In 1963, Olin Stephens was commissioned by Cornelius Shields to design a modern follow-up to the International One Design; the 30-foot Shields was the result.

Don Glassie's (Newport, R.I.) Custom Schooner Fortune leads Class 3.

Racing for the rest of the Classics will conclude tomorrow, bringing to an end the first half of Race Week.

Race Week's Second Half

For the second half of the New York Yacht Club's Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex -- from Thursday, July 24 through Sunday, July 27 -- 123 modern racing machines will converge on Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound for IRC, PHRF and one-design competitions.

The event is part of the 2008 US-IRC Gulf Stream Series, and three one-design classes - the NYYC Swan 42s, J/109s and Melges 32s - will use the event to determine their 2008 North American or National champions. In addition, the event will serve as the J/105 and J/122 East Coast Championships and the Beneteau First 36.7 Northeast Championship.

On-demand video will be available after 9 pm each evening of Race Week at www.nyyc.org, where complete results also can be found.

For more information, visit the website above or contact the New York Yacht Club Sailing Office, Harbour Court, 5 Halidon Avenue, Newport, R.I. 02840; phone 401-845-9633; fax 401-846-3303; email sailingoffice@nyyc.org.

New York Yacht Club Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex

Day 2 Classics Regatta - Place, First name, Last name, City, State, Boat Name, Type, Finish Positions, Total

CLASSICS 1 - Non-Spinnaker
1. Trevor Fetter, New York, Newport, RI, Black Watch , S&S, 1-1, 2
2. Scott Frantz, New York, Riverside, CT, Ticonderoga, Herreshoff, 3-2, 5
3. Edward Kane, New York, Concord, MA, Bolero, S&S, 2-4, 6

CLASSICS 2 - Spinnaker
1. Tom Hill, New York, San Juan, PR, Falcon, Burgess Q, 2-2, 4
2. Edgar Cato, New York, Charlotte, NC, Dorade, S&S, 4-1, 5
3. Samuel Croll, New York, Rye, NY, Angelita, Potter 8mR, 1-4, 5

CLASSICS 3 - Non-Spinnaker
1. Don Glassie, New York , Newport, R.I., Fortune, Custom Schooner, 2-1, 3
2. Alfred Sanford, Nantucket, Mass., Impala, S&S, 1-2, 3
3. Peter Dinkel, Shelter Is, Pleasantville, N.Y., Varuna, S&S Gulfst. 42, 3-4, 7

CLASSCS 4 - SPIRIT OF TRADITION/MODERN - Non-Spinnaker
1. Chase Hogoboom, Providence, R.I., Kestrel, Herreshoff FI31, 1-1, 2
2. Glenn Walters, Other, Newport, R.I., Poia, Catalina 38, 3-2, 5
3. Bernard Gustin, New York, Newport, R.I., Say When, Herreshoff BBay 25, 2-3, 5

12 METRES - DIVISION A GRAND PRIX
1. Ralph Isham, New York, N.Y./USA 61, 1-1-1-1, 4
2. Mercedes Tech, New York, N.Y., America II/USA 46, 2-2-3/DNS-2, 9

12 METRES - DIVISION B MOD

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