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2015 Rolex Fastnet Race – Dorade completes historic campaign

by Kirsten Ferguson on 10 Sep 2015
Dorade in Newport, R.I. preparing for the start of the 2015 Transatlantic Race Billy Black
2015 Rolex Fastnet Race – Defying critics who said it couldn’t be done, Dorade has completed a four-year campaign to repeat all of the major ocean races she won in the 1930s, finishing up on the podium at the 2015 RFR, where she took second in IRC Class four and seventh overall out of 356 boats.

A 52’ wooden yawl built in 1930 by Olin and Rod Stephens, Dorade was the oldest boat to compete in this year’s Fastnet and took home three of the event’s most prestigious trophies: the Sparkman and Stephens Trophy, the Iolaire Block, and the Coates Schofield Trophy. Finishing the 615-mile race in four days, six hours, 13 minutes and 42 seconds, owners Matt Brooks and Pam Rorke Levy (San Francisco, Calif.) and their seven-man crew cut more than 24 hours off Rod and Olin Stephens’ original time when they won the Fastnet in 1931.

Dorade first made headlines in the 1931 Transatlantic Race from Newport, Rhode Island to Plymouth, England, when Olin and Rod Stephens – just 21 and 22 years old at the time – sailed their narrow, deep-keeled wooden yawl to victory against a fleet of much larger fisherman-type schooners owned by some of the world’s richest men. That performance was followed by victories in the 1931 and 1933 Fastnet Races and the 1936 Transpacific Race, launching the Stephens brothers in the boat building business and establishing them as two of the sport’s most gifted innovators. Following those early victories, Dorade’s design continued to influence the design of sailboats for decades, and Olin Stephens went on to become one of the 20th century’s most respected and successful marine architects, designing and building hundreds of boats, including six winners of the America’s Cup.

This year’s Fastnet Race was the final event in Brooks and Levy’s ambitious “Return to Blue Water” campaign, which began shortly after the couple purchased Dorade in 2010. The goal of the campaign was to restore the 80-year-old Dorade to ocean-racing condition and repeat all four of the major ocean races she won in the 1930s, matching or bettering her original time in each race. In just four years the boat has sailed more than 18,000 miles on her own bottom, competing in offshore and coastal races throughout Europe, the Caribbean, and North America.

In 2013, Dorade surprised everyone in the sailing community – including Brooks and Levy – by winning the 2225-mile Transpacific Race overall on corrected time, 77 years after winning that race for the first time. At the time, Dorade was the oldest boat ever to compete in the TransPac. That victory was followed by class wins in the Caribbean 600 and the 2014 Newport-Bermuda Race, as well as second in class in the 2015 Transatlantic Race. With the successful completion of the Fastnet Race, Levy and Brooks have managed a clean sweep of all four races in the campaign, improving on Dorade’s original performance in every case and exceeding all their expectations.

“We simply wanted to finish every race in good order and show that a classic boat designed decades ago to race in the ocean could once again be competitive,” said Levy. “We wanted to do Olin and Rod Stephens proud, showing that a boat they built when they were just getting started was not just a revolutionary new design but a design with enduring value. The success of the campaign was beyond our wildest dreams.”

“I think we’ve shown that it’s possible to apply a modern racing discipline to a classic boat campaign,” said Brooks. “If we can do it, anyone can. We started out four years ago with almost no experience in ocean racing and some very modest ideas about what we wanted to accomplish, but with persistence and the right people on our team we were able to grow this into a global campaign that has put us on the podium with the very best in the sport.”

Many of sailing’s greatest names are applauding Brooks and his team for their efforts, including Volvo Ocean Race and America’s Cup veteran Ken Read (Newport, R.I.) who raced alongside Dorade in both the Transatlantic Race and the Rolex Fastnet as skipper of the 100-foot carbon fiber supermaxi yacht Comanche. “What Matt has done with the boat, preserving history, should be applauded in a huge way,” said Read. “By doing things like this, we’re reminding people of the historical development of sailboat racing. You look at Dorade, which was at the cutting edge of its time and you look at Comanche, which is one of the cutting edge monohulls on the water now, and it’s unbelievable that they are competing side-by-side. Thanks to rating systems and events like the Transatlantic Race and the Fastnet, opposites attract.”

“We know that Dorade and the Stephens brothers have an extraordinary following, and we feel honored to be her custodians,” said Brooks. “We’re looking forward to a new chapter in her history, racing Dorade around the world and building awareness of her story beyond the traditional world of yachting.”

After spending the winter in Newport, Brooks and Levy plan to continue campaigning Dorade in both coastal and offshore events around the world, beginning in June 2016 with the 50th Anniversary of the Newport Bermuda Race, followed by an active summer season in New England. From there, the team will compete in a series of races in Asia followed by the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in Australia.

“Dorade has always been the underdog, ever since those first few races in the 1930s,” added Levy. “She was always the little white boat that no one expected to win. Everyone loves an underdog who wins against all the odds, and as a result, over the years she has attracted an extraordinary community of fans. We look forward to many more years sailing her around the world, delighting her followers and showing that she still has it in her.”

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