Illustration by Jim Ewing
“This boat is a thoroughbred of the purest strain. Her lines, the way she lies at a mooring, her responsiveness to tiller and trim, everything about her reveals quality and breeding.”
That’s what Everett B. Morris, the pre-eminent boating writer of his day, had to say about the new Shields one-design in a March 1964 review in The Skipper. Yachtsman Arthur Knapp said, simply: The Shields is “lovely to sail.”
The boat was conceived by the top sailor of his day, Wall Street banker Cornelius “Corny” Shields of New Rochelle, N.Y. It’s hard to imagine a sailor as a nationally recognized sports figure, but Shields was just that. He was on the cover of Time magazine in 1953, the year he won the inaugural Mallory Cup, the U.S. men’s sailing championship.
The “Grey Fox of Long Island Sound” began his racing career in 1909 after moving east with his family from Minnesota. During the next 47 years — he retired from racing in 1956 after a heart attack — Corny Shields sailed in more than 8,000 races. He made a brief comeback in 1958 as skipper and adviser to Columbia’s successful America’s Cup defense.
An Olin Stephens design, the Shields shows the graceful lines and simple rig of the Sparkman & Stephens boats of the day. She measures just 2 inches over 30 feet LOA — 20 feet on the waterline — and has a slim 6-foot, 5-inch beam. The deep, narrow keel provides more than 3,000 pounds of ballast. Main and jib total 360 square feet, with a 520-square-foot spinnaker.
Morris called the boat “close-winded, nimble in light going, and steady and tractable in heavy weather.” The Shields, he said, is a “sound, low-upkeep boat of smart appearance and fine all-around sailing ability.”
More than 250 have been built over the years, and they’re still actively sailed around the country. The 2012 Nationals, sailed at Beverly, Mass., were won by Tim Dawson, of Newport, R.I.
May 2013 issue