Any sailor who’s dropped a chute in a close race, whether in a Blue Jay or a J-boat, knows the feeling. It’s show time—a time for crew work, handling sheet and guy, working the foredeck and steering in traffic. It’s the moment when leads can change hands and races can be won or lost amidst cries of “Starboard” and “Hold your course!”
Marine artist Willard Bond—a member of The American Society of Marine Artists as a Signature Artist, Fellow and Fellow Emeritus who passed away in 2012 at age 85—captured it all in his 32 x 44 watercolor painting, “The Drop.” Using his trademark bold colors and strokes, Bond conveyed the intensity of racing around the leeward mark, action so familiar to sailors.
Bond’s inspiration came from his love of sailing ships and yachts. While living in New York in 1976, he became the night Pier Master at the historic South Street Seaport and began painting large-format watercolors of the tall ships that were berthed there for the U.S. Bicentennial.
Shortly after, Bond got involved in the America’s Cup scene in time for the 1977 races in Newport, Rhode Island, where Ted Turner’s Courageous defeated Australia. “Willard had finally found his passion, painting the action and intensity of the 12 Meter Class yacht races,” says Bond’s daughter, Gretchen de Limur. To Bond, crews were superheroes and the yachts fantastic machines.
Known for his gregarious personality, Bond was often taken aboard the entrants for practice sails, where he was able to experience the excitement, speed and action of racing first-hand. Photographers also provided him with hundreds of photos to use as inspiration for his paintings.
“Images of the action are taken from actual races and heats, using the photos as a foundation, to which he added his own imagination and artistic skills,” says de Limur. “He always searched for the power and energy in a scene and to convey that in his work. He was known for painting the feelings and sensations of the races and the power of the wind and water.”
This article was originally published in the August 2021 issue.