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Robin’s rocking return to Classic Yacht Regatta

Ted Hood, 81, and his 1958-launched Robin — a 50-year-old boat he designed himself that many credit as the launching pad of his celebrated yacht-design career — topped the 63-boat fleet at the 29th Annual Classic Yacht Regatta.

Racing on the opening day of the regatta was cancelled after a long postponement on windless waters shrouded in fog and a drizzle of rain. Conditions on Day 2 were a complete turnaround: the fleet of classics, which mixed restored boats dating to the early 1900s with modern “spirit of tradition” yachts of contemporary build and classic styling, was treated to a teen-strength northerly breeze and clear blue skies.

“We had ideal conditions, and a little bit of everything,” says Hood (Portsmouth, R.I.), commenting on the breeze and the 18-mile, round-the-island course with a good balance of upwind and downwind sailing. Among Robin’s crew were Hood’s sons, Rick and Bob, along with several grandchildren.

Hood’s Robin was a fitting boat to capture overall honors, a boat with enduring qualities that have withstood the test of time. When Hood launched Robin, the first of his big-boat designs, she was considered radical with a centerboard and a tall rig. Her first season, Robin won seven of the 12 races she entered. Hood then turned his talents toward creating a string of fast boats and sails and winning the America’s Cup in 1974, while Robin was sold to a series of different owners. Finding the boat later in disrepair and in need of a refit, Hood purchased Robin back and restored her — a process he estimates as costing five times what her original build cost. But the boat that once turned heads in the 1950s was able to do so again this summer.

Additional trophy winners included defending champion Black Watch, a 68-foot Sparkman & Stephens yawl skippered by Richard Breeden of Newport that topped the Best Life Class. Sponsor Panerai presented wall clocks to top performers that championed the competition in their classic category, including: Chips, a 1913 50-foot Burgess-designed sloop skippered by Jed Pearsall of Newport; Zbynek Zak’s Eleanora (Zug, Switzerland), a Herreshoff-designed gaff schooner that measures 135 feet on deck; Equus, a spirit-of-tradition W-46 owned by Jeremy Pochman (Nantucket, Mass.); Sonny, a 1935 Sparkman & Stephens sloop owned by Joe Dockery (Newport, R.I./Greenwich, Conn.) and helmed by George Isdale (Greenwich, Conn.); and White Wings, a 76-foot W-Class sloop entered by Donald Tofias of Newport.

For complete results, visit www.moy.org.

Asian team wins Knickerbocker Cup

Takumi Nakamura of the Albatross Match Racing Team from Japan won the 2008 Knickerbocker Cup and secured an invitation to the Bermuda Gold Cup, a Grade 1 match-racing event that is part of the World Match Racing Tour.

Nakamura, with crew Norio Igea, Nathan Hollerbach and Tetsuya Sasaki, won every Cup match except for one on the first day of racing. Rounding out the top teams was Russian Sergey Musikhin, followed by Australian Keith Swinton and American Chris Van Tol of the Van Tol Match Racing Team.

With Day 4 another windless day on Manhasset Bay and Long Island Sound, the fleet was hard-pressed to finish the final matches. When a southerly finally filled in with just about an hour or so of racing left, the matches were started quickly. With the help of Nakamura and Swinton, competitors were swiftly dispensed. It was Nakamura over Musikhin (2-0) and Swinton over Van Tol (2-0).

Nakamura is a team to watch. They came to the Knickerbocker Cup with a crew that had not sailed together before and won every match except one, which was against Van Tol, last year’s Cup champion. Commodore Robbie Lager remarked that the Albatross Match Racing Team “won several Grade 4 events, went on to a second place in a Grade 3 event and now have won a Grade 2 event. Hopefully, this is the beginning of being launched to be first in a Grade 1 event.” www.kyc.net

This article originally appeared in the November 2008 issue.