Classic Yachts Race off Marblehead, Massachusetts

A collection of vintage beauties, a tribute to renowned designer Ted Hood, and a Will-and-Kate sighting of a different sort round out the kickoff regatta of the North American circuit of the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge 2011 in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

Panerai Corinthian Classic Yacht Regatta

Elaine Lembo

Light winds and deft helmsmanship characterized two days of pursuit races of the Corinthian Classic Yacht Regatta August 13-14, the first in Panerai's North American summer series. The races continue this weekend with the Nantucket Opera Cup Regatta before finishing at the Museum of Yachting Classic Yacht Regatta in Newport, Rhode Island, over Labor Day weekend.

I managed to hop aboard two boats competing in two of the three classic yacht divisions—Classic Yachts, Spirit of Tradition Yachts, and Classic Plastic Yachts (see the complete photo gallery here).

Sea Robin, a Little Harbor 37 and Ted Hood's first foray into fiberglass design, competed in the Classic Plastic yacht division with owner Russ MacPherson and crew, which included his son, Will.

I had the great good fortune to join them for Saturday’s race, and they patiently put this non-racer through the paces, explaining the importance of watching the tell tales and then moving the cars forward and back on the track to improve headsail performance upwind.

This crew came equipped with team jerseys, lunch, and snacks, and in between munching and reading the wind they regaled me with tales of how three of them—Will, Matty and Colin—have raced together aboard Sea Robin since they met up in grad school at Dartmouth. Will, it turns out, is a newlywed, and had just returned from his nuptials to Kate in Five Islands, Maine, where the MacPherson family summers. (Kate appeared for post-race festivities, and I met her then.) Russ, of course, made sure Sea Robin was a part of the wedding, cruising her Down East, then entering her in a few races. Thanks to crewmate Wally Foster of Foster Rigging, Sea Robin completed the course without a mishap of any sort, above deck or below.

After the race, Sea Robin and Ted Hood's other Robins—boats he built and owned himself—tied up at the dock of the Corinthian Yacht Club for an open house, and Ted visited with the current owners of his trademark hulls before speaking at a dinner in his honor later that night.

On Sunday I raced in the Classic Yacht division aboard the staysail schooner Fortune under slate skies. It was a great chance to catch up with fellow Newporter, longtime friend, and Fortune captain John Taft, and crew, some of whom I know as neighbors in town. Sailing aboard the schooner also helped me remember how to rig the fisherman and the gollywobbler, which in turn reminded me of another, smaller schooner, Hammonasset, which was the first sailboat I'd ever owned, with my partner, Capt. Rick Martell.

Last but not least, hanging around all these classic beauties and admiring their varnish wouldn't be a complete experience without accommodations to match. Enter another Newport neighbor and shipwright Jeffrey Rutherford; racer Robert G. McNeil of California, and the 126-foot, 1902 steam yacht Cangarda that Rutherford and McNeil have painstakingly restored to her former glory. I was an overnight guest aboard this majestic yacht and it was an experience I'll never forget or regret, right down to the firing of the cannon Saturday evening at Colors. Cangarda serves as the tender to Joyant, the Herreshoff P-boat that the duo of McNeil and Rutherford has also restored as carefully and painstakingly as they have the steam yacht.