“David Povich taught me how to be a lawyer, and I taught him how to sail,” says Brendan Sullivan, the Washington, D.C., attorney famous for his defense of such high-profile clients as Oliver North and Senator Ted Stevens. Povich is Sullivan’s law partner at the prestigious firm of Williams & Connolly; he and Sullivan have shared boat ownership for over 20 years.
While boat partnerships can be short-lived deals that end on unpleasant terms, Sullivan and Povich enjoy talking about their uniquely successful co-ownership of three different sailboats. Their newest project is a Robb Ladd-designed Tayana 64, which they took delivery of last summer. Celebration boasts a handsome, sleek profile highlighted by curvaceous deck-saloon windows, which create a bright, open interior. But the true beauty of this yacht is its balanced combination of power and ease of handling. Indeed, its array of push-button controls, the responsive helm, and the well-organized cockpit will allow Sullivan to singlehandedly take the 68,000-pound Celebration out for a daysail when he finds time from his busy law practice.
Sitting one day last summer in Sullivan’s Annapolis, Maryland, home high above the Severn River and overlooking the U.S. Naval Academy, with Celebration moored below, the pair explained how and why their boat partnership has worked so well over the years.
“It all started when six of us at the law firm got together and put up $5,000 each to buy a brand-new Columbia 36,” says Povich, who is the brother of television personality Maury and the son of the legendary sports columnist for The Washington Post, Shirley. “Eventually, four dropped out, leaving the two of us with the boat.” They’ve been sailing together ever since. In 1987, Sullivan and Povich bought a new, Bob Perry-designed Tayana 52; the boat is still moored nearby, and they seem reluctant to sell. “Just looking at her out there brings back good memories. I almost feel that I’d need to interview whoever buys her to make sure she’ll have a good home,” says Sullivan. The 52 is named Confrontation, a moniker inspired by the Oliver North case.
The success of this boat partnership appears to be partly due to their clear separation of responsibilities. “I get to design the boat’s details, and Brendan gets to name the boat,” laughs Povich. As a matter of preference, Povich has been responsible for working directly with the builder, designer, and dealer and is also considered the project’s “treasurer.”
Sullivan has been an avid sailor since his pre-teen years racing Town class sailboats and Beetle Cats on Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay. He seems to be happy paying his share of the bills as long as he can go sailing whenever he has time.
“Brendan is very focused on the art of sailing as well as on all the safety gear,” says Robert Noyce, the U.S. East Coast dealer for Tayana, who worked as the liaison between the two law partners, Robb Ladd, and the Tayana factory. This past 4th of July weekend, Sullivan was anxiously waiting for the final commissioning to be completed before he and his family sailed Celebration to Maine for the summer.
While Sullivan and Povich occasionally sail together, more often they sail separately with their respective families and friends. In May 2006, Povich sailed Confrontation across the Atlantic, meeting Sullivan in Mallorca. “It took me 35 years to teach him enough about sailing for him to take it across the ocean,” says Sullivan with a wry smile. Povich stopped in Bermuda, the Azores, and Portugal before reaching the Med. His crew included his two sons, a nurse, and a fellow attorney who coined the rallying cry for the oceangoing adventure: “When am I ever going to get another chance to do this?”
Then the two partners took turns sailing Confrontation for a year throughout the Med, and at the end of 2007, Povich sailed the boat home to Annapolis.
After sailing Confrontation for over a decade, both became eager for a new and larger yacht. They were so satisfied with their Tayana 52 that they barely gave other builders serious consideration. “We felt a loyalty to the Tayana name, and after talking again with Basil Lin, Tayana’s chief engineer, at a recent boat show, we knew that he’d build us another great boat,” said Povich. Lin had been the project manager for Confrontation as well.
Both Povich and Sullivan had become confident in their ability to handle their 52-footer, even when shorthanded, so they felt comfortable moving up to a size that would offer more luxurious accommodations and greater sail power. Over the years with their first Tayana, they’d become acquainted with Noyce, who’d become a Tayana dealer and who’d advised them about preparing their 52 for its transatlantic passage. During a casual visit to Noyce’s office, they spotted a design by Robb Ladd, who’d designed the original Tayana 64 deck-saloon model. But Povich had his own ideas of what the boat should look like, many of which were inspired by designs he saw in the Mediterranean. After preliminary discussions, Ladd was commissioned to draw the design based on the existing Tayana 64 hull. The new design, Celebration, was on display at last fall’s U.S. Sailboat Show and was labeled the Tayana Annapolis 64.
Ladd’s newest raised deck-saloon windows are much more sculpted and curved than the ones on the original Tayana 64, giving the boat, to my eye, a more graceful and contemporary look than previously built Tayanas. Povich even had the canvas maker follow the same sweeping lines for the custom dodger. At the dock or under sail, the yacht certainly stands out.
“I want my designs to compel my clients to stop and look at their boats when they’re in their dinghies because they love what they see,” says Ladd. The smiles on the faces of Povich and Sullivan suggest that they’ll be stopping to look every time they go ashore.
The design brief from Povich and Sullivan was simple: “No more camping” and “No more ‘down below’!” While most sailors would not think of cruising on a Tayana 52 as “camping,” both of these owners had reached a point of wanting more commodious space, especially since the size of their families had grown.
“Most important to us was the ability to see out from inside the saloon,” says Povich. Consequently, the main settee, dining table, and navigation station are raised and located between the side decks, not below them. Raising these areas ensures excellent visibility, but there are drawbacks. “You lose living space outboard under the decks,” says Robb Ladd. “But we utilized much of it for storage, including large deck lockers for fenders and lines.”
Povich also wanted a proper “library” in which he could comfortably read, so in place of a customary settee located below in the main saloon, he had Ladd design an area complete with a desk, chair, bookshelves, reading lamps, and a comfortable reading chair. To starboard of the library is a day head, which keeps guests and crew from having to use the heads in the private staterooms.
Moving forward, there are two equally sized port and starboard staterooms with double berths, each with a private head and shower. Here Povich used his visual talent in requesting that the two staterooms be divided by an accordion-style door that can be left open during the day or when there are a limited number of guests. As a result, there’s an impressive feeling of wide-open space below. Povich prefers one of these forward cabins for himself, and he enjoyed pointing out how he had Tayana build a shelf above his berth specifically for a favorite book, his reading glasses, and a coffee cup.
The shelf was a small detail, but it told a bigger story about Povich’s intense involvement in the design and building of Celebration. Indeed, he traveled to the Tayana yard in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, twice during construction. “When David went to Tayana during the building of the 52, he met the workers. When he went back during the construction of the 64, he met their children,” says Noyce. One of the biggest challenges Povich had for the yard was to create stanchion bases that are hidden. “He wanted to see nothing at the base, just the stanchion,” says Noyce, who’s also an experienced metal fabricator. “We finally came up with a design that he was happy with. David is the kind of client who pushes you to find new solutions, and as a result, we all learned new things.”
Povich also disliked having the engine’s exhaust exit amidships. “I just think an exhaust belongs in the back of the boat,” says Povich. So, a rather complex redesign of the exhaust system required reworking part of the aft cabin to allow for the extended run of the larger-diameter exhaust hose, but as Noyce put it, “Our job is to build what he wants.”
The impressive aft stateroom is Sullivan’s, and it features a separate head and shower and a large island berth. Quite unusual throughout the yacht is the treatment of the teak wood, which looks more like dark walnut than teak. “David saw something in a book of megayachts that he liked, and we did our best to reproduce the look,” says Noyce. “It was a multi-step process of staining the solid teak and creating lighter-colored veneers for contrast.”
Since the owners often sail shorthanded, the sail plan and rigging were designed accordingly. The mainsail is fully battened and utilizes a Leisure Furl in-boom furling system from Forespar that’s hydraulically controlled. A modified solent rig features double headstays set one behind the other. On the inner stay, a 100-percent jib is self-tacking and sheeted to a deck-mounted track. It’s easily reefed with its electrically controlled Profurl furling system, and the single sheet is run under the deck to the cockpit. On the forward stay, a 180-percent, lightweight, asymmetric screacher is set, also on an electric Profurl furler, and used for reaching or downwind sailing in up to about 17 knots of apparent wind. When tacking, the screacher is furled and reset. In the right conditions, it would be possible to fly both headsails downwind for more power. And if the breeze really comes on, canvas can be shortened quickly, using an inner forestay and storm staysail. Celebration’s sails were built by North Sails’ Chesapeake loft.
The polar plot and sail plan indicate that Celebration is a powerful yacht that will move well in a variety of conditions. Still, the 82-foot-tall rig and versatile sail plan are easily tamed with push-button adjustments to sheets and furling systems, ensuring that the helmsman can maintain good control in changing conditions.
“Both David and Brendan are very confident and capable sailors,” says Noyce. “In fact, I’m sure Brendan will sail Celebration singlehanded.”
Indeed, the aft cockpit clearly focuses on the art of sailing, with its two identical helms and ready access to all sheets, lines, and controls. Forward of the wheels and thoughtfully out of the way are matching cockpit settees separated by an elegantly constructed dining table. The layout works especially well for taking out those not necessarily into crew duty. Povich tested it out by taking his children, grandchildren, and their friends-a total of 20-for a sail just before the yacht was fully commissioned. Even with a number of grandchildren scrambling over the decks and a cockpit full of guests, Povich had no trouble handling the boat.
Sailing in five to 10 knots of wind and on calm seas off Annapolis, I found Celebration surprisingly responsive for her size. Noyce, David Sullivan-Brendan’s brother-and I took her for a spin around the buoys just before she was scheduled for delivery to the Annapolis sailboat show. The beautiful fall afternoon found us in a busy outer harbor full of Naval Academy sloops and small racers. Tacking and jibing through all this activity was less stressful than I would’ve imagined, and we were able to maintain a steady six-plus knots, sailing closehauled to a broad reach, even in these light winds.
Construction of Celebration began in April 2007, and the boat was shipped from Taiwan in September 2008, arriving in Annapolis in December. During the build, Noyce spent a total of three months at the Tayana yard overseeing the work and making sure that Povich’s requests were being followed. Per Ladd’s design parameters, the Tayana 64 is constructed using a low-density, closed-cell core and knitted E-glass laminates in the topsides and deck that together help to reduce weight. A lightweight, high-tensile strength S-glass skin coat is used to enhance the hull’s finish and minimize print-through.
Commissioning got under way in the spring of 2009, culminating in a festive celebration and christening party at Sullivan’s home. The party was attended by scores of friends and family members who’d sailed on Confrontation, including Oliver North, who was looking forward to finding time between Fox News assignments to crew on Celebration. Also seen walking the docks and checking out Celebration’s deck arrangement and interior accommodations was another sailing friend of Povich and Sullivan, Bob Woodward of Washington Post fame.
At the christening, Noyce was all smiles, although he seemed to be mentally checking off the last-minute details that remained before Sullivan left for his first offshore voyage. Ladd stood nearby listening to words of approval as the savvy crowd got their first look at this sleek, curvaceous beauty. Speeches were given, the champagne flowed, and toasts were made celebrating the success of this all-new Tayana and to the unique partnership that brought it to fruition.
Shortly after Celebration’s final commissioning, Noyce received a call from Sullivan, who’d arrived in Newport, Rhode Island; except for an autopilot gremlin, he was reportedly extremely pleased with the yacht’s performance and impressed with its power under sail. Povich was making plans to meet him there and sail to Bath, Maine, where the Tayana would be based for the summer before heading to stops in Annapolis and the Caribbean. After 40 seasons, the partners were ready for the next adventure. Indeed, it seems to me that their era of Confrontation is over and their time for Celebration has begun.
Annapolis resident George Sass Sr. is a veteran cruiser and marine writer.