Another ‘Classic’: Vintage racing yachts do battle off Marblehead’s shore

Laurie Fullerton
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The Corinthian Classic Yacht Regatta brought together 31 classic racing yachts, some well over 100 years old, to the starting line on Aug. 13 and 14.

The IODs duke it amongst the fleet out during the Corinthian Classic Regatta.

Vintage, classics and spirit-of-tradition yachts competed for line honors in six divisions in a pursuit race format.

Hosted by the Corinthian Yacht Club, the event, now in its 24th year, has become an opportunity to bring together some of the most coveted and diverse classic yachts still racing.

The pursuit race format means that the slowest boats start first, the fastest last, so that they all finish around the same time, in theory.

Such was the case on Sunday when the site of so many beautifully preserved boats heading together to the finish line conjured up images of a golden era of yachting that seemed to peak in the 1980s.

The 115-year old Herreshoff ‘Neith’ is rounds the mark during the Corinthian Classic Regatta.

Now in her 11th decade of racing, the 60-foot, 115-year-old “Neith,” designed by Nat Herreshoff,
was the regatta’s overall winner and was awarded the W. Starling Burgess Trophy for best performance in the Vintage Yacht division.

The vintage yacht division comprises any yacht, though primarily ones made of wood, designed before 1950.

“Today was a good day, and we had fair breeze, and the course was a reach, which is great for
us,” Keith Brown, a longtime crew member aboard “Neith,” said Sunday.

“Neith” is a longtime participant in the regatta, and Brown said they all appreciate the yachting traditions in Marblehead and its love of classic yachts.

Border Ally, Galavant and Valiant race downwind in the Modern Classic division of the Corinthian Classic Regatta.

“Neith” is owned by Van Brown of Mystic, Connecticut.

“We have been coming to this event for a long time, and it remains one of our favorites,” he said. “We had great breeze today, and sailing along the Nahant shoreline was spectacular.”

On Sunday, although the increasing wind velocity gave the bigger boats a speed edge as they
headed south to Boston and rounded a government mark back along the Nahant shoreline, the
fleet was remarkably close throughout because of the staggered starts.

The course provided a spectacular scene of 31 classics, along with 13 IODs (International One Design) in hot pursuit.

One of those making up ground rapidly was the 12-meter “Valiant” owned by Gary Gregory of Marblehead, who placed first in the Modern Classic Division.

Any boat designed after 1950 and built before 1980 whose rudders are separated from the trailing edge of the keel is considered a Modern Classic.

Gary Gregory grinds the winch during the Corinthian Classic Regatta.

“The pursuit race format is based on expected speeds from different boats, but that can differ
once out on the racecourse based on unforeseen conditions,” Gregory said. “Our size meant we
started when many of the smaller boats were nearly at the mark off Boston, but it also meant
that the wind was better than we had foreseen, and we were able to make up a lot.”

On Saturday, the fleet went towards Gloucester and rounded at Newcomb Ledge. Marblehead’s
Quinn Valliancourt took line honors, finishing second overall in his division on his Herreshoff
design “Rozi.”

“It is always uncertain in a pursuit race, as you can absolutely get the right timing and conditions
on some days and on other days you are out of the running,” Valliancourt said. “The objective is
that everyone should finish quite closely and converge at the finish. That is what I like about
pursuit racing.”

While the Modern Classics included the winning 12-meter Valiant, the 13-strong division
featured yachts like the Ted-Hood-built Little Harbor 37 “Sea Robin,” the Hinckley 41 “Black
Magic” and the Hinckley “Valkyrie,” as well as the Swan 38 “Blue Pidgeon.”

Sailing to the finish line during the Corinthian Classic Yacht Regatta.

“The beauty of the modern classic boat is they have the extended bow and overhanging stern
and a classic sheer line,” said John Doub, owner of “Blue Pigeon.” “When rounding a mark, the sound of them going through the water is something we still marvel at.”

Fortunately, classic yacht racers understand that their vessels are unique in size, age and speed
but one of the factors that makes classic racing so interesting is it touches on all of the unique
history and legacy of both Marblehead and its links to yacht racing over the centuries.

The crew of the ‘Neith’ show off their new hardware as overall winners of the Corinthian Classic Yacht Regatta.

“I think the Corinthian Classic reminds us to appreciate the aesthetic of sailing through the
decades,” said Karen Finnocchio of Marblehead, who helmed the Modern Classic “Cynara,”
owned by Jason Panos. “Classic boats also have a simplicity that forces us to draw on skills
instead of technology. You go back to the basics.”

Finnocchio continued, “It is about perspective, too. The pandemic forced us to stop and slow down and look around. What we have here in Marblehead is so precious and envied by sailors around the world.”

Corinthian Classic organizer Timmy Dittrich agreed that he loves equally all of the classics, the IODs, the vintage and modern yachts. He views the event as an important one to preserve their presence in yacht racing.

“No boat comes out of the gate as a classic. They earn their place and become stewards of their
boat as well,” said Dittrich, who competed on board “Neith.” “The reality in 2022 is that our
modern classics have now also had their heyday, just as the vintage ones did.”

Event organizer Timmy Dittrich is pictured grinding on board ‘Neith’ during the Corinthian Classic Regatta.

Some of the boats racing in Marblehead as “modern classics” are over 50 years old in their own right, Dittrich noted.

“Yet, it is very interesting to me that today’s yacht builders and designers remain inspired by the beauty of all of the early 20th-century boats and modern classics,” Dittrich said. “What we want to do is try and preserve those great days, those feelings, and those rivalries in yachting that are so hard to find today. The Corinthian Classic is a place to find that experience. This will go away unless we work to preserve it.”

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