Band of Classic Boat Brothers
By Madeline Gill

As many can attest, sailing – and sailboat racing, in particular – can be much more of an all-encompassing lifestyle than a mere hobby. From putting together a cohesive team and coordinating event logistics to performing boat maintenance and actually getting out on the water, the time commitment can be vast. Because of this exhaustive dedication to the sport, social and competitive circles can seem quite small.It is not rare to run into the same boats and sailors event after event, year after year. On the Narragansett Bay, there is a group of classic yachts that has formed a notable bond out of these repeated interactions.

Joe Loughborough, of Loughborough Marine Interests (LMI) in Portsmouth, RI, has taken the camaraderie amongst a handful of classic yachts (his own Luders 24 Belle included) to another level. The unofficial banding together of day sailers like 6 Meters, R Boats, and Luders 24s has created a strong sense of community. Newcomer to this circle, Peter McClennen, owner of R boat Gamecock, notes that this group helped him to “navigate the intricacies of the network of services needed to maintain a classic boat” and that “not all fleets share this kind of knowledge is with other competitors.”The desire to make others around you better by taking action to make it happen are certainly unique characteristics, which must contribute to Loughborough’s devotion to classic yacht racing. He has been competing in the Newport Classic Yacht Regatta for 28 years and is a natural leader amongst this crowd. Says Loughborough, of himself, “I am in a unique position because I know the guys, know the boats, and also know their weaknesses and strengths, so I can help guide them.  Many of them live at LMI in the winter and we can help with making them faster and better.  Then when we all come together on the water in the summer, it’s dynamite racing!”

Working to maintain – and improve – the boats throughout the winter is just one factor that helps this group thrive. The sailors keep in touch all year long in an effort to come up with new ways to facilitate increasingly fun and fair racing.Many have reached out to the same sailmakers and boatbuilders industries for expert advice on fine-tuning their performance. Others have been involved in the development of the new CRFMkII rating system, providing useful feedback to its administrators on nuances as they have cropped up throughout the inaugural season. These types of collaboration are especially important to classic yachts, since these ancestors to modern racing and cruising boats rely on systems and processes quite different from what has become common in 21st-century sailing.

Skilled carpenters have given way to composite specialists and sophisticated riggers to hydraulic technicians as yacht, rig, and sail design continue to push the envelope of marine engineering.It is thanks to groups like Loughborough’s that the appreciation for classic yacht racing is still alive and well.“It’s the intensity of the competition that keeps me coming back,” says McClanen, “The sportsmanship and Corinthian nature of is evident, but everyone is also pushing each other to be better and faster. It is my dream to see even more boats and events on the water to keep this momentum and camaraderie going. ”It is not hard to envision a robust future for this special group with a ringing endorsement like that.

Joe Loughbourough and his crew on Belle race in the Herreshoff Classic Yacht Regatta. Photo: George Bekris
Gamecock, Peter McClennen’s R boat starting at the Newport Classic Yacht Regatta. Photo: George Bekris

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