An interview with Shelia Graves about the IHYC’s Classic Yacht Regatta

This post was originally written by Dave Schmidt on Sail World.

Atlantic and S-Boat start M.A. Fisher Photography

While there’s no question that carbon fiber and fiberglass have transformed the face of sailboat racing, delivering stronger, lighter and stiffer structures that are ideal for breaking elapsed-time and offshore passage records, there’s also no question that when it comes to heart-warming aesthetics, classic yachts reign supreme. Whether it’s a deep dive into their majestic lines, a prolonged look at the way their graceful overhangs appear when the boat is carrying a full press of sail, or a gawker’s glance at their graceful, sometimes gaff-rigged sailplans, these boats scream “eye candy” and have successfully won the hearts of sailors for hundreds of years.

As a lifelong sailor, few sights are as aesthetically pleasing to me as a fleet of classic yachts hard on the breeze, saltwater washing their teak decks as the breeze blows telltales, canvas sails and baggywrinkles alike. Add in a beautiful background, and you’re talking the stuff of sailing legend and the kind of memories that keep generations of sailors addicted to the style, grace and history of these elegant ladies of a bygone era.

For the past seven years, the Indian Harbor Yacht Club (IHYC), located on Greenwich, Connecticut’s Rocky Neck on the northwest waters of Long Island Sound (LIS), has hosted their Classic Yacht Regatta, which is open to classic yachts, spirit of tradition yachts, and classic One Designs (i.e., Atlantics and Shields), and the imagery has been stunning: September conditions on Long Island Sound meets some of the area’s prettiest boats. What’s not to love?

As of this writing there are 28 boats entered in this year’s Classic Yacht Regatta, ranging from the mighty Ticonderoga, a 72-foot L. Francis Herreshoff-drawn ketch, to the considerably more modest Bow to Sterne, a 14-foot catboat, so onlookers can expect to see a wide sampling of different eras of yacht design, while participating sailors can expect smoothly run racecourse operations and a welcoming host venue.

The IHYC Classic Yacht Regatta is now gearing up for their eighth edition, which is set to unfurl the weekend of September 15 and 16, so I caught up with Sheila Graves, event co-chair (and a former winner) via email, to learn more about this now-classic New England event.

Can you tell me about the kinds of boats that will be racing? Any true jewelry boxes of fine joinery and perfect craftsmanship?
Since day one, our mandate has been to create a festive regatta for beautiful classics, spirit of tradition and vintage One Design boats. Our recipe for success includes quality of fleet–not just quantity. This seems to engender competitive racing among crews who bring a joyful Corinthian spirit set against a backdrop of excellent hospitality.

We expect 30-35 boats this year. Our big boat fleet includes well-known classics that have participated since the beginning. They include the famous 1936 Herreshoff-designed Ticonderoga, the 68-foot, 1938-built Sparkman and Stephens-designed Black Watch, plus two 50-foot Q boats: our Nor’Easter IV and Hope. Both Q boats were designed by John Alden in the late 1920s.

 

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