Great Champions of Long Island Sound - from Dinghy to Americas Cup Winners

by Mary Savage

Long Island Sound has been blessed over the years with some of the brightest stars in sailboat racing, from dinghy sailors to Olympic medallists and America's Cup competitors.With so many luminaries and such limited space, it is impossible to focus on everyone.My apologies in advance to those not included.

It is worth noting at the outset that back in 1895 Long Island Sound was one of the first areas in the country where yacht clubs began to band together in a YRA to sponsor interclub racing and standardize boats, rules and equipment.It was also one of the first areas in the country to establish training programs for juniors (in the 1920s), which then provided a base for future racers.In 1911, the Sound was the birthplace of the Star Class, the first strictly one-design class to spread over a wide area.Some of the LIS standouts produced by the keen Star Class competition were Arthur Knapp, who won the Worlds in 1930, Stan Ogilvy, Bill Lynn, Cooch Maxwell, Patrick O'Gorman, Adrian lselen II, Herb Hild, Arthur Deacon, Joe Burbeck, John H. White, and Skip and Mary Etchells.Hot competition in other one-design classes would follow, particularly in the legendary heyday of the International One-Designs.In the 1950s, fierce competition in IODs took place each week among some of the best sailors of the day, including Corny Shields, who commissioned and developed the IOD, Bill Luders, Bill Cox, Arthur Knapp, George Hinman, Bob Bavier, Howard McMichael, Sr., Frank Campbell, Swede Whiton, and Bus Mosbacher.

Despite the extraordinary depth of talent, Bus won the IOD season championship eight years straight. (Bus acquired a taste for victory at an early age, winning the LIS Midget Championship in both 1935 and 1936 and the LIS Junior Championship in 1939.) Long Island Sound sailors have also played an important role in America's Cup campaigns.Names such as Mike Vanderbilt in the J-boat era, and Bus Mosbacher, Bill Cox, Bob Bavier, Briggs Cunningham, Bill Luders, Arthur Knapp, Rod and Olin Stephens, Cornelius Shields (Sr. & Jr.), Eric Ridder, Tom Whidden, George Hinman, and Bob McCullough in the era of the 12-Meters are legendary in the annals of America's Cup racing. Nearly the entire crew aboard the 1958 defender Columbia, the 1962 Weatherly, and the 1967 defender Intrepid consisted of LIS sailors.Pequot was well represented aboard Bill Ficker's campaign in 1970 with Intrepid.Starting in 1980, Tom Whidden sailed in every campaign with Dennis Conner, continuing into the modern era of IACC boats in '92 and '95.In 1992 David Dellenbaugh of Cedar Point YC was tapped to serve as starting helmsman and rules expert aboard Bill Koch's America', and again in 1995 as tactician with the almost-all-female crew aboard Mighty Mary, along with navigator Courtenay Becker-Dey, a product of American YC's junior program.

Long Island Sound has been well represented at the Olympic games for many years. 1948 was particularly remarkable: Norwalk's Ralph Evans won a silver medal in the single-handed Firefly, while Oyster Bay's Swede Whiton took the gold in the 6-Meter contest.Noroton's Hilary Smart, with father Paul crewing, took the gold on the Star Class course, while Hilary's Harvard roommate, Owen Torrey, was getting a bronze medal crewing in the Swallow Class.Whiton went on to win another gold medal in the 6-Meters in 1952.In the 1972 Olympics, Seawanhaka's Glen Foster won the bronze medal in the Tempest class, while John Marshall, former LIS Midget Champion from Indian Harbor, earned a bronze medal crewing in the Dragon Class.Seawanhaka's Steve Benjamin sailed to a silver medal in 470s in the 1984 Olympics, Julia Brady, (nee Trotman) captured the bronze in the Europe Class in 1992, and Courtenay Becker-Dey took a bronze in the Europe Class at last year's Olympics in Savannah.

The U.S. Sailing Championships have been well represented by sailors from the Sound.A particularly notable record that will be difficult to equal belongs to the Shields family.Corny's daughter, Aileen, won the U.S. Women's Championship in 1948.When the first U.S. Men's Championship for the Clifford D. Mallory Cup was held in 1952, Corny took home the top prize with his son Corny as crew.Then, in 1965, Corny, Jr. earned first place in the Mallory.Four other LIS sailors won the Mallory between 1966 and 1983, including Bill Cox, who won the LIS Men's Championship for the Commodore Hipkins Trophy five times, before finally taking the Mallory in 1966.As Commodore Hipkins would have said, "Press on Regardless!'

Women have long been a vital part of the LIS sailing scene as proven by their record of success in the U.S. Women's Championship for the Adams Cup.Lorna Whittelsey Hibberd won the Adams an unprecedented five times between 1927 and 1934.American YC's Rusty Shethar Everdell then took over and won the women's nationals three times between 1939 and 1947.Rusty's name turns up again in 1971, this time winning the Adams for the Duxbury (MA) YC! Also representing American YC, Allegra Knapp Mertz won the Adams four times between 1950 and 1963.Leggie was known across the country as the doyenne of women's sailing, and sailing was as much a passion for her as it was for her brother, Arthur.Eight other women brought the Adams home to the Sound a total of eleven times including Timmy Larr of Seawanhaka, who won the event three times.

Nearly half of the recipients of the prestigious Herreshoff Trophy, awarded annually by US Sailing for outstanding contributions to the sport of sailing, have hailed from our area including Henry S. Morgan, James M. Trenary, Julian K. Roosevelt, Olin Stephens, Leggie Mertz, Everett B. Morris, Paul H. Smart, George R. Hinman, Bill Cox, Bob Bavier, Cornelius Shields, Harry Anderson, Harman Hawkins, Arther Knapp, Dick McCurdy, Bill Lynn, and Timmy Larr.Another indication of the strength of our LIS sailors is the awarding of Yachtsman/woman of the Year.LIS sailors who have been selected for this high honor include Timmy Larr, Bus Mosbacher, and Courtenay Becker-Dey (all of whom were named twice), Leggie Mertz, Sue Sinclair, Bob Bavier, Bill Cox, Betty Foulk, Julia Trotman, and the newest star on the LIS horizon, Danielle Brennan, who at age 19 was the youngest recipient in the history of the award.She was selected for this award in 1994 by virtue of winning the U.S. junior Women's Championship for the Leiter Trophy and placing second in the 1994 ISAF Women's Singlehanded Championship in France.With rising talents like Danielle, it appears that Long Island Sound will maintain its legacy of great champions in the future.