Marblehead vs. Newport: A W-Class Showdown

By David Schmidt

On October 4–6, a quiet, invitation-only regatta-within-a-regatta was held in New York City during the Panerai New York Classic Week aboard the world’s only W-Class yachts— two beautiful 76-footers (“Wild Horses” and “White Wings”) that were designed in 1997 by Joel White. The boats, which are owned by Donald Tofias of Newport, Rhode Island, represent a different era of the sport’s rich history, but were used to settle an ongoing tongue-in-cheek grudge match to determine whether sailors from Newport, Rhode Island, or from Marblehead, Massachusetts, are faster. While there were other boats competing for the regatta’s overall title, the two W-Class yachts staged a personal duel to determine this important honor (read: bragging rights at the bar).

The two teams, the Marblehead Greens (after the fabled go-to bottom paint of the 1930s) and the Brenton Reds (the color most people refer to as Nantucket Red), were skippered by Tofias and Marblehead’s Bill Lynn. In the spirit of the race, Tofias had the bottoms of each boat specifically painted in their team colors and had two custom spinnakers made with massive Atlantis WeatherGear logos (the company that Lynn helps run). “The racing was run between Ellis Island as the starting area, with the finishing line by North Cove Marina,” said Lynn of the event. “It’s a different kind of sailing—sort of at the other end of the spectrum from the grand-prix—but it was really fun to sail in New York, right near the Statue of Liberty. The boats are beautiful, and they really sail well.”

Aside from taking place on gorgeous, old-time boats, this private showdown was also unique as Lynn’s Marblehead Greens had not previously sailed on the powerful W-Class boats before, or even on classic yachts (to be fair, Lynn is no beginner sailor, having raced in very competitive circles for several decades and on many kinds of boats). Ultimately, the Marblehead Greens prevailed, winning two of the three races.

“I think we could have swept all three races, but we fouled our spinnaker in the second race. The head got jammed between the sheave box and the forestay. Then, when we gybed, the sail wrapped around the forestay,” Lynn recalled. “It was a mess, but we got the kite down and made up a lot of lost ground, finishing within a couple of boatlengths of the Brenton Reds.

While the door is still open as to which town commands the proud title of New England’s fastest community in other classes, when it comes to the W-Class, the Marblehead Greens are the prevailing champs. For more info on the W-Class, check out

Posted: October 19, 2007

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