Can the team of sailors that campaigns the 45-year-old Cal 40 sloop Sinn Fein win the Newport/Bermuda Race three times in a row? That is one of the questions being asked for this year’s running of the race to the Onion Patch. Peter S. Rebovich’s team has improbably won the race in the last two outings and will try again on June 18. Can they acomplish the threepeat?
From the press release: The Newport Bermuda Race is hard enough to win once, But twice? In 46 races since 1906, just three yachts have won the major prize, – the St David’s Lighthouse Trophy – at least two times. A pair of these won consecutive races – Carleton Mitchell’s fabled Finisterre in 1956-60 and, in the two most recent races in 2006 and 2008, Peter S. Rebovich’s Sinn Fein, from New Jersey’s Rariton Yacht Club. Rebovich and his usual crew will be back again this year with the gleam of a third St. David’s Lighthouse Trophy in their eyes.
How does this 45-year old stock Cal 40 sloop do so well, so often against much newer and more sophisticated custom boats? The explanation is that this is a happy marriage of a good boat to an able amateur crew that has been racing her for decades. During Finisterreâs glory days half a century ago, one of her regular crew credited Mitchellâs âgood admiralshipâ â meaning his cheerful but firm, detail-driven, open-minded command of a deeply loyal crew. The same can be said of Pete Rebovich and his guys.
One thing that cannot be said about them is that theyâre riding a brief lucky streak. When Sinn Fein first raced offshore in the Marion to Bermuda Cruising Yacht Race in the 1980s, she won class and family prizes. Sheâs sailed six Newport Bermuda Races, paying her dues with low finishes before winning her class in 2002 and 2004 and then taking the St. Davidâs Lighthouse Trophy, first in a drifter in a glassy sea in 2006, followed by a classic upwind thrash to the Onion Patch in 2008. Over Memorial Day weekend, she won her class in the 2010 Block Island Race, the major tune-up for the Bermuda Race.
Sinn Fein has also won the Olin J. Stephens Ocean Racing Trophy three times straight â in fact, the only times it has been presented â for the best combined performance in successive Newport Bermuda Races and Marblehead to Halifax Ocean Races. Rebovich has a special memory of winning the first Stephens Trophy because the presentation of the award to the 70-year-old winning skipper was made by 99-year-old Olin Stephens himself. âWe won, and while I was hobbling to the stage to meet him and receive the trophy, he commented, âIsn’t it nice to see an old guy, like me, still out there racing â and winningââ.