Rodger Martin Yacht Design and Junior Sailing

If you are a sailor one of the many great aspects of living in Newport RI, is the wide variety of sailing one can do, sometimes on one day. In this sense Newport is almost exactly like where I grew up sailing in Sydney, Australia, where opportunities for energetic kids to sail on all sorts of boats were legion. It was like being in a candy store for kids like me.

I was reminded of this history a couple of days ago by two teenage sailors who were at Sail Newport. One had been practicing in his Laser and the other had been practicing in a J-22 with his team preparing for the Sears Cup eliminations regatta.

I was at Sail Newport about 5:00 to help a mate of mine launch and sail his brand new boat in the local Tuesday night races.

No, we are not talking your basic new from brokerage or dealership new boat here.

Something completely different. The long story will be another post but in short, an earlier boat had been sunk and so they recovered as much gear as they could from it including rig and sails and commissioned Rodger Martin Yacht Design, in Newport, to build them an up-dated version of the boat they lost (a Kiwi 35) underneath the equipment they salvaged. Mark, one of the owners, and some of the core guys in his crew spent the next 6 years building a very nice, very fast 32 foot local PHRF rocket ship in a shed behind Mark’s house. A couple of weeks ago she came out of the shed and was delivered to Sail Newport, for the fitting of the racks and stepping of the mast.

Bella arrives at Sail Newport preparatory to the fitting of the racks and stepping of the spars.

Some of the “home made” details look like this:

Port view of Bella

The two holes are for the insertion of the racks. There is a third one out of picture. The keel is a lifting one. The little dots along the side deck are for the netting lashing for the racks.


Retractable bow sprit pn Bella

The 10 foot bowsprit retracts into the forward part of the boat. All carbon parts including tube were “home made” too….


View of the cockpit on Bella

The cockpit is purely day sailing functional. The aft hatch gives access to the back of the bus, the box hatch forward hides the engine, forward and a cooler, aft. Mainsail control lines exit at the box in front of the compass

Detail of the Rudder system

The rudder blade (missing)  is adjustable up and down and fore and aft. The tiller is home made, in Carbon.

Thus Bella was put in the water at Sail Newport for the first time.

She looked like this waiting for sails.

Bella in the water

6 years in the making, The Good Yacht Bella floats quietly at Sail Newport waiting for sails

We went out that (Saturday) afternoon for a sail to see what was going to happen, only broke a couple of things and managed to get her up on a plane back into the narrows of Castle Hill in not much wind. (No meters yet so no speeds…)

Newport being Newport we passed a boat we knew full of mates including Roy Guay race chair of the Bermuda 1-2, who took a few pictures,  like this one.

Bella off Castle Hill

Bella in light air off Castle Hill
Photo courtesy of Roy Guay

Under a small reaching kite on the first down wind leg of her first race she looks like this:

Bella sailing under medium kite

Bella sailing downwind with the medium kite during her first race.
Photo Courtesy of Rodger Martin Yacht Design

Back to the kids: Mark is as keen as I am on the idea of introducing teenagers to sailing on a “Big Boat”—basically something with a keel, winches, life lines etc. He invited me to spread the word for any kids interested in sailing on Bella on a casual basis. Several of the kids of my acquaintance (I coach a High School Sailing Team)  put their hands up. So last Tuesday the fellow who had been sailing his Laser, who had also put his hand up came with us for a first race. As we were getting ready to head out one of the Sail Newport staff came down the dock with the young fellow from the J-22 and asked if we needed any more bodies. Sure we said so we took off with six, more or less adults and two teenagers.

Skill and experience in a dinghy is actually a pretty good background for sailing Bella as you might imagine from the pictures.

This day the sea breeze was pretty fresh and so we all knew sailing her was going to be, well interesting at the very least. She is big enough and powerful enough so that I was able to use the opportunity to teach the kids a few things about sailing on bigger boats. One sailed as Pit/Halyards and the other as Mast Man. They both performed extremely well for first timers. Sailing around before the start, I instructed them in some basics like:

How to handle a line on a winch, the technique and co-ordination required between the three front positions (including bow man) the sequence for getting a kite up, jib down and gybing, then Jib up and kite down. Getting virtually the same instruction as kids get in the Storm Trysail Foundations Jr. Safety at Sea seminars, (where I volunteer) they performed very well.

And the adults?

Well we managed to break the start, foul up the running backstays on the roach & stall a couple of times coming out of tacks but on the other hand we all had a great time and the owners, builders and designers area all very pleased with the boat.

As for the kids? Well I dropped one of them off in town after sailing and his last words to me were:

Kids on racks on Bella

Two teenagers (the two aft bodies) snapped up as scratch crew sample life on the rack, as it were, on Bella, headin’ upwind.
Photo Courtesy of Rodger Martin Yacht Design

“Thanks, I had a great time!”

Precisely the point.


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