Bermuda-Bound on Hound

June 9, 2024

By Carol Cronin

Bermuda-Bound on Hound

What’s “new” is usually what’s “cool” in yacht design, but some boats take years to reach their full potential. For the 1970 Aage Nielsen design Hound (née Pleione), it was 28 years and five attempts before she won her class in the Bermuda Race. More silverware was to follow, proving yet again that with persistence, a well-found boat can be shaped into a Bermuda Race contender. 

Hound’s reverse transom and long overhangs are eye-catchingly classic, but even for her era she was a heavy 59-footer; almost 54,000 pounds. She was Nielsen’s first aluminum design, and the only one of his boats built by Abeking & Rasmussen. Perhaps they suggested an aluminum keel with internal ballast, which of course made the hull much easier to build? Art Santry III blames the original owner—his father. 

“Dad wanted the whole boat aluminum, including the keel, and we poured the lead inside. That was a mistake, because the keel was probably three or four inches wider than it should’ve been and that slowed the boat down.” It also placed the ballast higher, reducing righting moment and thus limiting sail area. Add in the extra wetted surface of an underbody that was more cutaway than truly separated keel and rudder, and it’s no surprise the boat proved sticky in light air. 

1970 Bermuda Race as Pleione

A Decade of Tweaks

Pleione barely made her first Bermuda Race in 1970. It was early May when the gleaming hull was offloaded at the Port of New York, already two months behind schedule. Within a few hours, there was yet another delay—while motoring “home” to Marblehead where her mast would be stepped, the engine threw a rod and the captain had to call for a tow. 

Somehow they managed to rig and repower in time to get back to Newport and finish sixth of 16 in Class B. It would be her best finish under Santry ownership, though they must’ve been very hungry to improve on such a rushed result. 

An early season hurricane in 1972 served up what is still considered the toughest race ever. That was 16-year-old Art’s very first Bermuda Race, and after two days without an accurate sun sight even navigator Tom Blackaller didn’t know exactly where they were as they approached the island’s reefs. Art says it didn’t occur to him to be scared—until Pleione dropped off a particularly large wave and his father said, “I hope the boat holds together.” She did, and though ninth may have been disappointing, both boat and son passed their first stormy test. 

Art Santry at the helm in the 1972 Bermuda Race

To improve light-air performance, four feet was added to the top of the mast in 1973—another mistake, according to Art. “We should’ve just built a new rig. But we went back to Ted Hood, and he just sleeved it. Sleeves are so heavy...” Pleione broke a headstay and didn’t finish the 1974 race.

The next attempt to improve results was far more drastic. In early 1979, Derecktor Shipyards chain-sawed off the original underbody and replaced it with a fin keel, an IOR “bustle” (to reduce measured waterline length), and a rudder two and a half feet farther aft. “The boat was completely different!” Art says. But their 1980 Bermuda results didn’t improve, and a few years later the boat was sold to Frank and Delphine Eberhart

1980 Bermuda Race

Cruising to Two Victories

The new owners renamed the boat Hound and took her bluewater cruising with their four kids as far as St. Petersburg, Russia. It wasn’t until 1996 that Hound raced to Bermuda again. Then in 1998, without updating anything except a few sails, Frank and crew unexpectedly won class honors in a light-air race. Doug Pierini, the boat captain that year, says it was all about momentum. For several days, the wind would die completely and then fill in again. “If there was a consistent, 5 to 7 knots, we would have gotten crushed,” he says. “But because it kept going to nothing, newer lightweight boats would stop and just be sitting there—and we’d keep moving forward!” After going by several boats, they passed the rest of their class on a shift near the finish. 

Half Hulls

When they repeated the feat in the much windier 2002 race, Frank credited UK Sailmakers. After losing their No. 2 jib overboard (along with the bow pulpit), their Tape Drive No. 1 held together in breeze well above its designed limits. The sailmaker later turned the owner’s gratitude into an ad entitled “Strong Sails Get Results.” 

The navigation and crew work must also have been pretty good, because the Eberharts sailed seven Bermuda races in a row on Hound and only finished out of the top ten twice. For their final appearance in 2010, they posted a fifth. 

Third Rudder,Third Win

Ten years later, Hound sold to Dan Litchfield who with Captain Tom Stark quickly assembled a team to upgrade the boat in time for the 2022 Bermuda Race. Building a carbon mast that added six more feet of rig height—while weighing less than the old boom—was, as Dan put it, “such an obvious thing to do; saving well over a thousand pounds, 50 feet up!“ Jim Taylor designed updates for both rudder and keel, and they also added a sprit to carry asymmetrical spinnakers. 

“We knew what the boat was, right?” project manager Jason Black said. “It's an old hull form.” But by reducing wetted surface and adding significant sail area, “we felt like we could be competitive.” Especially when Dan, a former dinghy sailor, got a front-row start off Castle Hill.

At the 2022 Start / Greg Anthony

The race was mostly off the wind—and the newly configured Hound loved it. “She’s heavy, but she likes to surf!” the proud owner said after the finish. “You don’t learn that inshore.” Despite being the slowest-rated boat in Class 15 and experiencing “a problem each day,” Hound was first in its class to finish—Dan’s first Bermuda Race victory and Hounds third. New may be cool, but such achievements are timeless—as is the incentive of that next Bermuda Race.

The 2024 race will be Hound’s 14th Thrash to the Onion Patch and only Dan’s second as an owner. He now appreciates the “epic logistical achievement” involved in making it across the finish line and says he’ll keep the same approach that worked in 2022. “Put together a great group of compatible people, have good food—and get off the [starting] line.” 

As for Hound, now in her second half century, clearly she’s also ready for more.

Carol Cronin—sailing journalist, fiction and non-fiction book author, and elite-level Snipe racer—represented the U.S. in the Athens Olympics in 2004. Watch for her upcoming book about Hound.

This article appears in the 2024 Bermuda Race Program. Available digitally online:

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