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Historic Prizes: The Herbert L. Stone Memorial Trophy

February 15, 2014

By John Rousmaniere


The 108-year-old Newport Bermuda Race is enriched by its tradition of presenting many historic trophies. Here is the story of one of them.

The Herbert L. Stone Memorial Trophy for First  to Finish in the Cruiser Division
The Herbert L. Stone Memorial Trophy for First to Finish in the Cruiser Division

The Herbert L. Stone Memorial Trophy, presented to the first yacht to finish in the Cruising Division, is named for one of sailing’s most important leaders and driving forces.  Stone (1871-1955) publicized and encouraged the sport as a sailor and as the long-time editor of Yachting magazine. A visionary for the values and accomplishments of ambitious, adventurous sailors, Stone characterized the America’s Cup as “a synonym of things brave and big and famous.” He was certain that the future of sailing lay in large part in offshore racing because “There is nothing that develops all-around seamanship and resourcefulness as much as a long-distance ocean race that keeps the contestants going night and day.”

When distance racing was recovering from the restrictions of World War I, Stone took lead roles in founding the Cruising Club of America and reviving ocean racing. In 1923 he organized the first Bermuda Race in many years. He was rewarded at the start when (as he wrote) “an instinctive cheer, releasing pent-up enthusiasm, broke from the crew of every boat, to be echoed by the spectators.”

Stone directly or indirectly inspired two other classic races. After he did the 1923 race as navigator in a schooner chartered by members of the Bayview Yacht Club, of Detroit, the sailors went home and founded their race to Mackinac Island. This historic relationship with Midwestern sailors is one reason why the Newport Bermuda Race this year is introducing Regional Prizes awarded to the best finisher from the Great Lakes, as well as the top boats from Chesapeake Bay, the West Coast, the Deep South, and Canada.

Herbert L. Stone sailing off Bayview YC, Detroit
Herb Stone sailing off Bayview YC

The Bermuda Race inspired another classic, the Fastnet Race. A British yachting journalist, Weston Martyr, returned to England from Bermuda after the 1924 race and co-founded the race around Fastnet Rock. The winner of the first Fastnet, the 56’ cutter Jolie Brise, crossed the Atlantic in 1926 and raced to the Onion Patch because her owner, E. G. Martin, wanted to thank Americans and especially Stone (Jolie Brise’s navigator) for their part in stimulating ocean racing.  The Cruising Club of America awarded Martin its Blue Water Medal “for a most meritorious example of seamanship.”  Veterans of the Fastnet later founded the Sydney-Hobart Race.

Jolie Brise and the Bermuda Race figure in an heroic event in yachting history.  She crossed the Atlantic again to sail the 1932 race with two other American ocean racing pioneers in the crew, Paul Hammond and Sherman Hoyt.  On the first night out in the race, owner Bobby Somerset spotted a flare astern, turned back, found a schooner, Adriana, in flames, and bravely brought Jolie Brise, under sail, close alongside the burning schooner. Ten of Adriana’s sailors piled onto the cutter’s deck and were saved. Her dutiful helmsman, Clarence Kozaly, jumped a moment too late and drowned (he is the only fatality in the race’s history).  Herb Stone called Somerset’s rescue, “A gallant piece of work executed with rare skill and courage.”  The Cruising Club of America awarded Somerset the Blue Water Medal.

John Rousmaniere

 

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