Born to Be Wild: Donald Tofias, the Man Behind the W-Class


Article Courtesy of Classic Boat Magazine

Where did the term Spirit of Tradition come from? From behind dark glasses, Donald Tofias shrugs. “It was me, it was Kenny Coombs—we came up with the idea for having the first Spirit of Tradition class at the Antigua Classics. But the real credit belongs with Jill Bobrow, who wrote a book called In the Spirit of Tradition in the 1990s, about boats that weren’t really classics. She came up with those words.”

“That was a pivotal time, the mid-nineties,” reflects Tofias. “That was just before I conceived the W-Class.”

We’re sitting under the blue skies at a table outside Belle’s Cafe overlooking Newport Shipyard. Tofias has bought us breakfast—with extra fried tomatoes and mushrooms because we’re English—and is holding court in a way that only Tofias can. Continue reading

Aloft on A Classic Fife – Hold on!


Here is a little high-flying fun from atop the rig of the beautiful William Fife, Mariquita, under sail. Perfect for a Monday. Being aloft some 100 feet plus off the water is enough of a stunt for one day. Then add in balancing on a wooden spreader and helping to guide the spinnaker open – and it’s a regular tightrope or trapeze act.  Continue reading

“Classic Boat” Feature: Cambria Flies Again


The much-loved cutter is in fine fettle after a challenging,
year-long restoration in Southampton.

Article courtesy of Classic Boat Magazine

It was said in an entirely different context, but Theodore Roosevelt’s advice to “speak softly and carry a big stick” is curiously apt in the case of Cambria. Her captain, Chris Barkham, never raises his voice, regardless of provocation, and her spruce mast is one of the largest and most impressive wooden yacht spars in the world.

In typical style, they have just completed a truly remarkable, major refit at Southampton Yacht Services (SYS) in Southampton, and then quietly departed back for the Mediterranean with hardly any fuss. The work was the culmination of several years of thought and evaluation by Chris and his team. Few captains know their charge as well as he knows Cambria; and it was apparent during the last refit in 2008 that the time was coming for major work.

Cambria is composite, with steel frames and backbone all riveted together; it is an integrated form of construction that makes restoration work very challenging, and in some hands this might well have resulted in a multi-million-pound complete rebuild of the whole hull. With the support of a loyal owner, and despite the “expert” opinion often ranged against him, Chris’ approach was diametrically opposed to that; the guiding mantra throughout the work was to repair and retain original material wherever possible. The overwhelming success of the work owes much to this ethos, and to the intelligent and dedicated work of the team in interpreting and implementing it.

Chris’ loyal, long-serving crew and subcontractors worked alongside the skilled workforce of SYS, many of whom, such as lead shipwright Barry Argent, had forged close ties with the boat during previous works. It was a set-up that allowed a prodigious amount of work to be coordinated successfully in a tightly controlled program, and the result sets a new benchmark for how to approach major composite hull restoration work.

Cambria’s first refit at Southampton Yacht Services took place during the winter of 2008/2009. The work mainly involved engineering, and included a redesign of the engine room—which, incidentally, is forward of the saloon and accommodates a single engine driving the two sets of sterngear hydraulically—as well as rewiring throughout and a new navigation area.

Continue reading

Classic Yacht Racing in the Med

What a sight it must be to walk along the main quay in downtown St. Tropez. This is true on any given day, but most especially this week and weekend while Les Voiles de St. Tropez fleet is in town.

With the collection of classic yachts mostly moored stern to along the downtown waterfront, it is a great opportunity for tourists and interested yacht oglers to get up close to the impressive fleet.  All the major classic yacht designers, styles and builders are present – with a few Herreshoff NY40s and the impressive Elena of London (a 180 ft replica schooner launched in 2009), some beautiful Fifes like Moonbeam III, an Alden or two and of course some boats penned by S&S, the J Class yachts, some 12 metres and the list goes on.

Take a walk down the waterfront in this video showcasing the lineup of stunning wood and brass. Meticulously maintained and sailed, these boats put on quite a show on the water while competing seriously on the water…that is on every occasion except when – as is the case a few times this week – racing is cancelled due to bad weather. The crews have plenty to do to keep busy – polishing, entertaining, competing in shoreside activities…. the fun is never ending even when stuck ashore.

And in case you thought this was only a showcase of the most fabulous classic yachts – there is a division of modern yachts, as well, with a 15 boat fleet of Wally yachts and a modern fleet with plenty of impressive carbon fiber and design wizardry. All in all – a major spectacle whether they are ashore for a weather day or out racing.




Racing with the competition: Onboard Chinook

Why not take a sail this morning. Grab your coffee and hit ‘full screen’ because you’re coming for a ride onboard ‘Chinook,’ a NY40 designed by Captain Nat Herreshoff. The restoration of Chinook was completed after over 60 months and lots of labor.  Their blog followed the entire journey and gives some great insight into the long restoration and the passion and reverence the skipper Jono and crew have for the amazing design and craftsmanship that went into Chinook back in 1916.

She was restored in Tunisia, which, as they explain was not without challenges for a major rebuild.   Check out the blog and take a ride on this beauty at a Classic Yacht regatta in Cannes. What a thrill, if even from a seat at your computer. Enjoy!