Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Classic Boat Love Affair - Building Blackfish

BVI Spring Regatta - Blackfish
Carolyn and Ron Zarrella, from Nantucket, Mass, launched their stunning Taylor ’49 Blackfish in 2017, and the boat is special to the couple for many reasons. Over and above being a true beauty, significantly it brought the pair together.

They met some ten years ago when Carolyn was Sailing Director at the Great Harbor Yacht Club on Nantucket – Ron had moved to the area and wanted to learn about local sailing conditions. He owned a 32’ Nantucket Alerion (a modified hull-molded wooden boat and 1916 Herreshoff design) and the two became acquainted as he began racing his boat locally.

An avid sailor with Trans-Atlantic racing and three Sydney to Hobarts under his belt, Ron missed big boat racing however, and thought about building a boat. He sought Carolyn’s help and before long Carolyn was having significant input into the ultimate look and feel of Ron's new boat. They fell in love and tied the knot in 2016.
Blackfish owners Carolyn & Ron Zarrella
“The building of the boat was a lot of fun - beginning to plan the boat was really the start of our relationship,” Ron recalls fondly - and with a big smile. 

Blackfish is a "Spirit of Tradition" boat designed by Jim Taylor and built by Steve White of the Brooklyn Boatyard in Maine.Taylor’s work on Blackfish came about after Ron and Carolyn saw Dreadnought, a Taylor 49c, in Maine.The Zarrella’s were big on aesthetics and being based part of the year in Nantucket, they thought a boat like Dreadnought would fit there perfectly. They also knew that they wanted to race rather than cruise, so the overall design was modified to accommodate more race-ready parameters, Taylor explained.

Top right: Designer Jim Taylor 
Primarily designed to compete with other classics( she’s done well in classic fleets the past few summers racing in New England), Blackfish does have a modern keel, rudder and a carbon fiber mast.

“The cabinhouse on Blackfish is one showerstall shorter than Dreadnought so the cabinhouse became 24” shorter, and the cockpit moved 24” forward - these changes made for less interior space but actually, it’s a considerably a more attractive boat,” Taylor commented. “Those changes made a surprising difference.”

Taylor’s proud of the fact that Blackfish does what she was specified to do and be: drop-dead gorgeous above deck and a race boat below.

“People look at the boat and don’t expect too much,” Taylor says. “She looks old school and looks like she behaves old school but she’s a race boat for sure.”
BVI Spring Regatta - Blackfish

In the Caribbean for the first time this year, she raced the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival where she was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful boats on the docks. First time sailing under the CSA (Caribbean Racing Association) rule which arguably didn’t do Blackfish any favors, she placed 7th overall in CSA Racing 2, and the Zarrella’s discovered that BVI competition was tougher than anticipated. Taylor trimmed main, Ron helmed, and Carolyn called tactics. Friends from New England and boat captain David Abramski filled crew positions - spinnaker and jib trim, mast and bow. 

“We loved BVI racing – the venues, the courses – around islands and rocks - we don’t get to do a lot of that kind of racing on the east coast,” Ron said. “We are used to winning more (laughs) but the competition was very different. I questioned whether our boat fit there before we even went but we always finished in the middle of the pack against really good sailing, really top sailors - we were humbled and we learned a lot! We could have sailed better but we’d been off the boat for 4-5 months and we’re just getting back into it. The BVI was a great place to do that and it’s a spectacular place to sail.”

BVI Spring Regatta - Blackfish
This week Blackfish is racing Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and the Zarrella's are looking forward to going up against more “like-minded” boats. As Ron says with a certain degree of seriousness mixed with humor, they didn’t build their boat to race against plastic boats...

After Antigua, Blackfish will be shipped back to Brooklyn Boatyard for a symmetrical spinnaker, pole, and track on the mast ((she's currently set up with an asymmetrical spinnaker) so she can be better equipped for round-the-buoy windward-leeward racing this summer in New England where they'll also compete in the Panerai Classic Yacht Challenge series. 

“We’re really enjoying our boat and just love classics, especially the theme of “Spirit of Tradition” boats,” Carolyn said. “We're typically racing to the CRF (classic rating formula), against yawls and schooners over 100 years old. It’s really fun.”
BVI Spring Regatta - Blackfish

“Spirit of Tradition boats are all about the design, not necessarily the materials they are built of. It is imperative they have a nice sheer as this is the key to a pretty yacht and is what differentiates a modern practically minded design from a more classic, aesthetically driven one.”
Richard Gregson, Wooden Ships Yacht Brokers

Photo Credit: www.ingridabery.com

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