Adventurous Use of the Sea: The Cruising Club of America

Fostering safe ocean sailing

Founding member yacht designers significantly changed the balance of safety and performance in ocean sailing

Among the club’s earliest members were yacht designers John Alden, Frederic Fenger, and William Hand, and within a few years they were joined by Olin J. Stephens II. Their design philosophies differed, but all sought to refine the balance between performance and safety.

Designing Safe Boats

When the CCA was established, the designs of John Alden, based on fishing schooners, were considered safest for offshore sailing. During more than 70 years as a boat designer and CCA member, Olin Stephens changed the standards for safe and beautiful ocean yachts of the 1900s. He was usually involved in CCA boat-design studies. As active CCA members, many other designers have contributed to the development of safe, fast boats.

Over the years the CCA has taken the lead in developing rating rules that encourage safe, stable competitive boats, beginning with its own CCA Rule, 1932-68, and continuing with the International Measurement System (IMS) and, today, the Offshore Racing Rule (ORR), developed in collaboration with the Chicago and Transpacific Yacht Clubs.

Working the foredeck on the way to Bermuda, 1954
Working the foredeck, 1954.
Working the foredeck on the way to Bermuda, 1954View full-size image

Working the foredeck, 1954

Working the foredeck on the way to Bermuda, 1954.

Mystic Seaport, Rosenfeld Collection, #ANN1984.187.6862

“It is our duty to stimulate the production of fast, as well as comfortable, boats for long-distance, offshore work.”

Henry A. Wise Wood, 1923

Bonnell Cove Foundation

Named for charter member George P. P. Bonnell, the CCA’s Bonnell Cove Foundation was established in 1989 to support research in ocean safety and promotes safe ocean seamanship through classes and symposia for sailors. The Bermuda Race requires inspection of all boats and attendance at safety-at-sea seminars by one-third of the members of each crew.

The crew of Dogsled, properly equipped with safety gear at the start of the 2012 Newport Bermuda Race.
The crew of Dogsled, properly equipped with safety gear at the start of the 2012 Newport Bermuda Race.
The crew of Dogsled, properly equipped with safety gear at the start of the 2012 Newport Bermuda Race.View full-size image

The crew of Dogsled

Photo ©Andrew Sims

Rod Stephens Trophy for Outstanding Seamanship

As part of the Club’s effort to promote safe seamanship, 21 friends and shipmates of Rod Stephens established the Rod Stephens Trophy for Outstanding Seamanship, which reflects the extremely high standards of planning and seamanship practiced by Rod Stephens during his nearly 60 years at sea. The Club awards this perpetual trophy “for an act of seamanship which significantly contributes to the safety of a yacht, or one or more individuals at sea.”

Rod Stephens Trophy for Outstanding Seamanship

Winners include

2000, Thomas Adams, for heroic efforts to caulk an open seam on the wooden sloop Kirawan while suspended over the side during the 2000 Newport Bermuda Race

2002, Peter M. Passano, for repairing his rig after colliding with ice in the far South Atlantic during a solo passage

2003, Bruce and Jane Berriman, for rescuing two people whose boat was being sucked into giant turbines along a French canal

2004, Captain Deborah Hayes and the research sloop Geronimo of St. George’s School of Newport, for rescuing a Polish seaman who had been treading water for 21 hours

2005, Captain Steve Tarrant and the Sea Education Association vessel Corwith Cramer, for rescuing 51 Haitians adrift in a dismasted boat in the Caribbean

2006, the crew of ABN AMBRO II, for attempting the rescue of an overboard crew member at night in heavy seas and high winds during the Volvo Ocean Race

2007, Mike Golding, for rescuing another solo racer during the Veluxx Ocean Race, then jury rigging his boat after snapping the mast, and sailing safely to Africa

2008, Susanne Huber-Curphey and Tony Curphey, for saving Tony’s boat when the rudder broke at sea, and towing it with Susanne’s boat more than 650 miles to safety

2009, Maurice and Sophie Conti, for maneuvering their catamaran and a dinghy to rescue three crew members of a boat that had struck a reef near Fiji

2010, Alessandro Di Benedetto, for jury-rigging his mast after his 21-foot boat was dismasted near Cape Horn during his solo nonstop circumnavigation, and continuing on to finish the 24,000-mile voyage in 268 days, setting a record for the smallest boat to make a solo nonstop circumnavigation

2011, Bob Arzbaecher and the crew of Sociable, for their nighttime rescue of six crew members of the capsized yacht WingNuts during the 2011 Chicago-Mackinac Race