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A Skipper from Scratch
Erik Lund
March 27, 1961
Marblehead's Ted Hood, known as a sailmaker, now not only races his boats but builds them, too
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March 27, 1961

A Skipper From Scratch

Marblehead's Ted Hood, known as a sailmaker, now not only races his boats but builds them, too

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As Hood's sails became known, so did his sailing. In 1951 he took the first of four consecutive titles in the elite Marblehead International.

In 1956, during his preparations for the U.S. Olympic trials, Hood practically deserted sailmaking. He and Collins and Don McNamara, a hot racer in the Boston-to- Marblehead area, persuaded well-known Marble-head architect Ray Hunt to plan a new 5.5-meter, Quixotic, for expenses only. Hood employed a local carpenter who used the same tools his grandfather used in building the old Bedford whalers. Quixotic did supremely well in the trials and, to win Hood needed only to finish better than last in the final, deciding race. Midway in the course a shackle parted and the sail on Hood's boat dropped into the cockpit. He finished last.

"It was depressing," said Hood afterward, "to sit there and try to figure out what to do."

Imperturbable skipper

Hood seldom seems ruffled. He sits at the helm with a small smile on his face, watching the sails and the wind. Collins recalls one race when Ted was in the lead but the time limit was running out fast, and the wind was dying just as fast. As the boat inched for the finish, two of the crew, a married couple inexperienced in sailing, walked artlessly about, knocking the wind out of the sails and throwing the boat off balance. Hood said nothing, showed no temper and won the race with 20 seconds to spare under the time limit.

This is the same quality that enabled Hood, a week after what should have been the shattering experience of losing an Olympic berth by mishap, to successfully enter the preliminaries for the North American sailing title. He squeaked ahead in the final and became the 1956 North American sailing Champion. "It was a drifting match," he recalls, "but we won."

George O'Day, who imports and builds popular-size racing craft, and Hood raced against each other last year in the 1960 Olympic trials in what Yachting Columnist Leonard Fowle called "one of yachting's great alltime competitions." Hood and O'Day were one-two all the way for the 5.5-meter-class Olympic berth. In the last race they were only 97 Olympic points apart, the difference between fourth and fifth place. In the deciding moments Hood lost the race by a whisper.

He made no excuses. "It was a question of who beat who. Suppose I'll give it another try in four years," said Ted.

In the meantime, Hood has been developing his third talent as a man of boats: designing. "I was always interested in building a boat," he told a visitor not long ago. "At 16 I was going to build a 60-footer, but I ended up hammering together a 12-foot dinghy.

"I'd just sketch away some nights," said Hood when asked how he conceived his first design for a big boat. He took the drawings to his engineer father, Stedman Hood, and the two of them came up with what Ted calls "just a good comfortable cruising boat." But Robin, a centerboard sloop, turned out to be more than that. In the 1959 Astor Cup she out-raced, boat for boat, all the entries in her division, all the boats in the next larger division, all but three in the next to largest, and four boats in the largest division. Her handicap easily gave Robin the over-all win.

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