A piece of Dr. Skip Sheldon’s legacy lives on as his 66’ racer-cruiser Zaraffa continues to win with the grateful U.S. Naval Academy Varsity Offshore Sailing Team.
Sheldon, who began his sailing career as a student, commissioned Reichel/Pugh Design No. 96 Zaraffa as a dual-purpose racer-cruiser, built by New England Boatworks and launched in 1999. A rugged design, Sheldon never wanted the boat to be the cause of not finishing a race. Zaraffa competed in the 2001 Fastnet race winning class and taking 2nd overall. She raced the Newport-Bermuda four times, claiming the 2002 Lighthouse Trophy win on the crew’s second attempt. She was also first-to-finish with overall honors on the 2003 North Atlantic Challenge from Newport to Cuxhaven, Germany, and in 2011 Zaraffa was 1st Corrected IRC 3 in the Transatlantic Race. She has also raced the Sydney Hobart, Miami to Montego Bay, Round Gotland Race and the Middle Sea Race. In 2018, after a retrofit for the Transatlantic Race, the Sheldon family bestowed the USNA Sailing Team with the gift of Zaraffa for offshore training.
USNA coach of fifteen years Jahn Tihansky explains that he, “can’t imagine any other summer training opportunity at the academy that take midshipmen into a genuinely risky environment to collectively work on their professional development through constant teamwork and leadership situations. The midshipmen are making the decisions and running the boat. The lessons learned and reality of the training sets them so far ahead. Alumni will be well prepared for whatever comes their way.”
The crew of 16 midshipmen and two coaches trained mid-March through the end of April to prepare. “To win the Halifax race felt improbable, but wasn’t a fluke,” explains Tihansky. “The team worked through 26 sail changes (mostly spin changes) over 40 hours of racing, but I was the proudest when they dug deep and patiently persevered through very light winds up the river to Halifax during the last ten miles of the 363nm race.”
Last Thursday evening skipper Midshipman Sean Caraher, was awarded the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Cup at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron as the 38th edition of the race wrapped up. The USNA midshipmen have since completed the 400-mile delivery to Newport and will start the 175th anniversary regatta at NYYC followed by the around Long Island Race.
The USNA Offshore Sailing Team wishes to emphasize their gratitude to the Sheldon family for entrusting them with the boat.
photos courtesy of USNAVarsityOffshoreSailing and Cate Brown