The Unofficial Nobles Sailing Team

Frank Cobb (l.) and Ned Bigelow, both veterans of the team

Frank Cobb (l.) and Ned Bigelow, both veterans of the team


Introduction by Frank Cobb:

Back in our days at Nobles there was this kind of undercover, clandestine annual sailing regatta that pretty much no one knew anything about.  A few of us learned by word of mouth and managed to participate in it.  I think about 30 or so New England prep schools participated, and sent teams of 3 or 4 sailors, some with sailing coaches and budgets for expenses.  It might have been called the New England Interscholastic Sailing Regatta, but I am pretty vague on this, I don't know if Nobles even formally notified anyone we were participating, and there was certainly no budget for expenses, no sailing coach and no faculty supervision of any kind that I can remember.

I did this two years in a row, and we were sailing at the Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy, which was on Long Island Sound at Kings Point, NY, fairly close to New York City.  Long Island Sound is only about five miles wide at Kings Point, so the race courses were fairly short.  The Merchant Marine Academy had a fleet of Shields Class sloops, about 22 to 24 feet long with keels and long bow and stern overhangs, and no spinnakers were used for our races.  I seem to recall the participating school teams were divided into three groups, with approximately 10 to 12 or so boats in each race, and the crews were shuttled back and forth after each race from the dock to the boats.  The plan as I recall it was for three races for each group spread over two or so days, with I guess the results of the regatta to be determined by how well we did over the course of three races.

I suppose Nobles may have paid an entry fee, I have no idea why the Merchant Marine Academy made their boats available for this regatta, and pretty much all the administrative details are long forgotten if I ever knew them.  It was a fun adventure sailing with the Noblemen - George Darrell and Dr. Brooks the first year and Ned Bigelow and Rick Railsback the second year.  I can't remember how we did the first year, but the second year we had a first place finish and a second place finish after two races, and the third race was cancelled due to severe weather.  No one did as well as we did the second year, but no hardware or trophys were awarded for some reason, except for a sportsmanship award which some crew carried home with them - not sure what they did to deserve it, but good for them.  They may have been good sports, but no body outsailed us for sure.


Frank Cobb’s recollections:

My first recollection is with Captain Darrell at Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy, who started one race sailing away from the starting line too far in my opinion, not allowing for wind shifts and variations, and we got across the starting line way late with unavoidable consequences.  

We were sailing 22 foot Shields Class keel boat sloops, with no spinnakers downwind.  The boats did love to be heeled over going upwind which with significant bow and stern overhang lengths increased the waterline length and the possible sailing speed.   I have no recollection about where we stayed for the night, who else was sailing with us, and any other details of the races.  I am so used to forgetting things these days, that I am not surprised by this.  I do remember that he offered me the chance to be the skipper for the next race, and I declined out of loyalty to George.

The next recollection is sailing with Dr. Brooks at Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy (the same Shields Class boats) and I can't remember who was with us, where we stayed, or any details about the races or how we did.  The sailing regatta was this sort of underground word of mouth thing at Nobles.  I don't remember any faculty member being in charge of it, there was no budget or approval involved, it seems like the students did this on their own.  We somehow did this on our own, and it was OK with Nobles.  George did this with Colin Cunningham, then we did this together, and so on.  Very unorganized and haphazard.  If only Ned Lawson had been tuned in and part of the network - it would have been so much better organized.

My most detailed memories that I can still access are sailing with Ned Bigelow and Rick Railsback, again at the Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy in the Shields Class sloops.  As usual we had no formal Nobles approval or budget, and we just showed up.  I remember the three of us sleeping in Biggy's car in the Merchant Marine Academy's parking lot, and the Academy's custodians inviting us to shower in the morning in the dorms because they felt so sorry for us.  There were school sailing teams there with a coach getting satellite weather images and predictions off the internet, and we were trying to uncoil out of Biggy's car in the mornings.  We did go to the New York World's Fair in the evenings.

On race day, we were the second group of three to be racing, and we were told by this military dude to secure the dock and stand by.  I was not sure what this really meant, but we sat down and waited our turn to race.  I watched the first group of boats racing and it appeared the ones who went upwind towards Long Island into the Southwest wind on the port side of the course did better, and that is what we did.  It worked out well, and I think we won the first race.

The second race sort of seems as I remember was in heavier wind, and we finished second because I took a poor line to the finish line and another boat beat us by half a boat length.  Bad stuff on my part, and Ned Lawson would have done much better.  During the race the wind was so strong that a jib sheet pulley popped up loose from the deck, but your fearless Nobles crew carried on regardless.  The jib was drawing just fine but from a different angle - we winched it in and sailed on. 

After the race we were sort of hove to luffing into the wind waiting for the Merchant Marine Academy launch to transfer the next crew onto our boat, and the dude in the launch made his approach toward the weather stern quarter and when it came time to put the engine into reverse the transmission failed, and the launch smacked into the quarter and teak trim got splintered up big time.  The launch dude had tears in his eyes as he gathered up pieces of the teak trim, probably knowing he was going to take a beating from his superiors for this incident.  Shortly afterward racing was suspended, probably due to the damage the boat yours truly was in charge of.  So after two races, we had a first and a second - better than anyone else, and the sailing event was over.

Afterwards back at Nobles I think the great Deke was stunned at how well we did.  This whole sailing stunt was so undercover and somehow so clandestine, no one knew who was doing it and how qualified or unqualified any of us were.


George Darrell’s recollections:

The first was with Colin Cunningham, Terry Lyman, and, I think the fourth was, Teddy Partridge.  I believe we raced at the Manhasset Yacht Club in Manhasset long Island. As there were four of us, it is likely, in light air, that one or two of us may have remained ashore. That may be why I have little recollection of actually racing. 

The next year with Cobb and Brooksie at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, Long Island was equally vague – especially the part about my poor start!  

Sailing at Nobles was certainly a bit of a mystery in terms of how it came about. On the ISSA website Nobles is not even listed on the “inactive” list.

 The only faculty member sailor I can think of would be Coggeshall.  Perhaps he mentioned to those he felt had a modicum of sailing skill that, if they could get there and finance their way, they were welcome to represent the school and he would get us registered.  Just a thought in the wind, guys.