The Restoration of Sinn Fein

Published on August 22nd, 2013

When Hurricane Sandy devastated the Raritan Yacht Club boat yard in Perth Amboy, NJ on October 29, 2012, one of the many casualties was the Cal 40 Sinn Fein, two-time Newport to Bermuda champion. Declared a total loss by the insurance company, Pete Rebovich decided to buy the boat back and try to repair it for the 2014 Bermuda Race.

Why is the Cal 40, Sinn Fein so important to yacht racing?

Nearly 16,000 boats were built under the Cal brand name. There were many different models, but, without question, the most famous is the Cal 40. The forerunner of today’s ultra-light, production ocean racers, the Cal 40 was inspired by ocean racing legend, George Griffith, of the Los Angeles Yacht Club, and was purportedly first sketched by him in 1962 on the back of a cocktail napkin.

Following Griffith’s inspiration, the Cal 40 was designed by the prolific and ground-breaking naval architect, C. William “Bill” Lapworth and was lofted by Willis Boyd. A major undertaking for its time and radically different from other production racing sailboats with its fin keel separated from a spade rudder mounted well aft, the Cal 40 continues to rack up an impressive string of ocean racing victories more than four decades after its initial launch.

Peter Rebovich bought Sinn Fein in 1973, initially using it for local racing and cruising with his family. In the late 1970s, Pete got the offshore racing bug, competing in several Around Long Island races. He completed his first Marion to Bermuda Race in 1981. After winning the family trophy in that race in 1995, he moved from the cruising race to the Newport to Bermuda Race in 1997.

Overall, Sinn Fein has been to Bermuda and back 16 times. She won her class in 2002 and 2004. Then, in 2006, she won the St, David’s Lighthouse (amateur) Division of the centennial anniversary race – besting the largest fleet ever to compete in the “thrash to the onion patch.” In 2007, Sinn Fein became the first winner of the newly created Olin Stephens award for the boat with the best combined finishes in consecutive Newport to Bermuda and Marblehead to Halifax races.

Sinn Fein repeated her Bermuda Race victory in 2008, becoming only the second boat to win back-to-back races. She also won the inaugural North Rock Beacon Trophy for the best corrected time under IRC in the combined Gibbs Hill Lighthouse and St. David’s Lighthouse divisions. Overall, she has won her class four times and the Stephens trophy a similar number of times. In 2010 and 2012, she was second in class (to another Cal 40, Belle Aurore). In both these races, she was in the top eight boats overall in fleets of more than 100 boats.

The boat has always been sailed by an all-amateur crew. No one on the crew receives paid travel or lodging. All of the crew are local sailors from Raritan Bay. The owner, Peter Rebovich is a retired school teacher from Metuchen, New Jersey. Now in his 70s, Pete suffers from a degenerative muscle disease in his legs that severely reduces his mobility. The boat has an especially supportive band of wives, girlfriends, former crew and sailing buddies who routinely travel to meet the boat, party, and help with deliveries to and from races. It is not hard to see why Sinn Fein has become a favorite with weekend sailors everywhere.

Click here for photos and description of her restoration progress.

Correction: It is George Griffith, not George Griffin as is stated elsewhere.

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