Carrying on the Hood family legacy
Published on April 22nd, 2014
by Laurie Fullerton, SAIL
In 1967 The New Yorker published a now-famous profile of the late sailmaker and America’s Cup skipper Ted Hood. The story noted how, even as a boy, Hood had an aptitude for recognizing yachts at a great distance, with his father, Stedman Hood, recalling how he’d once identified the New York 50 Andiamo on a distant horizon sometime in the 1940s.
“If you loved boats as I did, there was no mistaking her,” Ted later wrote in his autobiography.
Today that same eye for a beautiful yacht – and the love of all things maritime that makes it possible – endures in Ted’s nephew Chris Hood. It’s also being given physical form at Chris’s Marblehead, Massachusetts-based company, C.W. Hood Yachts, where he’s been designing and building boats for over 20 years, including the award-winning daysailer, the C.W. Hood 32.
“When I was a kid growing up in Marblehead, I was always excited when my Uncle Ted came over,” Chris says. “Before he could even get through the door, I would bring [him] my drawings. I felt like I was presenting a gift to the King of England. I knew it had to be right.”
Back in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, Chris’s Uncle Ted owned and operated the Marblehead-based company Little Harbor Yachts, which included his famous sailmaking business Hood Sailmakers. Ted’s success, in turn, made Marblehead one of the leading yachting technology centers of the world.
In 1974, when Chris was riding the bus to elementary school, he would sometimes look out the window and see 12-Meters match-racing off Marblehead. In fact, it was during those years that Ted and others like Dennis Conner and Ted Turner perfected the art of two-boat testing, a practice that continues to this day.
Ted Hood ultimately won the America’s Cup in 1974 at the helm of Courageous. Then in 1977 he campaigned Independence, his second 12-Meter design (the first was Nefertiti, which lost to Weatherly in the 1962 defender’s trials), against Courageous, which he’d recently redesigned, only to finish second Turner, who went on to successfully defend against Australia.
“I was pretty young when my Uncle Ted won the America’s Cup,” Chris recalls. “But I remember there was a big parade through town, and our school went on a field trip down to the boatyard.”
In those days an America’s Cup skipper might win the Cup on Sunday and be back to work by Monday, which for Ted Hood meant running his growing marine business in Marblehead. Unfortunately, for a young Chris and the town of Marblehead, as Ted’s business grew, he realized he needed a better marina to launch and service the bigger yachts he was building, but the town fathers voted down his proposal to dredge or alter Little Harbor, and in 1986 he had no choice but to move his operations to Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
The last boat he built in Marblehead before moving was the 60-foot American Promise, aboard which Dodge Morgan set a solo circumnavigation record from Bermuda and back of 150 days. A number of Hood alumni stayed and continued to keep Marblehead on the yachting map – sailmakers like Robbie Doyle, Jud Smith, Bruce Dyson and Dave Curtis, and yacht designers Jim Taylor and Dieter Empacher. But without Ted Hood the town was never quite the same. – Read on