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Eight Bells: Cornelius Shields, Jr.

Published on December 19th, 2018

Cornelius Shields, Jr.

Cornelius Shields, Jr., 85 years, passed away peacefully at home on December 19 in Larchmont, NY. Born in New York City on December 18, 1933, Corny was a partner at Shields & Co. an investment firm founded by his father Cornelius Shields and late uncle Paul Shields.

He was a prominent yachtsman and a lifetime member of the Larchmont Yacht Club. He learned to sail in the Club’s junior program, moving on to race IODs, Shields, and ICs with success and distinction.

Unlike many sailors who never get out from beneath the shadow of a world-class sailing father, a member of the 2017 induction class for the National Sailing Hall of Fame, Corny Jr. had made his own mark on the sport of yachting, competing locally, nationally, and internationally.

Buttons Padin interviewed Corny for the club in 2013, noting how walking into the library/trophy room of his house was like visiting a yachting museum, with photos of famous boats and people and trophies from some of sailing’s most prestigious regattas. Here is the interview:

You were brought up in a well-known sailing family. What is your favorite family sailing memory?

Growing up there were many happy sailing memories. Among my most favorite family memories were times when my father chartered boats and my sister Aileen, my mother and father, and I would go cruising.

He chartered the Winifred, Vagabond, and a NY 40 Traveler. We also had a wonderful week on Bolero. Years later I was to be on Bolero for the Bermuda Race, skippered by my father. We won that year! I often brought friends along: Dave Smalley, Bruce Baum, and Steve Corkery.

We visited beautiful harbors and loved the excitement of being at sea.

You were the dominant IOD and Shields skipper for many years, and many competitors’ tactics consisted of asking “which way did Glit go?” What advice would you give a young person looking to become a consistently winning sailor?

In response to “which way did Glit go?”– Glit often went the wrong way! On what advice for young sailors, I’d say certainly Junior Sailing taught me a lot. I started at nine and, from then on, sailed in every boat from dinghies, to 110s, IOD, Shields, and 12 Meters.

I loved the competition and the challenge of each race. My father’s great patience, wise advice, and encouragement helped me throughout my life in everything I did—certainly in sailing.

In 1962, you were helmsman for a largely LYC crew on the 12-meter Columbia vying to defend the America’s Cup. Although Columbia was not selected as defender, what were the most memorable aspects of that campaign?

In 1958 I was privileged to be a crew member on Columbia when she won the America’s Cup sailed by Briggs Cunningham. In 1962, when my uncle Paul Shields bought Columbia, the America’s Cup was a different series. It was non-professional and sailed by amateur sailors.

The crew of Columbia were friends, many from LYC, who had sailed with me on other boats. We all had jobs and sailing was not a full-time exercise. The other 12 Metres were operated the same way—family owned by the Matthews, Hoveys, and Mercers. Although a costly endeavor with no corporate sponsors, it was nothing like today’s Cup defenses.

My most memorable America’s Cup memory: winning the Newport Cup in 1961 and sharing the America’s Cup experience with my father, Cornelius Shields, Sr., and Uncle Paul Shields who made it possible.

You won many regattas and championships during your long sailing career. Can you tell us about some of your favorite sailing victories?

I have several memories of sailing victories and all were favorites at the time: the 110 World Championship (1955), the Manhasset Bay Challenge Cup sailed in Shields (1964-1967), the IOD World Championship (1963), the LYC winter sailing championship deCoppet Trophy (3 times), the King Edward VIII Gold Cup in Bermuda with Bill Baxter as crew (1964), and Sunfish regattas on Long Island.

In 1965 I won the Mallory Cup for the NA Men’s Championship, and the best part of that victory was sharing it with my father who was in New Orleans at the time. He had won the Mallory in 1952. He was always proud that my sister Aileen had won the Adams (NA Women’s Championship) in 1948 and that both he and I had won the Mallory—the only family to have won both championships.

We know you use the nickname, “Glit” to identify yourself separately from your Dad…but why “Glit?”

The name “Glit” came from my very early childhood. I could not pronounce Cornelius—a difficult task for a 3-year old—and when asked my name “Glit” was always my response. It amused my father and his friends who henceforth referred to me as Glit.

Corny was the beloved husband of Carol for 56 years. He was the caring father of Allison Shields Kennedy (son-in-law Brian Kennedy, Jr.) and Cornelius Shields IV (daughter-in-law Allison Margetson). He was the loving grandfather of Eamon Kennedy. He was pre-deceased by his parents Josephine and Cornelius Shields and by his sister Aileen Shields Bryan.

The funeral Mass will take place on Saturday 10:00 AM December 22nd at Sts. John & Paul Church in Larchmont where he was a faithful and devoted parishioner.

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