Classic Boat Love Affair

Published on April 16th, 2019

Carolyn and Ron Zarrella

by Michelle Slade, SailBlast
Carolyn and Ron Zarrella, from Nantucket, Mass, launched their stunning Taylor 49 Blackfish in 2017, and the boat is special to the couple for many reasons. Over and above being a true beauty, significantly it brought the pair together.

They met some ten years ago when Carolyn was Sailing Director at the Great Harbor Yacht Club on Nantucket – Ron had moved to the area and wanted to learn about local sailing conditions. He owned a 32-foot Nantucket Alerion (a modified hull-molded wooden boat and 1916 Herreshoff design) and the two became acquainted as he began racing his boat locally.

An avid sailor with Transatlantic racing and three Sydney to Hobarts under his belt, Ron missed big boat racing, however, and thought about building a boat. He sought Carolyn’s help, and before long, she was having significant input into the ultimate look and feel of Ron’s new boat. They fell in love and tied the knot in 2016.

“The building of the boat was a lot of fun – beginning to plan the boat was really the start of our relationship,” Ron recalls fondly – and with a big smile.

Blackfish is a “Spirit of Tradition” boat designed by Jim Taylor and built by Steve White of the Brooklyn Boatyard in Maine. Taylor’s work on Blackfish came about after Ron and Carolyn saw Dreadnought, a Taylor 49c, in Maine.

The Zarrella’s were big on aesthetics and being based part of the year in Nantucket, they thought a boat like Dreadnought would fit there perfectly. They also knew that they wanted to race rather than cruise, so the overall design was modified to accommodate more race-ready parameters, Taylor explained.

Primarily designed to compete with other classics (she’s done well in classic fleets the past few summers racing in New England), Blackfish does have a modern keel, rudder, and a carbon fiber mast. Taylor’s proud of the fact that Blackfish does what she was specified to do and be: drop-dead gorgeous above and a race boat below.

“People look at the boat and don’t expect too much,” Taylor says. “She looks old school and looks like she behaves old school but she’s a race boat for sure.”

In the Caribbean for the first time this year, she raced the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival where she was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful boats on the docks.

Blackfish will now be racing Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta on April 18-23 and the Zarrella’s are looking forward to going up against more “like-minded” boats. As Ron says with a certain degree of seriousness mixed with humor, they didn’t build their boat to race against plastic boats.

After Antigua, Blackfish will be shipped back to Brooklyn Boatyard for a symmetrical spinnaker, pole, and track on the mast (she’s currently set up with an asymmetrical spinnaker) so she can be better equipped for round-the-buoy windward-leeward racing this summer in New England where they’ll also compete in the 2019 Classic Yachts Challenge Series.

“We’re really enjoying our boat and just love classics, especially the theme of ‘Spirit of Tradition’ boats,” Carolyn said. “We’re typically racing to the CRF (Classic Rating Formula), against yawls and schooners over 100 years old. It’s really fun.”

Photos by Ingrid Abery:

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