Eight Bells: Richard Matthews

Published on May 21st, 2019

Richard Matthews, a noted world class sailor who served as navigator for two significant America’s Cup crews, died May 11 in Fairfield, CT. He was 88.

Matthews served as navigator on America’s Cup challenger Vim in 1958, and in the same role with Weatherly in 1962. His brother Don Matthews was on both crews as well. Vim was runner up in the challenger trials to the eventual winner Columbia, and Weatherly won the Cup over Australia’s Gretel.

“In those days, most of the world’s best sailors cut their teeth on Long Island Sound,” Matthews had said. “We met Bus (Emil) Mosbacher (who skippered both Vim and Weatherly) racing dinghies out of Larchmont Yacht Club and were lucky enough to stay with him through both Cup campaigns in ’58 and ’62.”

Matthews sailed internationally in both the Star and Tempest classes. He moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s, and was part of an internationally noted local fleet that included noted sailmaker Lowell North and America’s Cup Skipper and two-time world champion Tom Blackaller. He moved to Hawaii in the 1990s and eventually back to Newport, Rhode Island in 2005, always insisting on living near the water.

Matthews was also a licensed pilot who regularly flew a variety of Cessna and Piper aircraft models, and was part of the management team for family-owned Universal Airlines from 1966 to 1972.

Born in 1930 in Staten Island, New York, to Captain John Matthews and Elizabeth Barlow Matthews, he graduated from St. Joseph’s University in 1953, and served in the Army during the Korean War from 1950- 1952 as a company clerk in Seattle, Washington.

Matthews is survived by his three children – Richard Matthews Jr., Lynn Matthews-Douglass, and Howard Bradley Matthews – and brother Don Matthews, five-grandchildren and two greatgrandchildren. The family asks that donations in his memory be made to the Alzheimer’s Association in Southington, CT (860-828- 2828).

About the Vim & the Matthews Family:
1951-64: John N. Matthews was the owner during this period (home port: Oyster Bay, N.Y.). Altered in auxiliary yacht. The owner entered the selection races for the 1958 America’s Cup and in 1957, Olin Stephens was required to return Vim to the original version. The engine was removed together with some other heavy fittings; the hull was re-planked; new sails in dacron and a new rig was tuned up. Vim’s photo was on the cover of the August 4, 1958 Life Magazine which was devoted to the America’s Cup. Her design is also used as the basis for the new S&S Twelve, Columbia. She had a great crew, headed by Bus Mosbacher and Dick Matthews (son of the owner) as co-helmsman, the other son Donald, Brad Noyes, Dick Bertram and Ted Hood, who was in charge of experimenting new sail fabrics, were crew members. Vim was very successful and, at the end of the trial races, she was the best of all the other contenders apart from Columbia who was slightly faster to windward in fresh winds. The final series was yacht racing at its closest with Vim probably better sailed; Columbia won the fifth race by twelve seconds and was chosen as the defender of the 1958 Cup. In 1952 she won the Astor Cup (NYYC) and in 1955 the Queen’s Cup (1955). In 1959 she was given to a Roman Catholic charity and chartered for four years by Sir Frank Packer’s Australian syndicate. Gretel, the 1962 America’s Cup Australian challenger, was inspired to Alan Payne by Vim’s design and performances and Vim was used as trial-horse for the tuning up of Gretel.

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