The Patriarch and His Posse

Published on June 19th, 2019

by Michael Hanson, Sailing World
The seabreeze builds to 15 knots across Rhode Island Sound as Tom Rich watches his son-in-law stumble through a tack on his way to grinding in the jib. Thwack, thwack, thwack. The jib flogs in the wind. It’s the first day of racing at the 165th New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta, and with stiff competition in the IRC 2 fleet, there is no margin for error.

“Get that thing in,” says Rich as loud as he can. Rich is by no means a screamer, and for a man of large stature, he is soft spoken and patient on the helm of his Tripp 43, Settler. Though he always races to win and could recruit plenty of pros, Rich makes a point to sail with his two daughters and a growing list of in-laws, so for the crew of Settler, sailing has been, and always will be a family matter.

Rich, of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, says his father started the Settler program when he was in high school. Over the years, the family fleet included a C&C 33, a New York 36, and a Peterson 42, all called Settler. The boat’s name is a nod to the family’s heritage. “My dad always said our family was related to the original founders of the town of Southold on Long Island, one of the first English settlements in New York in 1640. So we thought the name was appropriate, particularly because settlers are typically the first ones there, so for a race boat, it makes sense.”

As former co-owner of New England Boatworks, Rich has worked on or built countless raceboats around the Rhode Island area. NEB built Settler in 1996, and Rich bought it in 2013. “It was important to have a boat that we built,” he says. “Since then, we’ve monkeyed with it a lot. We put a TP52 keel on it. We modified the rig for mast head chutes. At the end of the day, it’s a fun boat, but it’s not all that competitive.” – Full report

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