Nyala: What’s in a name?

Published on November 9th, 2020

Featured in November 2020 of the Ultimate Sailing calendar, the photo by Carlo Borlenghi of the 12 Metre Nyala spiked the curiosity of South African Andrew Mackenzie who wondered why an active yacht in Italy was named after an antelope found in the game reserves of his region.

Originally built in 1938, and now owned by Patrizio Bertelli, CEO of the Prada Group, and an America’s Cup Hall of Famer, there is a story behind the name. Here is background from the Scuttlebutt Nation:

Jordan Owen:
The third rule 12 Metre Nyala was built for Frederick T. Bedford of Westport, Connecticut. His father, Edward T. Bedford, was a director of the original Standard Oil who established a large family farm in then-rural Westport in 1910.

Frederick, who was also an industrialist, named the farm “Nyala” for the antelope he had seen while on safari in Africa. Later, the name would be used for the Olin Stephens-designed 1938 12 Metre. Like the wooden twelve, the 52-acre farm remains a going concern where the last family member resided until 2014.

Paul Erb:
Built of the finest hardwoods at the famous Henry Nevins yard (City Island, NY), Nyala carried the unique identifier 12-US-12 (ie. the 12th 12 meter in the USA).

Several sources note that she was a wedding present by F.T. Bedford to his daughter, Lynn (Lucie) Bedford (aka LuLu) and new son-in-law, Briggs Cunningham (yes, that Cunningham – winning 1958 America’s Cup skipper on Columbia).

It’s also reported that FT and Briggs had previously owned an 8 Metre together (late 1920s), and Briggs is said to have credited his wife-to-be with teaching him to sail (Stars) at Pequot Yacht Club, so maybe a 12 Metre for them to campaign together is not as surprising a wedding gift as we might, at first, be tempted to surmise!

As an aside, there are at least a couple of 6 Metres still sailing that are named for Mrs. Cunningham (Lucie and LuLu) which Briggs had raced to good effect.

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