Eight Bells: Thomas Harrington

Published on May 7th, 2021

Thomas J. Harrington

Thomas J. Harrington, the 63rd Commodore of the New York Yacht Club and a champion of its traditions and history, passed away on the afternoon of April 29. Commodore Harrington, who led the Club in 2013 and 2014, was 81 years old. He joined the Club in 1991.

“Commodore Harrington brought great energy and passion to the concept of bringing the Club to members outside of our physical clubhouses,” says current Commodore Christopher J. Culver. “His vision has become fully realized during this pandemic.”

Commodore Harrington’s passion for sailing had started while an officer with the U.S. Marine Corps, where he achieved the rank of Captain, and developed as he pursued a graduate degree in business administration at Columbia Business School in New York City.

He moved to London after graduating, working for Chemical Bank, and purchased half-ownership in a Soling, which he raced on the Solent. Upon his return to North America, he dove into larger yachts, racing in the Caribbean and then in New England and the Mid Atlantic aboard his J/30 and J/35, both named Obstreperous.

He fostered a loyal crew, many of whom would go on to join the New York Yacht Club, and enjoyed success in both classes. In September of 1995, sailing with largely the same team, Harrington won the J/30 North American Championship and the J/35 National Championship on consecutive weekends.

Commodore Harrington also knew the importance of giving back to the sport, and he served in leadership positions for one-design classes. Also a member of American Yacht Club, where he was awarded their Yachtsman of the Year.

“My friendship with Tom spans almost 40 years, numerous regattas, a number of one-design classes, and two one-design national championships,” says NYYC Secretary Peter Benedetto II, who was a longtime member of Commodore Harrington’s crew. “Our membership and his progression in leadership at the Club has been a cherished part of our history together.

“He has always been a dear friend, sailing companion and mentor to me on and off the water. I can only think of his jovial personality and always sage advice whenever we were together. He will be dearly missed.”

After moving on from one-design racing, Commodore Harrington built Black Watch, a Hinckley Sou’wester 42. The stately dark-hulled sloop was a familiar sight on the Annual Cruise and at other events. Commodore Harrington twice raced her to Bermuda.

He was also part of a consortium of Club members who formed the Black Watch Alliance and purchased the 68-foot 1938 Olin Stephens-designed Black Watch (formerly Edlu II). The boat served on submarine patrols off Eastern Long Island during the Second World War.

Commodore Harrington enjoyed a long career at Chemical Bank, including as president of its International Leasing subsidiary. After leaving Chemical Bank, he founded Spectrum Capital, Ltd. in 1985, serving as president and CEO.

Spectrum Capital, Ltd. was an investment banking joint venture with what is today Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Mitsubishi Corporation. For 30 years, amongst its clients were Boeing, Airbus, British Airways, Qantas, and several US carriers, including American, United, Southwest and Alaska.

He served as a Trustee Fellow at Fordham University, where he earned his undergraduate degree.

He is survived by his wife Alane and their sons Jamison and Tucker.

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