Eight Bells: Stewart P. Neff
Published on July 5th, 2021
Champion sailor Stewart P. Neff passed away June 27, 2021. He was 63 years of age.
Stewart’s involvement in sailboat racing began at Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club (Oyster Bay, NY), making a name for himself on Long Island Sound as a very successful Junior Sailor. In 1976 he won the U.S. Youth Championship in the Laser Class and represented the United States in the Youth World Championship. He went on to be a member of the Tufts University Sailing team.
From there, he enhanced his yachting success in single-handed classes: that included several Laser and Finn Midwinter and National Championships, a Gold Medal at the 1979 European Finn Championship, a Bronze Medal at the 1979 Pan Am Games in the Laser Class, and a 2nd place finish in the 1988 Finn Olympic Trials. As a tactician for Ken Read, Stewart won the J/24 North Americans in 1985 and World Championship in 1986.
After joining Eastern Yacht Club (Marblehead, MA) in 1989, Stewart began competing in the local Etchells class and immediately made a name for himself over the next 10 years with impressive finishes in North American and World Championships. From there he teamed up with Henry Brauer in the Sonar Class winning numerous sailing events, most notably The Cressy Trophy in 2002 for best overall performance at Marblehead Race Week and winning the Sonar Atlantic Coast Championship in 2003.
The partnership continued in the J/105 Class winning the North American Championship in 2011 and receiving the Puritan Genesta Decanter from Eastern in recognition of this championship. In recent years he continued to sail with his brothers Terry and Michael in their J/105 in the Fall Bermuda regatta.
When not out racing sailboats, Stewart loved heading out to Stellwagen Bank with his family – his wife, Eilish, and his two sons, Nicholas and Spencer – in search of humpback whales.