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Grundy: I’ve cried about three times

Mighty proud: Jim Grundy, centre back, and crew of St David’s Lighthouse Trophy winner, Grundoon, celebrate in Hamilton Harbour yesterday(Photograph by Colin Thompson)

Behind every victorious yacht there is an amazing story.

The story of how Jim Grundy’s Columbia 50, Grundoon, was raised from the seabed and went on to win the biggest prize in this year’s Newport Bermuda Race is no exception.

The 64-year-old Pennsylvania skipper won the revered St David’s Lighthouse Trophy after topping the 85-strong fleet in the St David’s Lighthouse Division on corrected time — ten years after restoring the 50-year-old yacht previously owned by his late father, James, that had been left to rot away.

“The boat sank at the dock at my father’s home in Chester and when I came on board in the middle of winter the water was up to the bunks in the cabin, so I had to chop a hole in the ice to pump the boat out,” Grundy recalled.

“I was ashamed because I’d gone on to high-performance boat racing and my father, who was quite old at the time, went on to a powerboat but we never sold this boat.

“Neither one of us cared for it, so seeing the boat sunk in I was extremely ashamed of myself. I owed it to this boat for all the years that we have had it to restore it.”

By the time the restoration work was completed Grundy’s father’s health had deteriorated.

“At the time my father was going through the third stage of Alzheimer’s disease and was quite unaware,” Grundy said.

“We got the boat all done and took it and tied it up to his dock and called my mother and asked her to bring dad down to the dock. It all came back to him that day and when he put his hands on the wheel his eyes went from grey to blue.

“He knew where he was and how to sail this boat, which he did all day, and it was the greatest thing because he passed away a week later. I know he’s looking down with one mighty proud smile on his face.”

The triumph was Grundy’s first in seven appearances in the 635-nautical mile race and was achieved with his daughter Gwendylyn and sons Joshua and Sam among the crew.

“I’m ecstatic.” Grundy exclaimed. “It’s overwhelming and an accomplishment of a lifetime of sailing. The whole thing is magical for us. I have cried about three times so far.”

Grundy’s crew also comprised of Phillip McKee, Owen Miller, Chuck O’Mally, watch captain David Schwartz and navigator-naval architect Harry Dunning, who has worked with five America’s Cup syndicates as a boat designer.

“We didn’t have any professional sailors,” Grundy stressed.

“Everybody on this boat, including our famous naval architect, who is really one of the legends in modern yacht design, are all just good friends of mine, which adds to it because it’s much more a team than a professional effort. It’s just a bunch of guys who enjoy sailing together and pushing every inch of the way.”

After savouring the sweet taste of success, Grundy had to live up to a promise he made to his crew before setting sail from Newport, Rhode Island, on June 15. “Weight is critical, even on an old heavy boat, so everybody’s carry-on gear had to fit into a duffel bag ten inches in diameter and two feet long,” he explained. “That’s all that anybody can bring on the boat.

“They asked ‘what if we win and have to have a blazer and tie’ and I said ‘well, if we win I will buy you all blazers’. So we went to the old English Sports Shop and I bought six blazers, which cost more than it did to enter the race.”

51st Newport Bermuda Race division winners

St David’s Lighthouse Division - Grundoon

Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division - Wizard

Finisterre Division - Orca

Double-Handed Division - Yankee Girl,

Multihull Division - Elvis

Superyacht Division - Kawil

Open Division - Maverick