|Matt Brooks Vying to Make History in Transatlantic Race
By Rachel Sacks
History is looking to repeat itself.
On June 28 StFYC member Matt Brooks and his crew set sail in the 2015 Transatlantic Race aboard the legendary ocean racing yacht, Dorade. Not only does Brooks plan to cover the 2,800 miles between Newport, R.I. and Plymouth, U.K, he hopes to beat Dorade’s original time of 17 days, one hour and 14 minutes—84 years after she achieved that victory in 1931.
When Brooks and his wife Pam Rorke Levy bought the 52ft yawl Dorade in 2010, they decided to embark on a campaign to repeat all of the races she won in the 1930s, including the Newport Bermuda, Transpac, Rolex Fastnet and the Transatlantic Race. The campaign was initially referred to as “Matt’s Crazy Idea.”
Then, following a yearlong refit, Dorade began winning races, both offshore and in coastal regattas in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and on the West Coast. In 2013, Dorade was the overall winner (on corrected time) in the Transpacific Yacht Race, 77 years after her first victory in that race. In 2014, she won the IRC class in the 2014 Newport Bermuda Race. “Matt’s Crazy Idea” was renamed the “Return to Blue Water Campaign.”
“Everyone said we were proposing something that wasn’t even in the realm of possibility,” says Brooks. “Now we’re coming up to the last two races—the Transatlantic Race 2015 and the Rolex Fastnet Race—and no one is questioning that the boat can do this.
At press time, Dorade was in second place in Classics division of the Transatlantic Race, behind the 125ft Herreshoff-designed Mariette of 1915.
A Classic Reborn
Dorade has long been etched into the history of the St. Francis Yacht Club. According to Staff Commodore RC Keefe, the boat put the Club on the map in 1936 when StFYC member Jim Flood purchased her from designer Olin Stephens and went on to win the Honolulu Race under the St. Francis burgee.
“Dorade was a benchmark that all other racing yachts were compared to for years,” says Keefe. “What Matt Brooks has done has brought that lore to the point where it’s not lore anymore; it’s here.
Getting Dorade ready for the Return to Blue Water Campaign was no easy feat. Not only did Brooks have to gather up an experienced and well-balanced crew of sailors, the boat itself had to be refitted to handle the amount and caliber of racing.
“We needed to toughen up Dorade, readying her for the kind of long-range sailing she hadn’t seen in decades,” said Brooks. “We’re keeping in mind that while she may be game, she is also an eighty-year-old lady.” Brooks and his team are constantly maintaining the boat, tweaking sails and rigging and preserving her hull. Brooks says he is happy to be in the company of other avid sportsmen who believe failure is not an option.
Keefe is a strong believer in Brooks, his crew, and the boat. “If Dorade was to win the Transatlantic Race this year, after winning the Transpacific Yacht Race, then I think it’s time for the boat to be picked up and put in the Smithsonian. She could be there for a thousand years.”
Brooks, who has been a member of the club since 1976, has been sailing since he was young. In 2014 he was the recipient of the Jerome B. White Yachtsman of the Year, awarded to the StFYC member who has made the greatest contribution to the sport of yachting. That year he was first in class at the Les Voiles de St. Tropez (Sept. 27–Oct. 5), the Newport Bermuda Race (June 20) and the Regales Royales de Cannes (Sept. 21-28).
Real-time tracking of Dorade is available through the Transatlantic race site and the event’s YellowBrick system. For full race reports and updates from the team, visit the Dorade’s blog and site here: http://dorade.org/.