Vineyard memories: Rene Coudert

The Buzzards Society, formed to honor those who have sailed 10 or more Vineyards, gathers March 10 for its fourth annual dinner. For the next few weeks we will be posting memories of the Vineyard from Buzzards members. This was originally posted in August of 2011. For more information on the March 10 dinner email:

I remember the first Vineyard Race I skippered in 1967 or 68.

I started sailing with Tom Watson, Chairman of IBM, aboard his Palawan’s in 1960. I worked my way up from foredeck to watch captain. In 1967-68 he called my office the morning before the start of the Vineyard and said he had a business meeting in Washington and couldn’t make the start. He wanted me to skipper with Arthur Knapp and Warren Brown as watch captains. It was a great honor to skipper at age 32-33 with such senior talent aboard as Knapp and Brown.

Going down the North Shore the first evening under spinnaker, we had a fly over with some aerobatics with Watson returning from Washington. His pilot later told me that under FAA rules he was supposed to turn Watson in because he exceeded the “G” ratings for safely flying that aircraft. He didn’t want to lose his job, so he didn’t turn Watson in.

On approaching the tower, the entire “A” class were huddled together with no wind trying to maintain way against the current. We somehow managed to sail around most of the bigger boats and headed back to Stamford. Ted Turner with his 12-meter American Eagle, almost picked us off working up to the finish. We managed to hold him by 2-3 boat lengths. I’ll never forget Ted after the finish. He started his engine and with full power headed for the harbor, his spinnaker plastered against the rigging. As he motored by, he said “you sob Coudert, i’ll get you next time”. Ted always had a refined elegance with words. That “Palawan” was one of Olin’s breakthrough boats and sported the first separated keel and rudder. It was a very fast boat and we became a member of the winning us Admiral’s Cup Team in 1969 along with Dick Nye’s “Carina” and Dick Carter’s “Red Rooster”.


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