When your grandfather wins the Newport to Bermuda Race in 1924 and your uncle skippers an America’s Cup boat in 1964, it’s pretty safe to say, as Keith Donald does, that he was plucked into a sailing family. As a kid, sailing Round Bay and out of Severn SA (SSA), as a student and instructor. “My sailing is pretty informal,” says Donald. “For me, the top half of the fleet is winning. It’s for fun.”
Although he has competed in major big boat regattas, such as a few Annapolis to Newport and Fastnet Races in the 1960s and 1970s, he says, “I turned into a small boat sailor.” After many years as a Snipe sailor, about five years ago, he traveled to Springfield, IL, on a whim and bought a Star. “I was tired of capsizing in my Snipe. I thought, ‘give me a keel.’ I figured if I bought it, I’d be forced to like it.”
Today, in his workroom near Philadelphia, PA, he has two Snipes and two Stars, one wooden and one fiberglass version of each, and has restored the wooden boats himself. He discovered his latest project, the Star Hope, after learning about her existence at the Star Class North Americans in Vancouver, Canada. The boat was not for sale, but the owner was open to the right caregiver coming along.
Other than Skip and Mary Etchells owning her in the early 1960s, Hope’s history is unclear. Donald believes she may have spent 30 years under a porch in New Hampshire. Although she was under a tarp in snow when he first saw her, “structurally, she was sound,” he says.
With the Star Class 100th Anniversary Regatta in Larchmont, NY, in September in mind as a target date, three and a half years and about 400 hours later, he had completed stripping the varnish of Hope, replacing all hardware, and varnishing her. “After I launched, I stopped counting the days and money,” he says with a smile. “It’s probably two days of work for one day sailed, but that’s getting better. I’m almost at the point where I am sailing more.”
Spinsheet: What’s to love about the Star?
The tradition of the class. I am very much a newcomer to the class, but I like that you can sail at every level from the Bacardi Cup to the fleet level, which is more in my comfort zone. It’s a challenge. I thought of the Star as a light air boat, but it can be great when it’s windy!
What does it take to be an ideal Star crew?
Crews are more important than skippers. A good crew will make it or break it. It’s very physical, so youth helps. It’s important to get the skipper-crew coordination down. If you don’t practice strategy and working together as a team,. it’s tough.
What’s your favorite regatta of the year?
The Tred Avon YC Fall Wind Up in early October. The weather is ideal, and we have the whole Choptank to ourselves. They do a nice job catering to the Stars.
What’s the best part about fixing up an old boat?
What part of it do you dislike?
I went through phases when I would ask, “Why am I doing this? Will I ever get done?” Of course, I was halfway through and too committed to give up.
Were there any surprises along the way?
After I launched, how far I was from having a boat that was problem-free. It was a whole summer. Even after the Bacardi Cup in March; I was still sawing, filing and drilling.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
We’re working on a loaner boat program. I’d be willing to donate my fiberglass Star to the fleet, but I don’t have the trailer for it.