The Australian: Ocean racing royalty comes to the Sydney-Hobart

Ocean racing royalty comes to the Sydney-Hobart
By DD MCNICOLL/The Australian

The owners of the American classic yacht Dorade, Matt Brooks and Pam Rorke Levy at the CYCA Marina, Sydney. John Feder/The Australian.

When Pam Rorke Levy and Matt Brooks became a couple in 2010, it quickly became apparent their hobbies were likely to pose some problems for their relationship.

Matt was one of America’s leading mountain climbers and Pam was scared of heights. She loved classical music but anything more than a couple of bars sent him to sleep. “We went out for a short sail and a glass of wine in San Francisco on a brand new Beneteau 37 and we both loved it,” Pam said yesterday as she reacquainted herself with Dorade, the 87-year-old Olin Stephens-designed yawl that’s probably the most famous ocean racing yacht ever built, at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in Sydney’s Rushcutters Bay.

The owners of the American classic yacht Dorade, Matt Brooks and Pam Rorke Levy (centre front) with crew L to R..John Hayes, Rasmus Bregenhoj, Hogan Beatie and Erik Chowanski at the CYCA Marina, Sydney. John Feder/The Australian.

“When we got ashore we went straight to a yacht broker and, in her office, Matt was immediately smitten by photographs of old William Fife ketches on the walls.

“He said, ‘Can you find us something like that’ and our search began … 2010 was the ideal time to buy an old yacht as the world financial situation had collapsed the market. We finally found this extraordinary boat.”

The owners of the American classic yacht Dorade, Matt Brooks and Pam Rorke Levy at the CYCA Marina, Sydney. John Feder/The Australian.

Dorade was designed in 1930 by Stephens for his father as a family cruising boat and built by his younger brother Rod. Over the next decade it set racing records across the northern hemisphere that have seldom been equalled. Pam said she and Matt knew something of the yacht’s glorious past but further research became the basis of “Matt’s crazy idea”.

“He decided he wanted to restore the yacht and sail her again in all the famous ocean races she won in the 1930s,” Pam said.

Matt said the yacht had been restored “cosmetically” by its previous owner but it was in no condition to be taken out to sea. “We sailed her once before we put her into the boatyard for a complete refit,” Matt said, “Most of the boat remains original but we had to replace the rig and masts and boom and have new sails made.

“We saw a lot of boats from her era that had been so restored they looked almost brand new but we wanted something that looked and felt old. If you look at photographs of the boat in 1930 and today, you can’t tell them apart.”

Pam said that over the past seven years Dorade had sailed in all the famous races she won more than 80 years ago and set better times. On Boxing Day she will start in her first major southern hemisphere ocean race, the Rolex Sydney-Hobart race, and both Pam and Matt are confident she will not be disgraced.

“We have been surprised by the reception the boat has received from yachtsmen around the world,” Matt said. “We are aware that we are simply custodians of the boat — it really belongs to the world’s yachting community.”

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