NORTHEAST HARBOR — A Northeast Harbor skipper made history last month when he and his crew won the International One Design World Championship title in Bermuda. Though the island’s IOD fleet is the largest in the world, 48-year-old Tom Fremont-Smith is the first to ever win the trophy for Northeast Harbor.
“I’ve always dreamed of the world championships and holy crap we did it,” he said last week, back from the competition. “It’s amazing to be the first crew from Northeast Harbor to win.”
Fremont-Smith’s victory was anything but a sure thing. In fact, he wasn’t even guaranteed to go to the competition. Sailors compete locally in the summer for the chance to go to bigger competitions in places as close as Marblehead and as far as Norway.
“I actually wasn’t the first pick to go to Bermuda,” he said.
But with COVID delays and other factors, he and his crew aboard the Live Yankee were one of two from Northeast Harbor that ended up representing the fleet against top sailors from around the globe.
Even after securing a spot, Fremont-Smith was up against some skilled sailing. After tough results on the first day of races without his full crew, the Fremont-Smith and his team were able to pull themselves into the top spot on the final race day. On that last day, there was little between him and the second and third place boats. Anyone who had a good day could have been crowned world champion.
“It was all up in the air,” Fremont-Smith said. “We didn’t know who was going to end up with the actual championship.”
He pulled out a terrific set of races and put his name in the history books.
“We’ve never had anyone actually seal the deal. Tom just sailed exceptionally,” said Nick Schoeder, another member of the Northeast Harbor Fleet who finished in sixth at the competition. “For Tom to do what he did was really spectacular.”
Schoeder, a photographer who lives in Bar Harbor, said he’s raced in regattas around the world, but this was his first time skippering at the world championship and the competition is tough.
“It’s quite a bit a step up. You’re literally sailing against the best sailors in the world,” he said. “You truly can’t make mistakes at that level.”
The IOD sloop was designed by American yachtsman Cornelius Shields and first built in Norway. The boat first appeared in the late 1930s and then the inaugural world competition was held in the 1950s, Schoeder said. The sailboats must be almost identical between competitors, making the competition based more on skill than the ability to pour money in the boat.
There are several race classes in Northeast Harbor, but IODs are the top of the sailboat food chain.
Fremont-Smith remembers being a wide-eyed kid the first time he saw an IOD come out from a thick fog. It didn’t take long before he was aboard one. By the time he was a teenager, Fremont-Smith, who now lives in Yarmouth and runs a ski and snowboard factory, was aboard IODs and he started driving Live Yankee in his 20s.
For his win in Bermuda, Fremont-Smith gave full marks to his team of Rob Van Alen, Allison Gingerich, Peter Ill, Ned Herrington and Will Welles.
“No one’s ever won the thing, so we tried to put together a crew that could just compete,” he said.
Schoeder, who had a front-row seat to the historic win, was all praise for Fremont-Smith.
“Tom just sailed his face off,” he said.