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ON THE WATERFRONT

It Was an Article of Faith That Newsboy Was the Boat for Him

October 22, 1988|SHEARLEAN DUKE | Shearlean Duke is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

You may have seen the varnished, wooden-hulled yacht near the entrance to Newport Harbor, tugging at its lines as if trying to break free and sail with the wind.

The yacht is Newsboy. Its sleek, elegant hull and towering spar are living symbols of Orange County yachting. Riding gracefully on a mooring in front of Balboa Yacht Club, the 65-foot, 30-ton yacht is a familiar sight to anyone regularly entering or leaving the harbor.

Newsboy's owner, Jack Baillie, is an equally familiar sight on the Southern California yacht racing circuit. He says simply: "We've raced in every race we were eligible to be in."

Today Baillie, 77, will sail Newsboy in the 40th annual "14-Mile Bank Race" sponsored by the Newport Ocean Racing Assn. Baillie, a retired savings and loan executive, has missed just two or three of the 40 races, which follow a course from Newport Beach to a mark anchored 14 miles at sea and back.

Baillie is reputed to have won more Newport Ocean Racing Assn. trophies than any other skipper. But he says he has no accurate count of his victories, because after the first 44, he began giving the trophies away to his crews.

Baillie was an ardent sailor long before he bought Newsboy 20 years ago, but seeing him today sailing his beloved yacht, it is difficult to think of him at the helm of any other vessel.

Baillie's love affair with Newsboy began in 1968 when he bought the yacht, sight unseen, on the basis of newspaper and magazine clippings that he had accumulated and a half-page ad in Yachting Magazine.

Upon seeing the ad for the yacht, whose home port was in Massachusetts, Baillie responded immediately, but the owner replied that he had changed his mind and had taken the vessel off the market. Like a passionate lover, Baillie persisted for 8 months, wooing and cajoling.

Learning that the vessel was stored in a warehouse, out of the water and out of sight of anyone, Baillie complained to the owner that "it was like keeping a beautiful painting in hiding where no one can see or appreciate it."

He went on to describe his mooring in Newport Harbor, where Newsboy would be displayed for all to see and enjoy. Still, the owner would not reconsider.

Finally, Baillie lured the owner's daughter from Massachusetts to the Baillies' cliff-top Corona del Mar home overlooking the mooring--the place of honor where Newsboy would be displayed. Through the daughter, Baillie eventually persuaded the owner to part with the vessel. Although price had never even been discussed, a deal was soon struck, and Newsboy was shipped from the East to West Coast as deck freight aboard a cargo ship.

Newsboy was designed by Ray Hunt, a name well known in yachting circles, and was built in 1958 at the Graves Brothers Boatyard in Marblehead, Mass. The 12-meter yacht was one of a new breed of America's Cup boats that replaced the J-boats that had previously raced for the cup. (Among Newsboy's contemporaries was Columbia, the 1958 cup defender later bought by Pat Dougan, another Orange County sailor, who entered Columbia in the 1964 Cup trials.)

Newsboy was originally named Easterner, but Baillie renamed the yacht in honor of the famous coastal packet called Newsboy that was built in the same shipyard 100 years earlier.

"Somehow," Baillie says, "the boat just never seemed like an 'Easterner' to me."

A 12-meter yacht, though beautiful of line, is a stripped-out, purely functional racing machine that provides a sailing platform for a crew of athletes. A pleasure yacht it is not.

So one of the first things Baillie did after renaming the boat was to install comfortable accommodations in the vessel. He added berths for six in three private cabins, a complete galley and an enclosed head.

Still, Newsboy was a 12-meter craft, so as the yacht began to win more and more trophies, it drew the ire of some local race committee critics. One such critic cursed Newsboy as "nothing but a damned racing machine."

So Baillie decided to take drastic action. From a friend's old family yacht, he obtained a 66-key piano, which he installed under Newsboy's chart table. Baillie's reasoning was that a yacht with a piano aboard could never again be called "a damned racing machine."

For the first 15 years, Baillie and a crew of six or seven cruised and raced Newsboy without an engine. Then a fire 5 years ago, started by an intruder, made it necessary to cut away part of the deck for repairs. While the work was going on and while access was convenient, Baillie had an engine installed.

Other changes he has made to make the boat easier to handle include replacing all the wire lines on the boat, except for the main halyard, with rope and installing a roller-furling head sail to minimize foredeck work on short-distance races.

Newsboy's sail inventory is kept up to date with a 5-month-old main sail and 1-year-old jib, the latest additions to the boat's 39 bags of sails.

And when you watch Newsboy skimming effortlessly across the harbor, under full sail with Baillie at the helm, you get the feeling that you are watching a boat and a man perfectly matched.

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