By Bill Wagner
George Collins was a well-known, successful sailboat racer back in the 1980s and 90s. During his days as CEO of T. Rowe Price in Baltimore, Collins campaigned such designs as a Mumm 30, Mumm 36, Corel 45, Tripp 47 and Baltic 52 – all of which were named Moxie.
Many sailing enthusiasts will remember Collins for singlehandedly funding Chessie Racing, the Maryland entry in the 1997-98 Whitbread Round The World Race. Chessie Racing played a critical role in helping Baltimore-Annapolis become a stopover for that event, which became the Volvo Ocean Race.
Collins retired from T. Rowe Price in the late 1990s and sold his estate on Gibson Island in 2002, moving full-time to Singer Island in south Florida. Removed from the beloved Chesapeake Bay where he did the majority of his racing, Collins became far less active in competitive sailing.
However, Collins is back in the cockpit at Quantum Key West 2013, having chartered a Farr 400 for the popular midwinter regatta. It marks the first time in about 12 years that Collins has competed in Key West, which was always one of his favorite venues.
“I’ve done this regatta five or six times and had some success. We won our PHRF class one year and we won the feeder race from Fort Lauderdale a couple times,” he said. “It’s good to be back in Key West. It is one of the great places in the world to sail.”
Collins competed in the Palm Beach Race in early December aboard a Swan 601 and considered bringing that boat to Key West. However, the Swan didn’t really fit into any of the available classes so Collins was receptive when Ian Gordon of Farr Yacht Design suggested doing a Farr 400 program.
Gordon once served as boat captain for Collins when he owned a Farr 52 and it didn’t take him long to get the old gang back together. North Sails professional Jim Allsopp has always served as tactician for Collins and was also instrumental in getting a good crew for Key West.
“Ian and Jimmy came up with this idea and it sounded like a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to a great week of sailing and catching up with old friends,” Collins said.
North Sails pro Mike Toppa and veteran Annapolis sailors John Wright, Jan Majer, John Thackwray and Rod Jabin have all sailed with Collins in the past and were delighted to participate in the Key West reunion.
“George makes it fun for whole team. He is such a great leader. Everyone likes to sail hard for him,” Allsopp said.
Gordon works for Farr Yacht Design and said the addition of a skipper such as Collins with a capable crew is great for the Farr 400 class. Collins has titled his entry Chessie Racing, which is what he has named all his boats ever since funding the Whitbread campaign.
“We’re real excited to have a high quality owner like George Collins in the Farr 400. It’s a real benefit for the class,” Gordon said. “We have a great group of guys on the boat and our number one goal is to just have fun.”
Chessie Racing placed fourth in High Performance class and first in Farr 400 One Design, a four-boat sub-class, in Race 3 on Tuesday – proving that Collins still has his touch on the tiller. Just before the boat left the dock in the morning, Jim Allsopp’s wife thanked Collins for fielding an entry for Quantum Key West 2013.
“Don’t thank me now. I haven’t seen the bill yet!” Collins said with a wry smile. “I hope it’s worth it.”