Noroton YC’s New Sailing Director Takes the Helm

By Past Commodore Lee Morrison

Fulfilling the allure of sailing for fun is much easier today than it was a hundred years ago. Back in the 1920s sailing, or yachting as it was called then, was the primary way those with leisure time would scratch their boating itch. But, between wooden hulls, hemp sheets, and cotton sails, just getting boats ready to go sailing was a challenge.


Star boat at Noroton, circa 1940


Enter New York lawyer and Noroton Yacht Club’s first Commodore, Paul Smart. Despite being a sailing novice, Commodore Smart was bitten by the sailboat racing bug. Fortunately, he had the means, along with some other investors, to buy the land in Darien, Connecticut and build the original Noroton YC clubhouse including its iconic pier. His personal yacht, the Adelaide, was Noroton’s first Race Committee boat.


Noroton YC has produced many of the country’s best team racers.


But, as you read this, nix the vision of Commodore Smart at the helm of a classic 100-foot J Boat heeled over in a stiff breeze with many of its 50 crew hanging over the side. At Paul Smart’s Noroton it was the two-person Star Class that they loved to sail.


Epic conditions at the Viper 640 North Americans, hosted by Noroton in October 2021   © Rick Bannerot/


Beyond Commodore Smart’s substantial financial contributions to the nascent Noroton YC, it was his tireless contributions that gave the Club its strong start. Following Commodore Smart’s lead, today Noroton is still known for its culture of volunteerism. Why would someone, with so many options, contribute so much time and money to a club? Commodore Smart credited Noroton with contributing as much to his own life as he did to it.


Left: The original Noroton clubhouse, circa 1948


To facilitate racing at Noroton, Commodore Smart would purchase used Star boats to get new members out sailing and then, once hooked, would sell them the boat. At one point the fleet’s roster numbered 32. He purchased Wee Scots for the junior sailors of which his son Hilary was one along with the likes of Owen Tory and Bob Crane. As an aside, in 1948 Hilary won the Star Class Olympic gold medal with his dad as crew.


Below: The new Noroton clubhouse, 2021


Sailing wasn’t easy back then, but under the leadership of Commodore Smart the Noroton YC did what it could to facilitate participation. It is said that Commodore Smart chose the Darien Harbor for his club because it’s a quick and easy sail straight out to the open waters of Long Island Sound. They built a marine railway to ease the considerable maintenance that the wooden boats of that era required. The cotton sails needed meticulous care as mildew would weaken the fabric in no time, so they designed Noroton’s original clubhouse with a steeply pitched roof to dry the sails under after a wet day of sailing.


Sonar team racing at the Kirby Cup, hosted by Noroton, 2021


Flash forward almost 100 years, despite modern materials, many people who have a passion for sailing continue to be challenged to find the time to get out on the water. Once again, Noroton YC has risen to the challenge, making it easier for its members to go sailing – whether that’s racing, cruising, or learning how to sail.

First, to remove maintenance and ownership hassles, Noroton YC owns and maintains a fleet of Ideal 18s and 23-foot Sonar keelboats. Beyond member use these boats are used in the Club’s sailing programs including Adult Racing, Women’s Sailing, Team Racing, Learn to Sail, and Junior Sailing.

Second, in alignment with the Club’s mission: Furtherance of Sailing and Family Participation in Sailing, to make participation in its sailing programs as easy as possible, Noroton has recently secured the talents of Bryan Paine as its new Director of Sailing.

Bryan Paine 

Coming to Noroton from the San Diego Yacht Club, Bryan will oversee all of the Club’s sailing programs. Beyond his extensive experience and contacts in the sailing world, Bryan has competed professionally in international events in boats ranging from 6 Metres and Etchells to J/70s, F18s, and C-Class foiling catamarans. He has coached junior sailors in Optis, Lasers, 29ers, and Nacra 15s, some of whom went on to win the Multihull Youth Championships, join the USA Olympic Development Team, and compete at the Youth America’s Cup. His experience also extends into the design and development of sails for F18s and A-Class catamarans and building foils for C-Class catamarans. Bryan has also hosted numerous webinars and large-event seminars on a range of sailing topics.

For more information about sailing at the Noroton Yacht Club, check out their website at ■

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