Sinn Fein was one of the boats badly damaged when Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey in 2012.
Sinn Fein was one of the boats badly damaged when Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey in 2012.
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When Sinn Fein takes to the waters of Castle Hill, Newport, and sets sail for Bermuda, it will mark the triumphant end of a long and difficult restoration process.

The historic Cal 40 and two-time winner of the Newport Bermuda race was one of many boats devastated when Hurricane Sandy ripped through the Raritan Yacht Club in New Jersey in late 2012.

The boat, which sustained considerable damage, including a mast that snapped in half and a large hole on one side, was declared a total material loss by the insurance company and looked to be one of many boats destroyed in the storm.

Owner Peter Rebovich, who was in the hospital recovering from heart surgery when he heard about the damages, thought about it for several weeks with his family but eventually decided to attempt to restore the boat.

His goal was to have her ready in time to compete in the 2014 Newport Bermuda Race as planned. Rebovich told the Bermuda Sun: “This would be my 40th year that I’ve owned the boat, and it’s going to be 50 years old next year. My kids grew up on it. As a family, we decided we would try and restore it.”

The restoration process turned into a total team effort, with various friends, family, and members of the yacht club rallying around the restoration efforts and pitching in with parts, advice, and help in the efforts to not only restore the historic boat, but also to improve it in time for the race to Bermuda. 

“We’ve gotten a lot of support from various members who’ve come in and pitched in and helped,” said Rebovich.

“We’ve also gotten a lot of advice from knowledgeable members, as we took this as an opportunity to make the boat better.

“We had to replace the mast so we went to one of the best mast makers and he went ahead and designed a new mast for us. The engine was given to us by one of the members, and we’ve reinstalled it so it’s now functioning properly in my boat.”

The addition of the engine was the latest milestone in the team’s race against the clock. With less than two weeks before the race, a donated engine from one of the boats destroyed in the hurricane was finally installed and working properly.

Deadline

There are still, however, several more problems to be ironed out in the next few days for Sinn Fein to be ready by race day.

“We’ve found out that the altimeter is not connected properly, so we’re not getting the batteries charged while the engines are running, which is a real important aspect when you’re off-shore.

You need to be able to run the engine, not to propel the boat, but just to recharge batteries. If you can’t do that, then you’ve got serious problems.”

Rebovich, despite his two victories in the Newport Bermuda race in 2006 and 2008, is not entering this year’s race with any sort of entitlement, saying: “When you’re on the starting line and there’s 140 other boats all going to the same place, your chance is 1/140 to win. “It’s not like anyone’s going to be like ‘Hey, you guys won last time, now we’re going to give you a paddle’. No, our chances are the same.

“If you sail a really good race, a smart race, and if you’ve got a crew that really really knows the boat and are exceptional, and I feel I do have an exceptional crew, your chances are as good as anyone else’s.”