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Ira Epstein and Lone Fox – A Winning Combination

Winner of the St Martin-Sint Maarten Classic Regatta for the past two years, Lone Fox is the pride and joy of its owner, Ira Epstein, an American businessman who left his former life in San Francisco to move to the Caribbean once he bought Lone Fox in 2006. He currently lives aboard the boat in the inner harbor of Saint Barth’s Port of Gustavia, where the boat had been based for several years with its former owner.

Sailing a Swedish flag, this 65’ classic wooden sailing yacht is a true gentleman’s yacht, designed by Englishman Robert Clark and built in Scotland in 1957 for Colonel Whitbread, sponsor of the famous Whitbread Around The World Race. Epstein has followed in the footsteps of Whitbread, and a few other owners, as the caretaker of this handsome yacht, with its gleaming brass fittings and highly varnished teak hull.

“I had been looking at Lone Fox for three years,” says Epstein, “ever since it sailed across my computer and I fell in love with it,” he says. In 2004 he flew to down to Bobby’s Marina to see Lone Fox, then sailed over to Saint Barth. Yet it wasn’t until August 2006 when he saw the boat again in Newport, RI, that Epstein was ready to make the leap, having just spent five months at sea on a 1936 gaff-rigged schooner.

“I had to see if I really I wanted a boat,” he says, but chances are he was already sold on the idea. “I didn’t want to have a new owner of Lone Fox sail by and not have it be me.”

Built as a racing ketch, Lone Fox is a born competitor. “We do well against other boats in the classic regattas,” says Epstein. “The design is a combination of comfort and speed. Lone Fox has the proper dimensions to be fast for a traditional full-keel boat.” Lone Fox clips along at a pace of 8.5 to 9.5 knots, hitting even 12 knots under certain conditions.

Owning a classic wooden boat means constant care: “You have to be vigilant,” says Epstein. “You are continually watching everything to make sure something doesn’t change that will degrade the integrity of the vessel.” He notes that the Caribbean sun is a challenge: “Some days when the sun comes up I just wish I could pull the boat into a garage,” he says. “The deck and cabin houses are more affected by the sun.”

The hull of Lone Fox is splined, with wood glued in between the wooden planks, like tongue-in-groove with two grooves, on a steel frame with 1.5” teak planking. “The hardest part is keeping it perfect. The sanding and varnishing is the Zen of the experience, the meditation of maintaining the character of something built at another time.”

After spending two full years in Saint Barth with Lone Fox, racing and doing charters (www.lonefoxcharters.com), Epstein is planning on pulling up his anchor and heading to the East Coast for the summer. “I’d like to sail the East Coast, which I’ve never done before,” he says, hoping to head to Newport, Martha’ Vineyard, and Maine, participating in the summer classic regattas and continuing to charter when possible.

“What’s rewarding,” says Epstein, is the satisfaction of using such a finely tuned instrument. And people really appreciate the care that goes into it, knowing they wouldn’t have the time or energy to do it themselves.”

Ellen Lampert-Gréaux lives in Saint Barthélemy where she is editor-in- chief of Harbour Magazine, and has been a regular contributor to All- At-Sea since 2000. She also writes regularly about entertainment design and technology for Live Design magazine, and about Caribbean architecture for MACO, a Trinidad-based lifestyle magazine.

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