Russell Hoyt of Newport RI
The 2004 Leadership Award goes to someone who epitomized the quiet leadership that is the backbone of so many fleets around the country. Perhaps the name of all his boats defined his mission – “Destination.” I’d like to read from the nomination letter submitted for consideration:
The Shields fleet had had long history in Newport, but got a real shot in the arm when Russell arrived.
Perhaps the most significant things he did was to search throughout the United States looking for Shields that were no longer being raced, and then brought about 17 of these boats to Newport. These boats were structurally sound, but needed a lot of cosmetic care. Russell had purchased these boats and a new trailer for each. He sold them at a price that I believe was less than he had invested, but made one proviso. That proviso was the boat would be available for the Patriot’s Cup, a team-racing event involving many international teams. These boats were all bought in the Newport area, and as a result there was significant increase in racing.
John Burnham, Sailing World Editor, says, “The last two Shields that Russell found for Fleet 9 were trailered up from Texas in 2000 and offered at cost (not accounting for labor) in a lottery. My friend Reed Baer and I were lucky enough to “win” one of these fixer uppers and win the national championship two years later. Russell made it hard to say no to buying a boat, and he also freely loaned us a trailer, lifting gear, and plenty of advice whenever we needed it. All of us in the fleet are in debt to his generosity, and the only way to ever repay Russell is to simply pass it on.”
Russell went a step further in his effort to promote the Patriot’s Cup competition by purchasing 24 suits of Shield sails to be used only for team racing.
Occasionally Russell would participate in the Patriot’s Cup as a skipper, but preferred to stand in the background, assuring that all the yachts were well out fitted and then hosted a huge party at his shop following racing.
Through Russell’s effort our fleet outfitted 24 boats for eight teams making this one of the largest team-racing event in keelboats. Currently Shields Fleet 9 has about 50 registered yachts and we have about 25 to 35 boats on the line for our Wednesday night series.
Another facet of Russell’s contribution was that he was a friend to all of us. Russell’s shop was located near Ida Lewis Yacht Club and at 5 PM each day except for race night, he would stop work and bring out the beer. Anyone who wanted to talk about Shield’s racing or fleet politics was invited. Through these conversations he convinced many of the “rock stars”, who had migrated to Newport that the boat to race was the Shields.
When the politics within the fleet became disruptive, Russell would quietly recommend some changes and peace would be restored.
Russell died last summer from a brain tumor. During the Memorial Service held in his honor at the New York Yacht Club in Newport, I realized that we had not only lost a friend, but Shields Fleet 9 lost one of its greatest benefactors.
Because of Russell’s low-key approach many new members probably don’t appreciate his contribution, but for those of us lucky enough to know him, we realized he left a huge void that will be difficult to fill.
As I mentioned at the beginning, our local Shields fleet is thriving. There are many factors, but many of us believe Russell’s leadership was the primary factor. He wasn’t fleet captain and wasn’t one of the hot shots leading the pack. Obviously he wasn’t a leader in the traditional sense, but his influence behind the scenes is what many of us feel is responsible for the growth of our fleet.
Charles Shoemaker, MD
Accepting the award on behalf of Russell Hoyt is his son, David Hoyt.