NOD Families, Skippers, Crews and Boats

in Top 3 of World’s Championship Regattas 1938-2019


by Biff Steel



The National One-Design Racing Association (NODRA) has always been a family-oriented class. Our two-person teams have included every combination imaginable of husband-wife, parent-child, siblings, uncles/aunts, and nephews/nieces. But which families have been the most extensively involved? And who have been the top individuals and boats over the 76 World Championship regattas held from 1938 to 2019?


Leading NODRA Families


The Makielski clan comes out on top as both skippers and crew, with three generations. John, Sara, Mark, Paul, Joan, Chris May and Howie Marion have totaled 30 appearances in the top three as skippers (Table 1.a) and 27 times as crews (Table 1.b). The Donatelli family comes next, with 28 top three finishes by Guy and 21 crews in the top three (Judi, Hailey, Guy Joseph, individually or in rotation). The Tomko family has extensive participation, with 21 top three finishes (Jack and Lou) and 18 crews in the top three (Tony, Alisa, Pat, Jamie, Lisa). The Steel family also includes three generations, with 19 top three finishes (Bill, Biff) and 10 crewing appearances in the top three (Polly/Nicki, Melissa). John and Roy Christianson round out the leading families of skippers with 13 top three finishes. And Carol Carlton, who is definitely NODRA family, has 11 appearances as crew; while Carolyn, Steve and Jan Gray combined for 8 crew finishes in the top three.


The Roberts family, besides 4 top three appearances (Mark three times as skipper, and Eric as crew for Rob Frechette), stands out for providing two NODRA Commodores (Lew and Mark), as well as an Area Governor (Eric). And Jolly Booth, besides finishing in the top three 8 times (half of them with daughter Valerie McHugh crewing), has likewise served the Association as Secretary-Treasurer for …. well, even longer than my mother, Miriam, did!




Guy Donatelli is the top all-time skipper with 27 appearances in the top three, almost half of them wins (Table 2.a). Jack Tomko is next, with 18 appearances (half of them wins), followed by Biff Steel with 15 (most of them thirds). John Christianson had 11 appearances (almost all wins), and Sara Makielski 10 (half of them wins). Sara is the most versatile, with an additional 9 appearances as crew, making a total of 19 appearances as part of a top three team; she learned that from her father, John, who had a combined 8 appearances (2 as skipper, 6 as crew).


Jolly holds the unbeatable record of 68 years from her first to most recent appearance in the top three (from 1951 to 2019; Table 2.b). Biff Steel comes next with a 57-year span from his first to latest top three appearance (1962 to 2019). Sara Makielski’s top three appearances have spanned 32 years (1975 to 2007), Guy Donatelli 31 (1988 to 2019), and Jack Tomko 23 (1970 to 1993). In terms of wins, Sara Makielski has the longest interval between first and latest Championships:  32 years (1975 to 2007; Table 2.c). Not far behind are Biff Steel with a 27-year span (1992 to 2019) and Guy Donatelli at 25 years (1993 to 2018). All of us (except Jack) are still actively sailing, so it’s not over yet!




Besides Sara and John Makielski, Tony Tomko and Carol Carlton each crewed in 11 top three-finishing boats, and Joan Sniadecki and Judi Donatelli in 10 (Table 3). Daughters of top sailors (all but one from the 1950s and 1960s) account for half of the top 12 crews: besides Sara and Joan, there are Polly (Nicki) Steel (8 appearances), Carolyn Gray (6), Hailey Donatelli (5 individual, plus 4 more shared), and Valerie McHugh (4). [Note: Records of crews before 1961 are scanty.]




The top two boats in terms of cumulative appearances in the top three follow their skippers: #824 (Donatelli) with 21 (mostly wins), and #798 (Tomko) with 17 (just over half wins; Table 4.a). John, Sara and Joan Makielski, Chris May and Howie Marion combined to put #821 in third place overall with 16 appearances. Pollylop (#717; Biff Steel), besides 15 top three appearances, holds the record for the longest interval from first to most recent appearance at 57 years (Table 4.b), followed by #773 at 43 years (Sara Makielski and Rick Beale) and #745 at 28 (Rob Frechette, Mark Robertson and Dave Moledor; originally owned by Norb Gits).


The top-performing wooden boat is #644, which served more top three sailors than any other boat: Bill Faygas, Ken Gustafson, Stan Martin, Tom Grogan, and Mark Makielski combined for 8 top-three appearances over 12 years, from 1960 to 1972. John Christianson sailed #430 to 6 appearances (of which 4 wins) from 1949 to 1954, before pioneering fiberglass with #700 in 1956. Other wooden boats with 3 appearances include: #5 (H. R. Landon, Ken Drewry); #78 (Joe Plaskett, Ed Merrill): #262 (Sid Exley), and #585 (John Niland).




The predominance of families in NODRA emerged in the 1970s. Before 1970, 61% of skippers in the top three had no family members involved in sailing NODs (as far as we can tell from NODRA records). Since 1970, skippers with family members active in Nationals accounted for 81% of top three finishes (Table 5). Whether spouses, siblings, parents and children, or more extended families sailing together or with others, families have been the backbone of NODRA and the primary means of bringing subsequent generations into sailing. This is a tradition worth continuing – indeed, essential if the class is to survive.