Well known for skippering the yacht Courageous to victory in the 1974 America’s Cup, Ted Hood became one of highest-regarded people in the sailing world over the past 60 years by virtue of being one the most versatile.
“He was famous across the board because he was a sailor, a sailmaker, he was a yacht designer, he was a rig designer, and he developed all kinds of innovations for sailing and cruising,” said Sam Wakeman, who is an officer and judge for US Sailing, the governing body for the sport, and 2012 chairman of the New York Yacht Club race committee.
Wakeman, who sailed with Mr. Hood one of many times that he defended America’s Cup, said it was unusual for someone to master sailing as well as designing and building, but “Ted did it all.”
“Usually a superb helmsman relies on others to design the boats, but he ran the gamut,” said Wakeman, who described his friend as “a man of few words, but of great knowledge and action.”
Mr. Hood, who skippered yachts to victory numerous times, including the 1968 Newport to Bermuda Race, died of congestive heart failure and pneumonia June 28 in a Middletown, R.I., rehabilitation center. He was 86 and mainly lived in Marblehead and Portsmouth, R.I.
When Mr. Hood was inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame in 1993, the hall’s citation said he was “known as the quietest man to defend the America’s Cup,” someone who “lets his sailing and sail making skills speak for him.”
He was inducted in 2011 into the National Sailing Hall of Fame, which called him “the dominant force in sailing.”
Mr. Hood “did it all,” the citation said. “He wove the synthetic cloth, made the sails, innovated gear and systems, designed and built the boats, and steered them to a lion’s share of victories. He was the first to weave Dacron to his own specifications. He innovated the grooved “foil” head stay, the dip-pole jibe, roller furling, and the Stoway mast. . . . As rival North Sails’ CEO Tom Whidden once said, ‘You could not teach a sailmaker to see what Ted Hood saw.’ ”
Mr. Hood had spent much of his childhood sailing in the waters off Marblehead. At one time, his family lived on a boat in Marblehead Harbor, and on occasion Mr. Hood rowed a boat to school, according to his son Ted of Newport, R.I.
“Our life growing up was dominated by activities on the water,” said Mr. Hood’s son, who is managing director of Wellington Yacht Partners of Portsmouth, R.I. “Any time we tried to get him to do something in the woods or the mountains, he’d be going crazy to get back on the water after about a day.”
Gary Jobson, head of the board of the National Sailing Hall of Fame, described Mr. Hood as “an iconic figure from New England who was innovative, always did things right, and was fair to everybody.”
“He left us quite a legacy by setting a very high standard of sportsmanship,” Jobson said.
Turner Broadcasting founder Ted Turner, who skippered the Courageous to victory in the 1977 America’s Cup, called Mr. Hood “a great yachtsman and a great friend.”
“The sailing community will never be the same without him,” Turner said in a statement issued by a spokesman.
Despite his racing victories, Mr. Hood may be best-known as the creator and manufacturer of sails that are now produced worldwide. His sails are considered by many in the sailing community to be the best available, and are the sail of choice for most yacht racers.
In a 1977 interview with the Globe, Mr. Hood attributed the success of his sails to “the combination of tight weaving and better finishing.”
“If boats are equal,” he said, “sails will be the difference.”
Born in Beverly, Frederick Emmart Hood grew up in Danvers and Marblehead. He attended Marblehead High School and left to serve in the Navy during World War II, before returning to graduate in 1947.
Mr. Hood graduated from Wentworth Institute of Technology, where he studied construction engineering, and began designing and building houses. He was always more interested in boats and sails, however, and by the early 1950s he was repairing sails in his spare time.
Soon he began designing and creating his own.
“He would make sails at night, on the floor of the town hall or in the high school gymnasium, any space big enough to lay them out,” his son said.
Mr. Hood met Susan Blake, a nursing student, at a dance at the Corinthian Yacht Club in Marblehead. They married in 1955.
“He said he looked into her eyes and never thought to look at another woman after that,” his son said.
That same year Mr. Hood founded Hood Sailmakers in the back of a Marblehead bar, but soon moved the business to a larger space in the Little Harbor section of town.
With assistance from his father, Mr. Hood became the first sailmaker who was known to weave his own cloth, substituting more durable man-made fibers for cotton. By the late 1950s, Mr. Hood’s sails were used by 12-meter yachts for racing, and his business continued to expand internationally. He then moved into yacht design, inventing and producing hardware that was designed to make sailing easier and more comfortable.
“He was a tinkerer, an innovator,” Wakeman said. “He had wonderful ideas that he was able to figure out how to bring to fruition.”
Mr. Hood designed a series of racing boats called Robin and in 1959 won the New York Yacht Club Annual Cruise, distinguishing himself as the boat’s skipper, designer, builder, and sailmaker.
Over the next 20 years, he was victorious in a long list of races, including the Mallory Cup and the Marblehead to Halifax Race.
Mr. Hood’s son described him as “fairly shy” and “very modest” despite living in a “house filled with trophies.”
“We all grew up with a strong sense of pride in his accomplishments,” his son said, adding that he and his siblings all enjoyed racing and considered themselves “very lucky. It was a great way to spend time with your dad.”
Mr. Hood built a line of sailboats and yachts under the name Little Harbor in the 1980s, and in 1986 he moved his business from Marblehead to the former site of a World War II Navy fuel depot in Portsmouth, R.I.
He expanded into the fast-growing world of powerboats before selling his business in 1999 to concentrate on yacht design, his son said.
In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Hood leaves two other sons, Richard of Amherst and Robert of Portsmouth, R.I.; a daughter, Nancy Hood-MacLeod of Portsmouth, R.I.; and eight grandchildren.
A memorial service will be announced later this summer.
“He had a work ethic I’ve never seen in anyone,” his son said. “His mind was always going. He was looking at his plans until the day or two before he died, thinking about what he was going to do next.”
Kathleen McKenna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.