Haff, Captain Henry "Hank" Coleman (1837 - 1906) USA


CaptHHaff.jpgNobody in America's Cup history has sailed in the afterguard of more successful Cup boats than Hank Haff, skipper or tactician of four winners between 1881 and 1895. As of 2004, only Nathanael G. Herreshoff, C. Oliver Iselin, and Dennis Conner have matched his remarkable record.
Before the advent of Captain Charley Barr, his supremacy in America was unquestioned.

“Hank" Haff was born in Islip, L. I., Sept. 20, 1837, and for the first seventeen years of his life he worked on a farm. His father was a seafaring man, and was lost off Cape Hatteras when "Hank" was four years old. The latter did not acquire any knowledge of the water to speak of until he was 20 years old. FannyThen he became what is known as a bayman, fishing, oystering, and clamming at certain seasons, and taking out sailing parties in the Summer.

He studied racing, and was ever on the alert to take advantage of all devices which would put him in the lead. After many minor triumphs on home waters he accepted in 1867 the position of sailing master on the yacht Evelyn, which took the New York prize for sloops, and in 1868 he commanded the Thomas B. Asten for the Olympic Club, a Great South Bay club, and he was Superintendent of the organization for seven years. In 1876 he commanded the Onward, a 60-footer owned by Gen. Fred Townsend of Albany, N. Y.

Capt. Haff’s first great success however, was with the yacht Fanny, of which he took command in 1878. She was owned by the New York bankers Prince & Wiley, of which firm William R. Travers, an enthusiastic yachtsman, was a general partner. Up to the time that Capt. Haff took command of the Fanny, she had won no races, but in her first season under him she was the victor in every contest, and out of the twelve races sailed while Capt. Haff was in command, nine were victories. The yacht Fanny also competed in the famous race around Long Island in 1884 and Capt. Haff brought his boat in a winner, the Fanny beating the Grayling by 36 seconds.

Capt. "Hank " and the America's Cup

 Capt. Haff rose to the position of "advisor" (tactician) in the afterguard of two America's Cup winners, Mischief in 1881 and Mayflower in 1886.

03392S.jpgIn 1887 Capt. Haff entered the service of Gen. Paine of Boston. He commanded the Volunteer in her triumph over the Thistle in September 1887 in the America's Cup race. He was also skipper of the Colonia when that yacht was a candidate for a cup defender the year the Vigilant was chosen, and though she was regarded as slower than the Vigilant the Colonia won more cups than any of the other single-stickers that year.

In 1894 when George J. Gould sent his yacht Vigilant to England to enter the national regatta there, Captain Hank served as his skipper with Captain Leander Jeffrey as first mate and Hank's son Clayton Haff as second mate.

In 1895, he won the Cup again as captain of Defender, crewed by professional fishermen whom he had recruited from Deer Isle, Maine. For the first time in international cup history, a defender was sailed by an all-American crew.
The man whom Cup historian Herbert L. Stone called "that foxy old Hank Haff" had a long white beard and was 58 years of age in 1895, making him one of the oldest winning skippers in Cup history.

01288S2He briefly came out of retirement in 1901 for his sixth America's Cup season as captain of the defense candidate Independence. Two of his sons later sailed aboard Cup defenders.

On his boats Haff, although of a gentle disposition, was known as a strict disciplinarian. He was for many years a Selectman of the town of Islip, and a prominent member of the church. He was fond of fast horses, and took much pleasure in driving them when not engaged on the water.

Capt. Haff married to Mrs. Adelaide E. Lake in October 1860. They had five sons, Harry P., Willmarth, Forrest G., H. Clayton, and Roscoe Coleman Haff.
Capt. "Hank" Haff died at his home on June 30, 1906. He had been slowly sinking since the death of his wife about a year ago. Capt. Harry Haff of the sloop Weetamoe, who had been recalled from New London, Conn., and the aged skipper's other son were at his bedside when he passed away.