"Hank" Coleman Haff(1837 - 1906)
Nobody 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
Haff learned to sail while fishing in catboats off
Islip, Long Island. His talent as a racing sailor
was soon recognized and he rose to the position of
"advisor" (tactician) in the afterguard
of two America's Cup winners, Mischief in 1881 and
Mayflower in 1886. In 1887, he was captain of Mayflower
and beat back the dangerous challenger Thistle from
Scotland. After serving as skipper of the unsuccessful
1893 defense candidate Colonia, in 1895 he won the
Cup again as captain of Defender, crewed by professional
fishermen whom he had recruited from Deer Isle, Maine.
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.
He 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.
One of the very best skippers in the generation before
Charlie Barr, Hank Haff dominated big boats in a way
matched by few captains, before or since, winning
the Cup four times in 14 years.