DEAD GUY: Sumner “Huey” Long

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Huey Long racing aboard Ondine

Editor’s note: This news is a month old, but I just heard it yesterday. There will be a memorial service this Saturday at 2 pm at the Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy in New York. The following obit is from Huey’s son Russell:

Sumner “Huey” Long, an international yachtsman, shipping executive, and winner of every one of the world’s most challenging and dangerous ocean races, died of lymphoma on Dec. 4, at age 90.

Creating a succession of hi-tech racing sailboats named Ondine, and spanning the decades from the 1960s to the 1990s, Mr. Long won every major ocean race in the world, including the Transatlantic Race on four occasions (a record), the Bermuda Race (establishing a course record), the Sydney-Hobart Race (establishing a course record), the Fastnet Race, and the Buenos Aires-Rio Race (also establishing a course record).

Ondine in 1962 Sydney Hobart Race
Ondine sailing in the 1962 Sydney Hobart Race, in which she set a course record that stood for 11 years

Ondine II was the first all-aluminum ocean racer ever built. A 57-foot yawl designed by Bill Tripp, she went on to win races against much larger opponents, sometimes due to clever innovations by Mr. Long. One of these, an ultra-heavy spinnaker, almost caused a mutiny when in a 50-knot Atlantic gale, Mr. Long fought with his crew to get it raised, earning him the title of “a modern day Captain Bligh” by Sports Illustrated. A subsequent yacht, Ondine VII was designed, somewhat ironically, by a first cousin of Che Guevara named German Frers, a renowned designer from Brazil. That yacht won the first Maxi Yacht World Championship in 1985, held at Newport, Rhode Island. In that event, Ondine VII was victorious in the first on-the-water protest hearing ever held, a practice that is now standard in world-class match racing events.

Mr. Long helped boost the careers of many aspiring world-class skippers who crewed for him, including Ted Turner, who went on to win the America’s Cup in 1977, Bill Koch, the brother of David and Charles Koch, who won the Cup in 1992, and Mr. Long’s son Russell, who, under his father’s guidance, introduced corporate sponsorship to Cup competition and became the youngest American skipper in Cup history.

Ondine in the 1973 Cape Rio race
Ondine sailing in the 1973 Cape Rio Race

Long, the son of Lithuanian immigrants, was raised in Boston, where his family started a jewelry business. He graduated from Brookline High School, received an appointment to the Annapolis Naval Academy, and after serving as acting chief officer on a merchant marine vessel in World War II, received degrees from Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This led to a career in shipping and ultimately established Mr. Long as one of the most successful tanker brokers in the world. Among his clients and friends were Aristotle Onassis and many other prominent ship owners.

Yachtsman Huey Long
Huey Long, RIP (Photo courtesy of Russell Long)

Mr. Long, who also had a reputation as something of a bon vivant, would often entertain celebrity guests on his yachts, some of whom crewed for him in major ocean races. These included HRH King Harald of Norway (who was addressed by the crew as “Harry the Hat” for the wide brims he wore to protect his pale skin), HRH King Olav of Norway, HRH Prince Albert II of Monaco, HRH King Juan Carlos of Spain, the Aga Khan, Teddy Kennedy Sr. and Jr., and beauty queens such as Miss Australia and Miss Sweden. Mr. Long’s last boat, a 105-footer named Ondine VIII, built in 1988, was considered at the time one of the world’s most elegant sailing yachts, was co-owned with Charles Evans, founder of Evans Piccone and the producer of Academy Award winning film, Tootsie.

Mr. Long is survived by his second wife of 30 years, Suzanne McDonnell Long, his sons Harry and Jack Long, and Russell Long, from his first wife, Jane Bagley Lehman.

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6 Responses
  1. Margie Buehler

    Dear Russel, I’m very sorry to hear of your fathers death. You will not remember, but in 1963 I’ve met you together with “Huey” in N.Y. at a Dinner. I’ve met him in Bermuda, after the race and we became friends. After I returned to Germany I always got the famous “Ondine” Christmas cards from him, until a few years ago. I forget to tell my new address. Would be so nice if you put 1 flower on his grave, in memory. All the best to you and your family, which I only know from the Christmas card. Kind regards Margie Buehler

  2. Joe Jones

    Dear Russel,
    I have just heard about the death of you farther & wish to express my sincere condolences, Your Farther gave me a great opportunity in life to sail the world as Skipper of Ondine VII to which I have have some very fond memories and a time of my life I will never ever forget. Once again I wish you all the best for the future to you & you family. Regards Joe Jones Ex skipper Ondine VII.

  3. Tony Kirkland

    Hi Russel…Im a old friend of your Mums.
    I met your sister in San Fransico..Jane always spoke of you in beautiful ways..and I met your Dad one time in St. Francis yacht club..25yrs later I still miss your Mum and Im so sorry now that Hughie has passed away..Keep sailing mate..Tony..Australia

  4. Tapio Saavalainen

    [quote=Joe Jones]Dear Russel,
    I have just heard about the death of you farther & wish to express my sincere condolences, Your Farther gave me a great opportunity in life to sail the world as Skipper of Ondine VII to which I have have some very fond memories and a time of my life I will never ever forget. Once again I wish you all the best for the future to you & you family. Regards Joe Jones Ex skipper Ondine VII.[I am looking for information of Sven Ola Joffs for an article for his junior time yacht club’s 125 year anniversary, Helsingfors Segelsallskap (HSS). Please contact.]

  5. Jackie Camejo (Daniel Camejo s

    Dear Russell, am so sorry to learn of your father’s leaving this realm. In the summer of 1984, if I remember correctly we came into Porto Cervo ..half hour later Ondine VI came in to anchor..My husband Daniel (+2008) waved, said hello, offered to move; (they already knew one another..Daniel being a Star sailor). A couple of days later there was a regatta of Swedish boats…nice size. Can’t remember what kind ! We were sent a lovely Christmas card with the photo of your father, Suzanne and Harry Ray. I have this card in front of me. Please give my best wishes to Suzanne, and again so very sorry…. Suzanne might not remember.. we were on “Caribana” our Palmer Johnson sailboat …we would spend many months on her.. Carinos Jackie

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