For Fales, a New York banker, it was the grand climax to a career assumed fairly late in life. Until 1938, his interest in yachting had been confined to cruising. After owning two other cruising boats, he bought Niña in 1935 when she had been laid up in Nevins Yard in City Island, N.Y., for several years. She had gained fame by winning the race for which she was built, the ocean race to Spain in 1928, under her original owner, Paul Hammond, as well as the Fastnet Race of that year in England. She also won the New London-Gibson Island Race in 1929. Then she lay idle for several years, and had one interlude in which she almost foundered on the way to the Bahamas on a cruising passage after having been bought by the noted English ocean racing skipper, Bobby Somerset.
Fales had Niña reconditioned in 1935 and has been improving her ever since while keeping her in the most immaculate condition. His first racing was in the in the 1937 New York YC cruise when, Fales says, he “found out the things I had to do.” From then on he began to race her seriously, and her first major win was the Astor Cup in 1939, repeating in 1940. Before World War II halted activities, she became “the boat to beat” in any event around Long Island Sound, and the Stamford-Vineyard Race became her private specialty. She has won this event or placed high in it more than any other yacht has ever dominated another event of similar stature. After World War II, she was NYYC flagship for three years, and she began her Bermuda Race career in the 1946 event. Her best two races, until this year, earned a third in Class A in 1948 and first in A in 1956.
At 34, Niña, was the third oldest boat in the 1962 race – Cotton Blossom IV and Chicane were build in 1926 – and she has rightfully earned the nickname of Grand Old Lady of ocean racing, just as her skipper, oldest in the race, is known as the Grand Old Man. In her youth, however, she was looked on in quite a different way. In his book “Ocean Racing” commenting on her entry in the 1928 race to Spain, Alf Loomis (who, incidentally has a longevity record to make Niña’s look puny and was on his 15th Bermuda Race in 1962) has this to say. “For the first time in transatlantic racing, handicaps were allotted … and so it follows that for the first time, a boat was built to beat the rule.” Later on, in writing of Niña’s Fastnet victory, Alf states, “The effect of Niña’s performance was profound. She was berated as a racing machine, and, in truth, with her double staysail rig she required a large crew and was anything but a comfortable cruising boat.