Although early McAfee & Taft partner Reford Bond was a man of many interests, his passion for sailboat racing — a sport that challenged him on many levels — is what stands out most with many of his colleagues.
Interestingly, he didn’t take up the sport until his mid-40s, and even then, not until after he purchased his first sailboat.
Inspired by his two daughters, who learned to sail on small X Boats while attending summer camp in Minnesota in 1976, Bond surprised his children that Christmas with a faster, more advanced racing dinghy. Excited to share in this sport with his girls, but not knowing the first thing about sailing, he did what he always did — he studied everything he could get his hands on, and then he learned by doing.
One very notable time he learned the hard way. While out sailing alone on Lake Hefner on a particularly chilly and windy day, an overpowering wind came up and capsized his vessel, a San Juan 21 sailboat that was his second purchase. Battling the frigid temperature and the first two stages of hypothermia, he was somehow able to swim ashore. Still, he was undeterred. If anything, he was more motivated than ever.
By 1979, he was hooked on sailboat racing. He purchased an even faster J/24 keelboat that he named “Rosebud,” joined the Oklahoma City Boat Club, and was regularly competing — and winning — in races on Lake Hefner. In fact, he won a lot of races. At the conclusion of each race, as the first boat crossed the finish line, a shotgun blank would be fired in the air. The race committee would then give the spent shell casing to the winning skipper. “Dad kept those red plastic and metal hulls in neat rows on a shelf in his den,” recalls his daughter Cynthia Bond Perry. “I vaguely recall counting more than a hundred.”
Also in 1979 — just three years after purchasing his first boat and learning how to sail — he won the Old Man of the Sea Regatta in Fort Worth.
According to Perry, her dad relished every aspect of sailing and sailboat racing and the lessons it provided, including the need to always be prepared, the ability to analyze what’s happening in each and every moment and to anticipate the next, and the skill to change course quickly. It also provided him with the challenge of learning something new or inventing some new gizmo that would give his boat an edge on the competition and help shave microseconds off his time.
Bond’s friends at the Oklahoma City Boat Club both teased him and admired him for his tireless passion and dedication, as recounted in this tribute by fellow sailor, competitor and club member Bayless Kirtley.
“It [sailing] was a great way to learn that you’re not really living unless you’re taking a risk,” said Perry. “It’s like you’re living life at this heightened level, and I think that’s why he loved sailing. I think he loved those moments. I can remember, I’d be crewing, and things would get really rough, and it would be windy with all kinds of stuff going on. I’d look at him, and he’d be there at the tiller, and he’d be holding that tiller, and he’d be looking at everything and maybe chewing nicotine gum. He was having the time of his life.”
The week before he died in May 1989, Reford Bond was where he wanted to be: Racing his sailboat on Lake Hefner and crossing the finish line first.