Tuesday, June 25, 2013

1928 Olympics coverage

Well, I'm pretty certain there was other media coverage of the Olympic regatta in the USA and other countries, but I'll guess none of the others were from a sailor's perspective. Ben Weston was a California boy sailing on Owen Churchill's 8 metre, "Babe", one of the "one design" eights designed by Starling Burgess and built in Germany at Abeking & Rasmussen. The scoring system is discussed, and appears to be something like a modified Gold Cup format. To win the regatta (and the Gold medal) you had to have the most first place wins and practically nothing else mattered. The sixes appear to have had a rough time. Looks like it was more of a NASCAR race than a regatta. Johan Anker, with Crown Prince Olav as crew, won the Gold medal for Norway. The USA entry, Herman Whiton with 'Frieda', a 1927 Clinton Crane design, sailed here in the first of his 3 Olympic 6 metre regattas; 1928 (5th), 1948 (Gold), 1952 (Gold).

Friday, June 21, 2013

1928 Season wrap-up, West Coast edition

Following the March races little was reported on the burgeoning 6 metre phenomenon on the West Coast, other than a little build up for The Southern California Regatta at Long Beach. Over 175 yachts, both power and sail, participated in this festival of speed. The inside harbor was used for the powerboats, Limited and Unlimited, inboard and outboard; see the first photo below of the fantastic Unlimited hydroplane, "Miss Los Angeles" (16 cylinder motor, 800 H.P., 75 MPH) and other boats. Note large sailing ships in the background.

Further below I have scanned in the breathless account of the 6 metre races, written by H.B. Warren, with Ray Chapin photos. The racing for the sail boats took place between August 6 - 10, 1928.  



Monday, June 17, 2013

The 1928 March Races - Part 4

Here we have a different voice proclaiming the same news about the East Coast wipeout of the California yachting establishment.

The 1928 March Races - Part 3

The 1928 March Races - Part 2


The 1928 March Races - Part 1

O.K. 6 meter history and trivia geeks, here we go with an article that probably only exists in a few libraries on the West Coast. As you will read, the inimitable US 29 'Lanai', one of Clinton Crane's masterworks, dominates the racing and leads the charge for the East Coast, the sailors of which drag home a veritable Comstock Lode of silver. I'll be spare in my commentary and simply post the articles that appeared in the aftermath. I'm certain there was other coverage in The Rudder and perhaps Yachting, but I don't have those magazines, so Pacific Coast Yachting and Pacific Motor Boat will be our last words on the subject.

The 1928 March races in Los Angeles, final notice

With all of the build up and hype, here's the last word before it all began. Pacific Coast Yachting gives us the final preview. As you can see from the entry list, we have 9 sixes entered; 3 from the East, 3 from San Francisco, and 3 from the Los Angeles area. On page 2 we have a nice profile shot of the brand new US 45 'Harpoon'. The R boats still have a very impressive 12 boat entry list, including future 6 meter owner Tommy Lee with his R 11 'Pirate'.

Pacific Motor Boat also gives a preview before the starting gun fires, though their information does not appear to be as accurate. Perhaps their lead time to press was longer? 

The Log of the Newport Harbor Yacht Club

Knowing that a serious set of East Coast sailors were headed for California for the 1928 March racing, the members of the Newport Harbor Yacht Club wanted to make sure there was some competition. As documented below, a dedicated syndicate commissioned the famous Norwegian designer and builder Johan Anker to create a competitive boat similar to recent Seawanhaka Cup winner, N 27 'Noreg'. The result was the lovely US 37 'Synnove', seen here being unloaded from  the S. S. 'George Washington' at Los Angeles on February 23, 1928. Along with the brand new Potter design 'Harpoon', launched less than 2 weeks before, the Southern California sailors felt they had a least a fighting chance against the experienced and savvy Eastern contingent. Only 2 days later the American-Hawaii liner S. S. 'Minnesotan' deposited the 3 boats from the East; US 29 'Lanai', US 32 'Priscilla', and US 33 'Clytie, as well as the R boat 'Live Yankee'. San Francisco sailor Arthur Rouseau had now aquired S 2 'May Be', and Stuart Haldorn another Estlander design, D 34 Ay Ay Ay. Now there were 9 sixes entered for the races and soon we'll see how it all shook out.

Of special note with the acquisition of 'Synnove' is the force behind all of this effort, who goes unnamed in this and other articles. He is Dr. Albert Soiland, a naturalized Norwegian, which reveals one of the reasons Anker was chosen over Estlander for the design and the origins of the name 'Synnove', which in the Norwegian language translates to Sun Gift.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Harpoon - a West Coast 6

The more I learn about it, the more I realize that 1927 was a big year for the sixes in North America. Big international regattas, lots of new and some radical designs on both coasts. Big media exposure, great sailors and sailing.

The article below appeared in the November 1927 issue of Pacific Coast Yachting and shows a six like no other - US 45 'Harpoon.' With her blunt bow and truncated stern counter she resembles boats which came much later.


Here is the notice of her imminent launch on February 11, 1928. Further below is a photo of her maiden sail alongside another Potter design, the R boat 'Friendship', as well a member of the US Navy's Pacific Fleet keeping watch in the background.


Even more build up for the March races...

Herewith we find yet another article stirring interest in the upcoming races off of Los Angeles for several classes, including the R boats, 6 meters and Star class. This piece was published in the December 1927 edition of Pacific Coast Yachting and states an important fact - the upcoming March races would be the first time that fleets from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts would meet on the race course at a western venue. The article includes mentions of a Nicolas Potter 6 metre design in progress at Wilmington Boatworks. This is the unusual 'Harpoon', which I will profile in the near future. One interesting note is that the article's writer is ignorant of the fact that San Francisco terror Arthur Rousseau has recently purchased the Scandinavian Gold Cup winner 'May Be' from Sven Salen. This bold acquisition will change the equation in the West. Stay tuned.

A special bonus for readers who have made it this far. The article's descriptions of the L. Francis Herreshoff  'R' boat 'Live Yankee' certainly begs the posting of a photo of this strange creature. The close-up shot below comes courtesy of Scott Rohrer and shows Live Yankee at the docks of the Tacoma Yacht Club in 1944. The boat was sold to Chicago in 1946 and was later broken up in the mid-60's.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The build up for the 1928 March Races in Los Angeles

Our last post displayed the initial thoughts on the International Rule by Pacific Coast Yachting, an influential regional yachting journal. Readers of this magazine sailed and raced on the waters of the Pacific Ocean, from San Diego to San Francisco. There was a dedicated group of sailors in a variety of classes, as well as an active group of powerboat racers, both inboard and outboard. The following article appeared in the October 1927 edition of PCY and displays a number of photos from the 1927 Long Island Sound season, which included the Seawanhaka Cup and Scandinavian Gold Cup races. We earlier discussed Atrocia, which is pictured here, and there is commentary on the eminent R Class. One thing to note with these images if you are unable to read them - if you download them, you will be able to magnify and thus read them more easily.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

1927 on the Pacific Coast

As we earlier discussed with Sherman Hoyt's radical 'Atrocia', interest in the sixes was high and growing on the Long Island Sound scene. More than 20 boats had been built, yachting journals and newspapers covered the racing and it was not uncommon for a dozen boats to hit the line for races. In 1927 things were finally starting to happen Way out West in San Francisco and Los Angeles. A few Pacific Coast yachtsmen went "back East" to witness the Scandinavian Gold Cup and other racing and they were mightily impressed.

The Universal Rule "R" boats were the Class of choice for both Southern and Northern California sailors and many a battle had been waged in this lovely class, but some were looking for a new challenge and felt the R's were getting a little stale, having been in heavy competition for nearly a decade. The International Rule is being more widely adopted on the East Coast and in Europe, and the Pacific Coast skippers wanted to be involved. Just as 'Atrocia' was being completed at Henry B. Nevins' yard on City Island, New York, the below contemplation of the International Rule appeared in the June 1927 issue of Pacific Coast Yachting, written by H. B. Warren.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

It may be a surprise for many to learn that the first International 6 Metre races in the New World took place not on Long Island Sound in 1921 with the advent of the British American Team Races, but at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. President Woodrow Wilson presented for competition a large silver trophy which sat atop a pedestal made from a California redwood burl. Invitations to participate in the event were sent to many nations in Europe and the trophy itself sent on a tour of major US cities to stir interest in the Exposition and in the yacht races. The representative from the USA was specially built for the regatta. A.J. Weil and Captain John Barneson commissioned J. S. Dickey to design the “Lady Betty”, pictured above. She was built by W.F. “Frank” Stone and steered by  Captain Barneson.
World War I raged in Europe and only King Christian X of Denmark sent a challenge. Captain Meulengracht Madsen represented the King with the current European champion, Nurdug IV. She was the first Marconi rigged sailboat, 6 meter or otherwise, to appear on the West Coast of the USA. Barneson tried his best with the small and gaff rigged Lady Betty in a typical San Francisco heavy air series, but it was no contest. Captain Madsen won the series 2-1, only losing one when Nurdug’s mast broke in 2 places, and took the trophy and Nordug IV back to Denmark. Press reports of the day described the difference between the boats: Lady Betty carried a “regulation mainsail” and Nordug carried “a towering leg of mutton.”

This first bright showing of the class in the USA quickly faded from memory with no new sixes appearing on the West Coast of the USA for another 13 years.
The photos above come from a scrapbook made by Jack Ehrhorn. I am certain it is the first time the second image has been seen in public, and it may be the only image of the actual sailing of the regatta nearly 100 years ago. The impressive breeze of San Francisco Bay is apparent, and Nurdug is not only under shortened sail, her boom is dragging on this tight reach. The hills above Sausalito appear in the background.

Here is another excellent photo of the racing used for a varnish advertisement which appeared in Pacific Motor Boat magazine. This shot much more clearly illustrates the differences in the boats and their rigs. The US Navy battleship in the background is not named, but by her bow profile and great smokestacks could have been one of Teddy Roosevelt's famous Great White Fleet attending in celebration of the Fair.

It’s interesting to note that the Royal Danish Yacht Club re-deeded the Woodrow Wilson trophy to the sixes at the 2002 European Championships held at Rungsted. It was most recently won by Ross MacDonald with KC 10 Gallant at the 2012 European Championships in Nynashamn, Sweden.

Here is a photo of the trophy in the case at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club (courtesy of Team 6mR Vancouver).

Atrocia – a study of experimentation, risk and failure

Atrocia – a study of experimentation, risk and failure

Figure 1 - US 35 Atrocia
(c) Mystic Seaport, Rosenfeld Collection, #23767F

Where do people get their ideas? What drives the imagination? The improvements and innovations we all benefit from with new and successful ideas often represent the best of what has been ventured and risked. Our best attributes as humans, thinkers and dreamers often lead the way to progress. But, for every success there may be many failures. What did we learn from Atrocia?

Enthusiasts of the metre classes and those who have witnessed the weird and wild of the sailing world will appreciate the strangeness that was US 35 Atrocia, a 1927 International 6 metre design that bent the minds of observers of the time and challenged the aesthetics and the actual rules of our rapidly developing class.
Figure 2. C. Sherman Hoyt in the NYYC Model Room
Early in 1927 C. Sherman Hoyt and his partner, Harry Maxwell, commissioned the design and build of a new 6 metre for use in the various important races scheduled to take place on a busy Long Island Sound racing season throughout the summer. These races included the trials to defend the Seawanhaka International Challenge Cup and the Guldpokalen or Scandinavian Gold Cup.  Though the boat is attributed in Lloyd’s Register to Henry J. Gielow, Inc., the design is likely from Mr. Hoyt’s own hand. Henry J. Gielow, Inc. was a very prominent naval design firm at the time and Mr. Hoyt was a partner in the company. It is not inconceivable that while Mr. Gielow or others in the office may have contributed to the hull shape, which is relatively conventional for the time, Hoyt conceived and designed the most noteworthy element of the boat’s original design – the rig and sail plan.

In Mr. Hoyt’s own words, “We had decided to try a radical experiment where most of the sail area was in the fore triangle with only a small mainsail.”  The second iteration of the International Rule was in effect and Mr. Hoyt’s aim was to exploit 2 “loopholes” in the way sail area was measured. First, there was no maximum height imposed on the headsail at the time, which meant he could have a hoist all the way to the masthead. The second part of the measurement rule he exploited was the fact that sail area was rated at 100% of the mainsail area and 85% of the fore triangle area. Mr. Hoyt goes on to explain, “Our object was to gain a much larger sail area off the wind…” It is useful to also note that “balloon” spinnakers were not yet in use, thus a typical spinnaker of the time looked like a billowy regular jib which was flown free with no spinnaker pole. With this solution, it could easily be imagined that the huge jib, eased out on a reach or run and held down and out by the clubbed foot, would have an enormous advantage.  The mast was placed well aft and the enormous and heavy club footed jib meant “materially increasing its (the mast’s) strength and weight to take care of the absence of distribution of strain obtained from the luff of a normal mainsail.” 

The boat was built at Henry B. Nevins of City Island, New York in the first half of 1927 and completed late. She was finally launched only the day before her debut at Larchmont Race Week on July 16, 1927. Atrocia was painted orange on one side and gray on the other – Mr. Hoyt and Mr. Maxwell’s respective favorite colors. There was a lot of buzz about the radical boat and contemporary journalists in many sailing publications paid close attention to Atrocia, which was later described as “remarkable”, “peculiar”, “queer” and a “freak boat.” Her first races were not a good sign, though the conditions were challenging, to say the least. Atrocia streaked to the lead in anything resembling a fresh downwind leg, only to be repeatedly thwarted by light winds throughout the week. Her heavy and clumsy headsail was difficult to manage in light breezes and at the end of the series Harry Maxwell was disgusted with the performance of the boat. Mr. Hoyt bought out his partner’s share following this initial series, and with money now being a little tight on this experiment, he moved the heavy original mast forward to a more conventional position in the boat.
With her changed rig Atrocia did not perform well enough in the trials to defend the Seawanhaka Cup, though Mr. Hoyt was chosen to sail another boat, US 33 Clytie, against N 27 Noreg and Magnus Konow. Hoyt and Clytie lost to Konow and Noreg 3 races to 2.
For the trials to defend the Scandinavian Gold Cup, which was won the previous summer in Norway by Herman Whiton with US 29 Lanai, Hoyt and Atrocia again failed to find their groove. It did not help that the weather was terrible and Hoyt was so late towing the boat to the trials that he missed the first 2 races. Cornelius Shields won the right to defend in Hoyt’s earlier design, US 12 Lea,  against 7 other nations. Sven Salen debuted the “genoa” jib in this regatta, and was the first to fly this type of sail in North America. The series was hard fought and went out to the maximum of 7 races before Mr. Salen and S2 May Be won it all and in doing so, changed the sport of sailing and our collective concept of an efficient headsail.

Mr Hoyt’s words on the Atrocia experiment shows some wistfulness; “I am convinced that our theory was correct, but this was before the days of loose-footed jibs and overlapping jibs, to be learned from Sven Salen and his May-be that fall.”

S2 May Be at the 1927 Scandinavian Gold Cup
So, what was learned from the Atrocia experiment? It could be argued that several issues prevented Atrocia from succeeding. The boat was delivered late, keeping her owners from trialing and getting used to her idiosyncrasies prior to racing. The mast was very heavy, and and even when moved forward would have had a bad effect on the balance of the boat and shape of the sails. The over-engineering of the spar would have meant higher weight aloft than other boats, which would work against her righting moment and cost efficiency in a class with very tight tolerances. The concept of a slot was not fully understood at the time and Atrocia's original clubfooted jib was very difficult in unusually light early season conditions, then after her rig was changed, she was late due to heavy weather for the  Seawanhaka Cup trials, missing the first 2 races and never getting up to speed. Would changes to any of this have mattered had Atrocia faced Noreg in the Seawanhaka Cup, or squared off with the other boats and S2 May Be in the Gold Cup? Doubtful. In the end, Atrocia’s radical rig can only be called ill-conceived and the otherwise lovely hull a victim of too little preparation and more than her share of bad luck.  

At the end of the season the maximum sail height rule was changed to be 9.75 meters and made retroactive. Mr Hoyt sold Atrocia almost immediately and built US 40 Saleema for the 1928 season and found some success in Europe. Atrocia received a small coachroof and bounced around Long Island Sound through a series of owners until the mid-60’s. She changed names a few times – Christie, Caroline, Bob-em, Mistress and then eventually made it to Puget Sound, near Seattle. While preparing her topsides for fresh paint in the early 70’s, owner Stewart Biehl found the original orange and gray paint. Mr. Biehl entered Atrocia in the 1973 ISMA World Cup in Seattle where he placed 18th of 20 at the inaugural version of this bi-annual event. 

C. Sherman Hoyt (1878 – 1961) was arguably the most famous yachting figure in the world in the first half of the 20th century. He sailed in and won many offshore races, sailed in nearly every America’s Cup involving the enormous J-class yachts, and was influential in yachting circles on Long Island Sound and beyond. Mr. Hoyt was a noted raconteur. He traveled the world and made acquaintance with various Presidents, Kings and Princes, Sir Thomas Lipton, the Dowager Empress of China, and Adolph Hitler among many, many significant and not so significant people. He was involved from the very beginnings of the 6 metre class in the USA and designed 5 sixes; US 12 Lea, US 24 Paumonok, US 35 Atrocia, US 40 Saleema, and US 52 Aprodite.

Atrocia recently surfaced in Big Fork, Montana and her current steward, Phil Coe, intends to start a full restoration in fall 2013. He’s considering whether he should make provisions to experiment with the original, radical rig.

Atrocia’s particulars:

LOA: 34’ 10” (10.617m)
LWL: 22’ 6” (6.858m)
Beam: 6’ 7” (2.0066m)
Draft: 5’ 1” (1.55m)
Sail area: 475 sq ft (44.129m2)


Sherman Hoyt’s Memoirs - Sherman Hoyt, author
Yachting Magazine – October 1927, November 1927
The Rudder – August 1927, November 1927
The New York Times
Lloyd’s Register of American Yachts
The Rosenfeld Collection – Mystic Seaport

Monday, June 3, 2013

Another pretty picture

I cannot be sure what is going on with the sails on the three boats depicted below, but the composition, style and colors certainly speak to a modern sensibility for 1933. Great clouds, though darkening. Is it an allegory for the deepening Great Depression? I'll let the reader decide.

The sail numbers on these boats may not be accurate, but if they are, these would be US 12 Lea, a 1922 Sherman Hoyt design, US 7 Ginger, ex. Bally Hoo, a 1922 Hannan design, and US 13 Nanwa, a 1922 design by Wayte.  I cannot find a reference to the artist and know nothing more than perhaps they were fighting it out 11 years prior for a spot in the 1922 British American team races.

Another nice painting in Bermuda

When I look at these old paintings and read some of the accounts of sailing in Bermuda in the Spring, I envy the 6 meter sailors of old. For around a decade the 6 meter racers of Long Island Sound sent their boats via ship to Hamilton, Bermuda to sail in fleet and team races. The American sailors who came to Bermuda for these early season contests counted as the best there were at the time, including Briggs Cunningham, Cornelius and Paul Shields, Ray Hunt, Olin J Stephens, Herman 'Swede' Whiton, Robert Meyer, and many others. The Bermuda sailors, such as Eldon and Kenneth Trimingham and Bert Darrell were famous for their hospitality and the good sportsmanship they displayed. The trophies presented for competition included the Prince of Wales Trophy, a fleet race, the Governor's Cup, presented by Sir Thomas Astley-Cubitt for 4 boat international team racing, and the grand daddy of them all, the King Edward VII Gold Cup, which was given to the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club by Sherman Hoyt for match racing. Mr. Hoyt had won the massive Gold Cup at a regatta attached to the strange 1907 Jamestown Exhibition, which celebrated the 300th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown in the Virginia colony.

The artist is Tore Asplund, who worked primarily in watercolor and focused on marine views, city scenes, and military subjects. The painting below shows 3 sixes, the closest of which is US 65 Challenge, which is being sailed by Cornelius and Paul Shields. It should be noted that this was the regatta where Cornelius Shields first saw K 49 Saga and wa sso captivated by the boat that he commissioned Bjarne Aas to design a new one design class, the International One Design (IOD) based on Saga's sweet lines. The other boats have indistinct numbers on their sails, thus are difficult to identify. The painting first appeared in Yachting Magazine in April 1936.

A long time coming

For a while now Hank Thayer has asked me to post a history section on the North American 6 Metre Association website and I'll admit to being challenged for how best to accomplish this. As a stop-gap measure I'll begin posting materials here such as old photos, scans from old magazine articles and first person accounts related to 6 metre sailing on the East Coast, Great Lakes and the West Coast.

Herewith, the first of what will likely be many images.

The painting below is a view from a boatyard in Hamilton, Bermuda by Rolf Klep, who was a renowned illustrator of technical drawings, children's books and marine scenes. He was a master of the cutaway drawing of things such as airplanes, buildings, bridges and weapons. The 3 sixes in the background are, left to right, K3 Achilles, one of 3 identical boats built by in 1930 by Bjarne Aas for Bermuda yachtsmen (the other 2 were Viking and Sea Venture), a boat with K 56 on the mainsail, which must actually be US 56 Jill (?) a 1931 S&S design, and K 49 Saga, a 1936 design from Bjarne Aas. The K 56 mainsail is interesting, and must be poetic license, since KB 56 Solenta was not built until 2 years after this painting was published in Yachting Magazine of October 1936. Thanks to Hank Thayer for the contribution.