Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Jester Dinghy: The Known and the Unknown

Of late, I've been inexorably sucked into a tale of the two Jester Dinghies, one known, one unknown.

The known Jester:

When doing a Google search, the Jester Dinghy that pops up is a 8' dink designed by Santa Cruz ULDB designer George Olson, and built by Ron Moore in the 1970's. The Jesters raced out of the Santa Cruz, harbor; a cramped short harbor, the shoreline packed full of boats and docks, the north harbor and south harbor split by a bridge. The Jester has the reputation as one of the scariest boats to sail in a breeze, probably because the short hull features the fine ends of a rowing dink and added to that is a large, high aspect ratio rig, stepped right at the bow. This must amp up the bow-down power downwind to uncontrollable levels. Although I've passed through Santa Cruz a couple of times in my travels, I have never seen this Jester in the flesh.

The previous header photo, plucked from the Internet, shows Jesters racing in an expansive body of water; which is obviously not the Santa Cruz harbor. You can make out the very fine, wineglass transom which suggests the Jester was more designed for rowing than sailing.

Racing in the Santa Cruz Harbor. If the sail numbers are correct, it looks like the class made it to 200 boats.

I do like the stylized logo of this Jester.

Famed naval architect, Paul Bieker, (International 14 boffin with success in that class rivaling fellow North American Bruce Kirby) put together a modified Jester for his son. (It appears the molds for the Jester have ended up in Northwest Washington State.) He has designed a gaff rig for his Jester, similar to the one he introduced on his high performance PT Dinghy, a Tasar-killer 14 foot design.

Paul had a sail made out of Tyvek which lasted a good five years.

The unknown Jester:

The last two years, on my walkabouts around my hometown of Annapolis, I had noticed a mystery dinghy tied up to the floating dock of St. John's College. It obviously was a main and jib dinghy, the length was shorter than 14 feet (4.26 meters), the design had high freeboard and she was very simply rigged. Despite staring at it for a while, I could not ID this class. I shrugged. One of those unknowns.

But it was not to be left at that. Over the summer, my good friend Mike Waters, became the latest St. John's sailing coach/boatshop manager. I gave him a hand at an Intro to Sailing event he ran at the beginning of the school year. I was taking groups out in this very same dinghy I had been pondering over. It was slow but commodious for it's size with some nice bench seats. It was then I learned that this dinghy that had been donated to the St. John's program was a different Jester class dinghy; American built, but otherwise origins unknown.

Since then Mike has hauled the Jester out to have the bottom scraped of a healthy growth of barnacles and to get some paint on her. With the hull flipped over, the hull design is very interesting; a flat bottom forward with a circular transom. This is definitely not a rerun design of Uffa Fox's formulaic deep forefoot with straight flat aft sections.

Mike with the sanded Jester on the trailer.

Flat U-sections forward. Max rocker amidships. The little data we were to glean from the Internet has the Jester at 12 foot (3.6 meters) length and 5 foot (1.5 meters) beam. Both Mike and I feel the Jester has potential in a college program like St. John's (where racing isn't the priority and the waters on College Creek are very cramped.). We are just wondering who designed her and who built her. (Again, the Internet seems to point to Ohio, but who knows.)

The Jester logo on the sail.

The rudder has the more modern rectangular shape. We are guessing a 1970's build time frame for the St. John's Jester. Anyone that has come across this Jester class in their sailing lifetime, please leave a comment.

Mike Waters in front of the St. John's boat house doors. The college has a sizeable fleet of crew shells as well as sailboats.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Header Photo: Fireball World Championships in Montreal

Urs Hardi

Until it crossed my FB feed, I didn't realize that the International Fireball class had held their World Championships in North America this past August; hosted by Pointe-Claire Yacht Club in Montreal, Canada. Winds really picked up for the last day of the championship when this photo was taken. Brits, Ian Dobson and Richard Wagstaff won with Australia, Switzerland, Belgium, Czech Republic and France representing a good mix of countries rounding out the top ten; .

I came into contact with the Fireball as a teenager in the late 1960's when my Dad moved the family to Youngstown, Ohio, a steel town in Northeast Ohio. In this most unlikely of sailing cities, there was an active Fireball fleet sailing on Pymatuning Lake, north of town. It was a fleet nourished by an even more unlikely sailor, Ken Turney. Ken loved the Fireball. He had his own boat shop in Youngtown's southern suburb, Boardman where he imported glass Fireball's built in Calgary. Ken was blue collar through and through. He had been a machinist at one of the steel plants and his standard outfit was a one-piece coverall, grungy, longitudinally striped in grey/black, with the neckline unbuttoned to reveal a grand tuft of silver chest hair topped with a broad Slavic face. Ken even raced Fireballs wearing this coverall. (One of my friends, in a not so charitable teenage side comment, remarked that it appeared Ken had a pet squirrel permanently tucked into the V-line of his coverall.) Ken would hold court at his cinder block boat shop, talking about Fireballs to one and all, building a small hot bed of performance dinghy sailing in this inland steel city; in a country not known for performance dinghies.

I actually didn't race the Fireball that much. I crewed several times on the Lake in very light winds. Unfortunately, I've never been on a Fireball in trapeze weather. Fifty years on, Ken Turney's legacy ticks along. A small group of Fireballs are still sailing out of the Pymatuning Sailing Club.

Other Earwigoagin Fireball Posts

Monday, September 30, 2019

How to dig back into Earwigoagin

Just a reminder. If you want to explore back into, what has become, with close to eleven years of rambling posts, a massive tome of a blog, the best bet is to do a Google search on Earwigoagin images.

Thames Raters in the English "Three Rivers Race"

Two Thames Raters, the ultimate river sailing machine, in close quarters during the Three Rivers Race. The little camp chair on the back deck is not normal gear but necessary in this race. The mast has to be dropped several times to get under bridges and the chair keeps the mast in place when down.

Header Photo: Vintage Aussie 18; Leeward Gunwhale Close to Gone

This one has been up for a while. A great photo of Avalon looking to cross the threshold of no return. The "Open Boat" forum on FB continuously posts great vintage photos of the Eighteen's; enough quantity I could keep using them as header photos for Earwigoagin over the next year.

Friday, September 20, 2019

What's happened to this blog?

A few of you may have wondered what has happened to this blog. I've been off drawing. You know, the art thing that old people get into. Mostly nudes. Go figure.

Music Whenever: Leroy Justice covers Prince's "Purple Rain"

An acoustic version that works.