Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Origin of the Star Class: Tom Price adds some details

Good friend Tom Price, who likes to delve into marine history just as much as I do, and also possesses a much larger library, forwarded what he could dig up on the origin of the Star class. The following is from Tom.

Here is some info on the Star I have.

Rudder 1911, Thornton M. Smith, some excerpts paraphrased:
Mr. George Corry originated the Bug Class for Manhasset Bay YC, giving it the title Bug, each boat was named after some type of bug. They were designed from the board of Mr. William Gardner during the Fall of 1905. AS to model and lines, and even the rig for racing purposes, it was a new departure for One Designs on Long Island Sound, although the hull was somewhat fashioned after one of Mr. Gardners earlier boats "The Departure", built for Mr. Clinton Seeley which raced with so much success in the Newport Thirty Class. After the plans had been turned over to Mr. Corry he found it was beginning to occupy too much of his time from business than he could spare to get the Class really started.

The type resembled in it's hull a half round skiff of the old Cow Bay order, but in place of the centerboard, as in the skiff, an iron fin was substituted, which had a depth of 3 ft and weighed 275 lb. Their dimensions were 19 ft overall by 4ft 7 in. breadth. Hull # 1 was knocked down flat on it's trial sail and a solid bulb shaped like a "tom-cod" weighing 200 lbs was bolted on. The addition was the crowning success of a class of racing One Designs that few such classes may boast of.

Then in C. Stanley Ogilvey's book A History of the Star Class, I found this:
The Bug's lines were drawn by Curtis D. Mabry in William Gardners office. Another young designer working there at the time was Francis Sweisguth, who was later to draw the lines of the Star. In 1961, at his home in Larchmont, he told the writer of this history, some amusing Bug anecdotes. I referred to him at the time as" a sprightly young man of 78". Economy was the keynote, said Sweisguth. The boat was to cost $100. complete except for the sails. Even then this was a "It can't be done " figure. The problem was to find someone crazy enough to build them at this price.

OK.... so much for the Bug - designed by Gardner, based on Departure, drawn by Mabry. Sweisguth is mentioned as the subsequent one to "draw the lines of the Star" (note the distinction of the term designer for Gardner and "drafted by or drawn", for Mabry and Sweisguth).

To continue in Ogilvy's book.....
After 5 years of racing in the Bugs, Corry and others came to the conclusion that the Bugs were too small and uncomfortable. He went back to his friend William Gardner and asked him to produce a design for the same type of boat but a little larger. It was supposed to be called "Big Bug" but supposedly Stuyvesant Wainwright suggested the name "Star".

The Star's lines were drawn in Gardners office by Francis Sweisguth who has stated "It is not quite correct to say that I lengthened the lines of the Bug' into those of the Star. The Bug lines were not drawn by me, but by someone else in the office [probably Mabry] When Bill Gardner asked me to do the Star, I started from scratch without even looking at the Bug's lines. If the two boats look alike it was probably because the lines of all the chine built boats with an arc bottom are basically the same."

During the summer or fall of 1910, George Corry found six other yachtsmen willing to place orders for boats, 4 from Port Washington and 2 from New Rochelle. This was the second one design to ever have started as an inter - club class, the first being the Bugs.
So, it appears to me that Sweisguth actually "drew" the lines of the Star, "without looking at" (but obviously influenced by and with a design brief by his boss Gardner) the Bug which was drawn by Mabry but "designed" by Gardner. If we say the Sweisguth designed the Star then we probably should say that Mabry designed the Bug - which started it all. Where does that leave Gardner - who designed Departure that influenced the Bug that (sort of- according to Sweisguth) influenced the Star....? It was in his [Gardner's design] office...He originated the general design (and probably handed Mabry the initial drawings of the Bug to "draft").

As a comparison, Olin Stephens almost never "drew" (meaning actually drew the iteratively faired lines drawings for building) for his boats.Talented draughtsmen in his office actually laid down the lines from Olin's "sketches" or initial lines plans. Olin would carefully examine their work though and have final say on the design. He is ALWAYS considered the "designer" of all those excellent boats.

So, in fairness to Gardner though I have to agree that he might be considered as the designer of the Star (especially as it originated from his design office), it all depends on what kind of design freedom Sweisguth was given. (my guess was - plenty, by his statements later in life). Draw your own conclusions!
Note: I am lucky enough to have an actual blueprint from the Sparkman and Stephens office of the 12m Intrepid. In the title block there is a small MT which indicates the beautiful draftsmanship of Mario Tarabocchia. Line weights, fairness, lettering and accuracy are amazing in those pre-computer days!


Baydog said...

Sweisguth: father of modern Barnegat Bay A class catboats

Tweezerman said...

I thought Charles Mower was the father of the A's. I know both Sweisguth and Mower have A designs still going today.

johnz said...

This is great stuff guys, thanks for passing it around. It's interesting how we always want to name one designer for a boat rather than give credit to a team. The Star looks like it evolved as a team effort to me. Success has many fathers!