Sunday, June 28, 2015

Larry Huntington, his 1895 scow "Question", and the first Seawanhaka Cup competition

I've bracketed the 1890's in several posts tracing the history of the development of the racing scow. In 1890, at the beginning of the decade, Thomas Clapham introduced the first racing scow, Bouncer. At the end of the 1890's, Thomas Day and The Rudder magazine introduced the scow to the workingman sailor, with the publication of easy-build scow plans; first the 16' Lark cat-rigged scow designed by C.G. Davis in 1898 and, shortly after, the Swallow, a 24' main and jib scow designed by C.M. Mower and Larry Huntington. In 1895, in the middle of this decade, the first International Seawanhaka Cup commenced competition and over the next ten years, in this yearly pressure cooker of constant design development to win the cup, this odd-ball type, this "barn door" of a boat, dominated the racing and forever carved out a niche in the yachting scene that flourishes up to the present day.

In 1895, Larry Huntington, a twenty eight year old boatbuilder out of New Rochelle, New York, would enter his simple, crude-looking scow Question, in the trials for the U.S. contender to race Britain in the first competition for the Seawanhaka Cup . Although Huntington didn't win (W.P. Stephens in his conventional centerboard design Ethelwynn would win the trials and then successfully defeat Englishman William Brand racing another heavier, conventional centerboarder, Spruce IV to secure the first Cup win for the U.S.), Huntington demonstrated, during the 1895 season and during the Seawanhaka trials, that the scow was dominant in any breeze. Huntington re-emphasized what Thomas Clapham had proved five years earlier with his Bouncer, the scow was an ingenious rule-beater racing under a Seawanhaka Rule that penalized waterline length.

In a controversial move, Larry Huntington, with his brother Lev steering, shadow raced Question against Ethelwynn and Spruce IV in race four of the Seawanhaka Cup. There was a good breeze and Question handily out-distanced both of the actual competitors in the cup. W.P Stephens, with some justification, later complained about this stunt in Forest and Stream but the die had been cast. Observers at the Seawanhaka Cup, including the Royal St. Lawrence Y.C., took note and the next year all the top contenders had scow types including U.S designer Clinton Crane and the  Canadian design, engineering, and sailing genius, Herrick Duggan. Herrick Duggan, representing the Montreal club, Royal St. Lawrence Y.C., would come to dominate the cup competition in his scow designs over the next six years.

Larry Huntington would continue to design a series of well regarded scows for the Seawanahaka Cup competition both for him and his brother, and for other customers, though none of his designs were able to win the trials to represent the U.S. in the Cup competition.

Not surprisingly, in today's yachting history, Larry Huntington is best known, not for his scows, but for designing and building the offshore keelboat, Tamerlane, to win the first Bermuda race in 1906 (he designed and built two out of the three original competitors in 1906, the other Huntington design being Gauntlet).

A photo of Larry Huntington from Yachting magazine.

The half-rater Question as sketched by C.G. Davis. By 1905 Question had been converted to a motorboat with a boxy cabin-top (top right of sketch).

Larry Huntington estimated his cost for getting the simple chined Question built and in the water at $245 (he charged his labor at normal shipwright wages). The Rudder magazine figured this was 1/6 the cost of the other Cup racers.

Paprika was Larry Huntington's refined scow design as a follow-on from Question. Built for the 1896 Seawanhaka Cup trials, the hull was round-bilged

Below are the lines to the mysterious American scow, Maika Maili, that was imported into New Zealand in the mid 1890's and formed the basis for the New Zealand famous Patiki class. There is a very strong resemblance to Huntington's Paprika design but, at the present time, I can find no confirmation that Huntington exported one of his scows to New Zealand


Patrice said...


I have a trophy that was won by Bouncer in a 1891 Regatta. The prize belonged to Thomas Chapman. I am wondering if this would be of monetary value to a historian/collector.


Patti Dillon

Tweezerman said...


Scow sailing history doesn't seem to have the same cachet as the sailing canoe history. I don't know of any collector/historian for the early scows (though there may be someone in the Midwest but they generally are interested in the Midwest history). I would enjoy a photo of the trophy and some history on how it was acquired.

Email me at tweezer.sailing :with our good friends over at:

Charles Nankin said...

I am interested as to how the inland scow classes as we see them today came to have rounded bilges as opposed to the simple chines of Question, Swallow and others.

Tweezerman said...


By the 1896 Seawanhaka Cup trials, both American Clinton Crane and Canadian Herrick Duggan had worked over the heeled waterline curves of a scow and had produced round-bilged contenders. Even Larry Huntington's next scow design was round-bilged. Round bilged Seawanhaka scows were predominant through the early 1900's and I assume the Midwest scows took their initial lead from the 1896 Seawanhaka competitions.

Unknown said...

Cheers Tweezer :)

I also see that Len Morris's Mark II had a perfect 90 degree single chine and flat bottom. Then at some point people started adding in another chine. I wonder if this was based on testing/experience or from theory/thumbsuck.

Anyway thanks for all this interesting information.

Charles Nankin.

Tweezerman said...


By the 1896 Seawanhaka Cup, both the Canadian Herrick Duggan and American Clinton Crane started looking at the heeled waterlines and a rounded bilge gave a more canoe shape when heeled. A double chine is another way of getting sort of a rounded bilge shape especially with plywood.

Unknown said...

Yeah I see that. Thank you!