Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Florida Cricket Class - A Missing Link?

The Cricket class was a 15 foot, chined, V-shaped, catboat with sprit rig and club clew. The class died out in the early 1960's. By that time the Cricket fleet was only found at the Miami Yacht Club and, given the small numbers at the demise, it is today, a forgotten class. But in digging through U.S. sailing history more comes out about the Cricket.

The Cricket class was designed sometime during the 1890's, in or around Atlantic City N.J, where it became extremely popular. Reports indicate hundreds were built and about one hundred were racing out of Atlantic City in 1900. It was, as far as I can determine, the earliest example of a chined, V-shaped sailing dinghy in the United States. More about the early development of the Cricket class (who was the designer? what prompted the design? when did the class die out in Atlantic City?)  has been hard to come by.

In the 1920's, when Northerners began to flock to the remote, but bucolic winter paradise that was Florida, the Cricket class was also exported in numbers from the New Jersey shores. It was reported that twenty five Crickets were shipped to southern Florida with most of them destroyed in the hurricane of 1926. The  Cricket class would rebuild in Miami and would form the core of the Southern Florida Sailing Association (later the Miami Yacht Club) when it was organized in 1928. The Cricket would become the boat to beat in the free-for-all under 150 sq. foot (sail area) class.

When, in 1931, Bill Crosby designed the Snipe for the Florida West Coast Racing Association's free-for-all Trailer class, he must have been mindful that his Snipe would initially be compared against the Cricket class, at least in Florida. Between the two, the hull design similarities are striking. It does seem that Crosby started designing his Snipe using the Cricket as a baseline and then added user-friendly features (a sloop rig with a high boom being the most notable one). The Snipe went on to international fame, the Cricket, to oblivion.

Some photos:

A smattering of classic Florida sailing dinghies; on the left, the Optimist Pram, behind the Pram, a Mothboat, in the center, a Cricket, with the other Cricket, bow on, in the foreground. Behind the Cricket is a Suicide class.

Crickets launching at Miami Yacht Club, late 1950's.

Crickets going upwind. In all three of the ones in view in this photo the crew are hiking using skinny hiking boards.

The closest we have to a set of lines for the Cricket was this one-design commissioned by St. Petersburg Yacht Club as featured in The Rudder, 1919. The lines look very close to a copy of the Cricket although the length for this one-design is a foot longer than the Cricket.

A blog post about an earlier New Jersey dinghy, the Philadelphia Tuckups of the 1870's can be found here.


Alden Smith said...

I have been reading "The Catboat Book". It seems there was a whole family of Crosbys on the Atlantic coast that built a lot of Catboats back in the old days. I think Crosby catboats and Fenwick Williams designed catboats are amongst the most beautiful. May the Cricket class was designed by one these dudes.

Tweezerman said...


Possible but my theory is that the Cricket came from the Philadelphia Tuckups. No proof but both boats are around the same size, cat rigged. The Cricket is much easier to build than the Tuckups.