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!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Origin of the Star Class: A Gardner Design?

Since WWII the Star Class keelboat has produced a large chunk of U.S.A's top sailors and was, for years, the pipeline to America's Cup stardom (some would still say it is still America's top racing class). It remains one of the oldest one-design classes, designed in the fall of 1910. One hundred plus years on, the Star is a beloved vintage design that has been tweaked and pushed and modified over the years to achieve a level of performance and sensitivity that still excites legions of modern racers.

In recent years I had started to wonder where the Star hull design came from. It seemed to me when looking at the hull it had some of the attributes of the Seawanhaka types that existed during the 1890's; two of them being the short waterline and the long overhanging flat bow, well above the waterline when at rest. The official class history attributes the Star class design to Francis Sweisguth, a draftsman in William Gardner's design office. The Star class design was a follow-on to the shorter Bug class (19 feet vs. 22 feet 9 inch hull of the Star) that was again designed in 1906 by another draftsman in Gardner's office, Curtis D. Mabry.

The Bug class in a photo lifted from the Star class website.

However, both these design dates, 1906 for the Bug class, and late 1910 for the Star class, sits squarely in the period when Herreshoff's Universal Rule was in the ascendancy and well outside the heyday of the Seawanhaka Rule. My hunch that the Star design originated earlier would remain only a hunch.

That was, only until I was perusing online the 1896 issues of Outing magazine, one of Google's digitization of old manuscripts projects. I was reading through an article by R.B. Burchard on the Long Island Thirty Footer class. The Thirty Footer's were a restricted development class built to rules drafted by Herreshoff. They were the sport keelboats of their time; no accomodations, length over all of 43 feet, waterline between 29 and 30 feet, beam between 7 feet 10 inches and 8 feet 1 inch, bulb keel, and separate rudder. Most of the Thirty Footers were built to a Herreshoff design, but William Gardner had designed a flat bottomed chine design, named Departure. At the end of the article, R.B Burchard had the lines to Departure.

Bingo, I had my Star class hull shape from the 1890's!

The side view of Departure shows more of the Seawanhaka influence of short waterlines and long overhangs and not so much the sheer of the Star class.

With this missing link filled in, the design progression towards the Star becomes more straightforward. When George A. Corry came knocking on the door of William Gardner's design office in 1906 with a request for an inexpensive to build, but sporty day sailor, William Gardner rolled out the plans for his chined Thirty Footer and went to work with Mabry modifying the long Thirty Footer to a nineteen footer. The sheer changed, became greater amidships and less up front, probably to make the Bug a drier boat (the Thirty Footers were extremely wet boats). The convex topsides went away to make building easier. The long aft overhang went away; this was after all only a nineteen foot boat. Somewhere between Departure, the Bug and the Star the rectangular keel and separate rudder was changed to a swept back keel with a rudder hung on a skeg. But the hull lines remain virtually the same.

To be fair, on the Star class website, from the history of the Star class by George W. Elder, Forty Years Among the Stars, George Elder does mention the William Gardner Thirty Footer design Departure.

The Departure which appeared in 1896 was designed by William Gardner to beat the Newport 30's. It was able to do so in a breeze or with plenty of reaching, but not otherwise. The Departure has straight sides, a chine and a fin keel. It is the last connecting link...

But Elder didn't make a strong enough connection between Departure and the 1910 Star design. Today William Gardner has been written out of the Star design, a design he definitely seemed to take credit for in this quote from 1931 Star class newsletter:

When I designed the Star my aim was to produce a boat that was fast, handy, seaworthy, and that could be built at a moderate cost; these qualities I was evidently fortunate enough to have obtained.

Tom Price adds some further details on the origin of the Star over at this additional post on Earwigoagin.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Header Photo: Classic Moths Racing at E-City - 2013

Mike Parson holding a good lead upwind, with John Z chasing, on the second day of the Classic Moth Nationals, Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Annapolis Sailboat Show Part 2 - Plastic Boats and Designing Dinghies with your Ass

Your "boots on the ground" Earwigoagin reporter looked for all the small sailing boats at the 2013 Annapolis Sailboat show. There weren't many. There weren't many under 20', and there weren't many sailboats, even keelboats, under 28'. For probably the first time since the show opened in the 1970's, the Laser wasn't there. The Laser company, Laser Performance, and their boats were nowhere to be seen. There was only one national sailing dinghy class on exhibit, the 19' Flying Scot, tucked away in a forlorn corner.

We were left with three companies specializing in small sailboats at the Annapolis show, with two of the three having large numbers of rotomolded (plastic) products (I will leave Hobie, a company whose designs I much respect, with their rotomolded sailing kayaks and tris in a different category). Rotomolding has come a long way, the newest generation rotomolded sailboats using foam core to add rigidity to what was once a floppy boatbuilding material.

Rhode Island's Zim Sailing, known for their fiberglass Byte line, was also showing their imported rotomolded Club Optimist. According to Zim Sailing's Paul Zimmerman, the Club Optimist at the show had been in a club program for three years and I was impressed at how remarkably unscathed the plastic hull looked. This is certainly a good option for a club training purchase, but not one for a junior plugged into racing for the Zim Opti wasn't class legal.

The two English companies at the show, Topper and RS Sailing, had a large plastic product line of small sailboats. Topper had their Taz and Topaz, very similar looking except for length; flat hulls with the turn of the bilge very low. The Taz was the 3 meter LOA model for junior training. The Topper salesman said the front of the cockpit was designed to fit the ass of Topper designer Robb White, the idea being an adult could sit up front, back against the mast, whilst directing the young lass or laddie at the helm.

The front end of the Taz cockpit, big enough for an ass of an adult.

One detail on the Topper line that was well thought out was the righting line that was attached below the gunwhale to make it easier to pull the boat up from a capsize. It was shock-corded with a braided cover so it retracts against the hull.

RS Sailing had their recently introduced rotomolded 16-foot catamaran. Much more performance oriented than the Hobie line of plastic cats, this cat has the potential to be the first plastic racing sailboat class in the U.S. (as far as I know, none of the rotomolded sailing craft have yet to form a viable racing class over here - though, and someone correct me, the Hobie Wave may be the exception). Rotomolding allows design details that even glass construction cannot achieve and this RS cat has several of them.

The hulls have a spray deflecting lip up forward and then a long indented hollow aft, designed as a hand hold when carrying the cat up the beach. This indent runs from forward of the cross beam almost to the stern.

The deck where the crew sits is concave rather than convex. The RS Sailing salesman and I were debating the merits of locking in the crew (something the Hobie Wave catamaran does as well with convex decks and foam pads). The typical convex deck (rounded) allows the crew to slide in and out easier, probably more important for a serious racer. Also of interest was open self-draining wells in both hulls just behind the aft cross beam to the transom. Other than filling them with ice and beer, their purpose eluded both the RS salesman and I. Still, the design details that went into getting a semi-racing cat configuration to work with plastic hulls is impressive.

I was quoted 10k for the 16-foot cat but this is probably without the spinnaker gear which I'm guessing might add another 3-4k, still an excellent price. The RS salesman said RS is trying to expand in North America because the European market is flat at the moment. This 16-foot cat looks like it may have the legs to do just that.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Annapolis Sailboat Show - Part 1 - I'm not making this up!

My annual blitzkrieg of the Annapolis Sailboat Show begins like most everyone else; park at the Navy Marine Corps stadium and take the shuttle buses (yellow school buses) the 1/2 mile into downtown Annapolis. It was getting on in the afternoon, Trade Day, and this weekend has been the rainiest of the year so their weren't many in the bus into town, just the diehards. Up towards the front, three sailors started a conversation about cruising sailboats. One had flown in from Milwaukee and owned a Sabre 28, one had come from Chicago and owned a Moody 43 and there was a third fellow in a green rain jacket who I never got his boat type, though I did catch that he had served as a jib-trimmer on an E-scow. Since I'm not a cruising type, I half-listened to the their banter; cruising and racing in an around Lake Michigan, the advantages of propane outboards, where can you go with the 6' draft of the Moody 43.........Getting close to the first downtown disembarkation stop, the guy in the green rain jacket pronounced loudly enough to jolt me out of my trance, "I read Tillerman's blog. It's about an old guy who's trying to improve his racing of the Laser." Wow! His fame is widening! Hmmmm....maybe in a couple of years, Tillerman can also have lines snaking out of a liquor store, waiting for his autograph on his favorite beer brand.

As an aside, the couple sitting just in front of me on the bus, asked the question of typical newbies; which stop was the main show entrance? I said it was the last stop. They then asked if there were a lot of sailboats to look at in the show and would they be able to see them all in one day. I replied that it depended on whether they were gawkers, like me, or buyers. If you were a buyer you would want more than one day at the show. It turns out they had flown in from Dubai, they were definitely buyers and they wanted a sailboat to ship back to Dubai. They were going to make one salesman a very happy camper. (Unlike me, who had more or less emptied his billfold to pay the parking fee.)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Music Whenever; Burning Hell "I Love the Things that People Make"

In one of the ongoing ironies of life, my music posts are the least popular segment of Earwigoagin, yet there is a coterie of readers who have complained when I stopped them. So I have resorted to occasional music posts.

This one goes out to the makers in the boating world; the Classic Mothists building, rebuilding, restoring; Doryman getting his Crocker on the water, Jeff and Amy Linton with their FrankenScot project, and all the other boatbuilders in my circle of friends and also in my blog list.

Some may question the musicality of this selection; the one-chord strumming, the odd Russian fiddle overlay, the bass vocals that eschew any range. Remember, for this song, it's all in the presentation, the costumes, and the lyrics.

THE BURNING HELL - I Love The Things That People Make from Southern Souls on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Header Photo: IC's at Loch Lomond

The previous header photo is of the International Canoe's at their European Championships held at Loch Lomond, Scotland. In reading through the regatta reports this looks like the race where the fleet came ashore after a storm rolled through. Two of the toughest dinghy classes to land downwind on a lee shore are the Laser and the International Canoe - the Laser because it has no halyard so the sail cannot be lowered in a seamanship manner - the International Canoe because it has no stability and once the single skipper bails out, it wants to fall over. Most International Canoeists let that happen as a matter of course, as the photo shows. The release of the main halyard usually takes place in a relaxed manner, when the IC is on its side, the IC is then easily righted, the main slides down and the beast is tamed. I did, early on in my IC career, when I was exhausted after a day of racing, run the IC downwind, at speed, too close to shore, grounded and bent the thru-deck rudder. It took a fair bit of whaling away with a maul to get that stainless steel shaft straightened enough for the next days racing. May I also direct you to previous post in Earwigoagin of someone having a heckuva time getting off the lee shore.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Classic Moth Nationals 2013 - Some Pictures

I managed to squeeze off some photos in between running the races for the 2013 Nationals. Winds on Saturday started off with great promise, around 10 from the Southeast, blowing up the river, a sea breeze direction I've wished for when I've been racing but never saw and, now that I was the race officer, I was watching with envy my fellow MothBoaters enjoy the conditions. This breeze brings a little lump to the race course. In the second race the wind lightened up, shifted to the South-Southwest and died but, with some consternation and cussing, the racers were able to crawl up to the finish. For the next three races the wind shifted back to the SE and blew up the river, though at a lighter velocity of about 6-8. On Sunday we had the more typical shifty Northerly blowing across the river, 6-10 with an occasional higher gust, and finished with 4 more races to make 9 total for the weekend.

Joe Bousquet is the new overall champ. Joe re-introduced the Mistral to the Classic Moths back in the late 1990's and has just recently given Try-Umph a deck rebuild. He was untouchable on Saturday: all firsts (though Mike Parsons was leading him in one race to just at the finish). Joe trucking upwind.


John Zseleczky in his mod-Mistral Y3K Bug was second (the E-City waterfront with watertower is visible in this photo).

Mike Parsons in another Mistral was third.

Walt Collins won the slightly slower Gen 1 division in his Europe Dinghy (though he was giving the Mistrals fits on Saturday). Here he is is to windward of another Europe Dinghy owned by John Pugh. (John and Sarah Pugh host the fleet out of their backyard on the river - a nice grass lawn - we are indeed spoiled!)

Randall Swan won the Vintage division in his 60 year old Etchell's Connecticut Moth.

Carol Terryberry borrowed a Mint design and acquitted herself well to win the Women's Trophy and Zach Balluzzo took the Junior Trophy. Fifteen Mothboats competed, down from last year, with some significant no-shows including multi National Champ, Jeff Linton. Next year will be very interesting as the class voted at the AGM to make the Vintage winner the National Champion of 2014. This is to celebrate the 25th anniversary regatta since the resurrection of the U.S. Classic Moth Class in 1989. The intention will be to highlight racing in some of the early Mothboat designs. There will be a push on for skippers to uncover unused Dorr-Willey's, Ventnor's Connecticut's, and other pre and post WWII one-off Mothboat designs for this regatta (complete with wood masts and booms).

A grateful TOH to Greg Duncan, Regatta Chair and the aforementioned John and Sarah Pugh for another delightful weekend in E-City.