Monday, June 20, 2016

Header Photo: The Flight of the Snowbirds

Hugh R. McMillan Photographs - UCI Libraries

The previous header photo was of the fleet of 12' Snowbird dinghies making their way upwind in the "Flight of the Snowbirds", a one-race tour around Newport, California harbor. Held in August, the race usually attracted over 100 Snowbirds with the record topping out at 167 Snowbirds in 1957. Over the Snowbird history, the class issued more than 500 numbers but, being primarily a junior boat, died out in the late 1960's as yacht clubs turned to smaller, lighter boats for their junior programs.

The Snowbird first appeared as plans in the 1921 "The Rudder" magazine and by 1923 they were being built in Newport as a junior boat. Designed by Willis Reid, the Snowbird remains the only American designed sailing dinghy to be used in the Olympics, selected as the Olympic monotype for the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

Featuring a V-shaped chine hull, from this angle the Snowbird bow and chine looks similar to the latter designed Danish OK Dinghy, though the Snowbird is a much wider, stable boat than the OK Dinghy.

Hugh R. McMillan Photographs - UCI Libraries

Raced single or two-up in the "Flight" we see, in this photo, a wide range of crews, from juniors, to couples, and all-women.

Hugh R. McMillan Photographs - UCI Libraries

For a 12 foot boat, this is a very big mainsail, well-suited to the lighter airs of Newport Harbor.

Hugh R. McMillan Photographs - UCI Libraries


ek said...

Thanks for the post - it helped with research that led to my purchase of hull #344. This is a great little boat that I'd never heard about before seeing the Craigslist ad....

Tweezerman said...


Glad this post helped you out.

ek said...

Proud to report that I got our Snowbird LULLY (#344) back on the water about a year ago. For such an old dinghy (b.1952 by Dorrance McClure), she still sails great. Even got my wife out, though it's a tight fit for two adults. This is actually our favorite boat of the fleet. As you say, she carries a lot of sail for such a small hull, but she's pretty heavy and so handles fairly predictably. Fairly quick on a run though, considering the age, hull shape, and mostly original fittings. I added what appears to be deck paint coat #4 or 5. Next season, I plan to get her out on the water more so other folks can experience her. Currently (as of Summer 2019), her home waters are around Washington, DC.

Find some current photos of LULLY here: When I finish the repower of our 1960 Thompson utility, I'll be able to get some sailing video. I don't know of too many other Snowbirds still sailing in the USA, and hope to find more. There's at least 1 original boat in SoCal, and a new build in Oregon. Our boat sailed in the "Flight" featured in your photos; there are a couple of photos of 344 in that same UCI collection, and the last registration is from the area around Balboa. I'd love to know who the two kids were that crewed her that day. I guess she would have been a couple years old at that point. There was video of that race on YouTube, but it disappeared in early 2019; wish I'd saved it. Next up, I want to find a Cricket dinghy....

Sandy said...

My grandfather was Dorrance McClure, and my mother (Janet) sailed & raced many of his boats in & around Balboa & Newport.

ek said...

Hi Sandy, do you have any photos from your grandfather's shop? The building itself, the process of construction, boats on land or in water? I would like to take #344 to Mystic this summer and would love to show some period photos if possible!