Sunday, January 31, 2016

Flashback: The Harbor Report: Looking back at the top fleets

This week I thought it would be interesting to go back some 50 years and recall who brought home the pickle dishes back in the 1940-1960’s. I placed a phone call to Seymour Beek and Dave Ullman and asked them what where the most active fleets, names to look for and where to look.  I then headed over to The Newport Harbor Yacht Club and The Balboa Yacht Clubs 
library’s and started my research. I focused in on what I thought was the most active fleets from that time frame and came up with Snowbird, Rhodes 33, Star and Snipe fleets to report on.

The Snowbird was best known for “The Flight of the Snowbirds” now known as the “Flight of The Lasers”. The first year of the race was in 1936 with 32 entries and Dick McKibben was the winner. By the time the 50’s rocked in the entries had grown to 163 boats on the starting line. Names to look for where Ronnie Miracle, Steve Titus, Barton Beek, Janet Power, Tom Frost, Dan Thompson, Jeff Allen, Dick Deaver, Henry Sprague III, and Danny Thompson. The list did not stop there with people who won the right to fly the Gold S on their sail. Joe Beek donated the  Perpetual Trophy known as the “Gold S” and first awarded in 1949. I looked for the trophy at the NHYC and did not find it, but I understand the other names you would find on it would be Clark King, Bob White, Bill Lawharon, Fred Schenck. The boat was used in the 1932 Olympics and then became a popular for junior sailors in our harbor. She was about 12 feet long with five feet of beam. She weighed in at 275 pounds

The Rhodes 33 was built with the intention of sailing in and around Newport Harbor. They are 33’ long, 6.8 at the beam and weigh in at 5,800 pounds. The CR on the sail dates back to their original name the Coast Rhodes. The big pickle dish is named the Lester C and the fleet competed for the Lowe and Mark Healy Perpetuals High point series. Past Champions of the fleet where Connie Wurdemann aboard “Midship”, Hook Beardslee’s sailed “Seebee”, Bill Joyce’s “Crispin II”, Tommy Thomas with “Nimbus”, Bob Collins with his boat “Josephine VI”, Strat Enright in “Witch”, Marianne and John Pearcy with “Whim”, Hallett Throne in “Manana”, Phelps Merickel in “Marlan, Bill Taylor sailed “Mistress” and Bud Edgar with “Madness”. As I researched the fleet one name always came to the top of the list Harlan (Hook) Beardslee sailing the #8 boat “Seebee” . I found this quote in the NHYC History book “ The Rhodes class always showed up with a sizable fleet, but the race was usually for second when Hook was sailing”. Other names I found in past results where Jack Hillman, George Fleitz, W.G. Durant and Tom Myers.

It seemed that after you grew out of the Snowbird you then sailed a Snipe. The Snipe is 15.5 Feet, 5’ beam and the hull weighs 381 pounds. The class goes back to the early 40’s in Newport Harbor. In 1946 Bob White and his twin sister Betty ( now Mrs Alan Andrews, the same person I comment on sailing her Ranger 33 “Antares” to Catalina most weekends.) won the Snipe World Championships that year in Chicago and got 2nd in junior championships. That same year Ken & Bob Davis won the Snipe Internationals. In 1953 & 1954 Tom Frost and Fred Schenck won the Snipe Class National Championships. In 1950 & 1956 Clark King won the Championships, blend this all together, can you imagine how strong the Balboa Snipe fleet was at that time. Look over our harbors top sailors and its like reading a who’s who in sailing. Other top Snipe sailors from this time frame where Dan Elliott, Don Ayres, Max King, Jim Lewis, Dick Deaver, Ted Wells, Smyth and Greene. Can you imagine sailing Snipes in our Harbor back then in our summers series and on the starting line you have all those national champions?

The Star boats came to Newport Harbor when Bill Ficker and Mark Yorston won the World Championships in 1958. The Star boat is 22.7 feet long with a beam of 5.8, she weighs 1,480 pounds. The fleet was most active between 1958 through 1968 with other big names from our harbor winning the world championships. In 1964 Don & Kent Elder won the worlds and brought the race back to NHYC in 1965. The Newport Fleet was one of the most competitive fleets in the world with such names as Rollins, Saint Cecero, Metcalf, Sandy McKay, Bill Boland, Dick Hahn and Erwin deMocskonyi.

There is so much sailing history in our harbor it just makes me want to try that much harder.  

Man I love this place.


LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.


James Dreyer said...

Hi Len,
Great article. I am restoring a Coast Rhodes (34 Therapy ex. Witch). As I live overseas and only get to my boat in San Diego for a few weeks every 6 months or so, I have not managed to head to Newport to do any research on the boats & class history. Did you find much information at the Balboa/Newport clubs libraries? I am really looking for photos showing rigging etc to help with my restoration.


James Dreyer

Len Bose said...

I did not notice any information, at the clubs libraries, regarding the boats. I would look up Ralph Rodheim, the owner of MADNESS. His boat has been perfectly restored.