Lat. 40-55.812 N        Long. 073-30.812 W
Friday, February 24, 2017 



 JUNIOR SAILING: HISTORY

Click here to view the 1940 Original Junior Club By-Laws
Provided by Junior Commodore Harry Anderson's Personal Archives

On July 4, 1936, the Junior Club house was dedicated – in its present location and with only a few additions and subtractions – essentially as originally designed by William Delano, earlier that year as a completely separate clubhouse for the Juniors. On September 10 of that year, an organizational meeting was held, the Club’s incorporation was approved, by-laws were adopted and Junior officers were elected. The very first Commodore selected was Henry H. Anderson, Jr. Since 1936 the Clubhouse has been open every summer for Juniors (except 1943 when the Club was closed because of World War II) and since the 50’s the Frostbiters have come on winter weekends to bask in its convenience and warm, welcoming atmosphere.

Thus, 1936 marks our official start. However, writing in “Room at the Mark” (published in 1991 by The Yacht Owners Register Inc.) Robert C. MacArthur says, “In this Country before 1900, only Seawanhaka Corinthian and Pleon at Marblehead encouraged junior sailing.” Our Junior program did not spring up from nothing but was the blossoming of a lengthy tradition and may be one of the oldest efforts of its kind in America. Let’s take a glance astern to view briefly our wake.

In 1892, the year when SCYC first opened it Clubhouse in Oyster Bay, the members commissioned A. Carey Smith to design and Wallin & Gorman to build in Bay Ridge four equal 21’ LOA cat boats. One was painted red, one blue, one green and the fourth yellow. They were named ALPHA, BETA, GAMMA AND DELTA. These were one of the first one-design classes in the nation. They were club boats and generally chartered to different members each weekend. However, the members encouraged the youngsters to race one and thus young Sherman, his brother Colgate Hoyt and other local pals learned to race against adults.

There was no Junior membership in those days. Thus, Sherman joined the “senior” club at the age of 14 (later becoming our number 1 member for many years) went on quickly from this start to compete in various sized classes, at home and abroad, against the best in the world. He became the first American world class sailor, set a path in which many Seawanhaka junior skippers followed, encouraged many of them, especially the young, and helped establish our burgee around the world until his death in 1961.

For many years young enthusiasts followed the same course. They were instructed by their fathers and during the week were watched by the paid hands from whom they also absorbed many of the finer points of racing. A whole generation of Seawanhaka racers came into the game that way. But the number of youth kept increasing; so in 1921 the Club reached another mark in Junior sailing when a new Junior Class, the Kitten, was introduced for them and an instructor was hired. The class, a 15’ centerboard cat, was built by Montgomery on Cape Cod and promoted for Seawanhaka by Sherman Hoyt, who with some of the young and old members put their heads together over the blueprints. The Club Secretary wrote, “We prefer to have a boat which is a bit ticklish and can capsize, in order to give novice skippers the real experience.”

These were the days of the Weekes and Weeks, Arthur, Jimmy, Towsend, Dorthy, Billy, Shelton and Sarita as well as Pat Outerbrige, Billy Loeb, Henry and Bobby Rusch and Jack and Dorthy Work. Indeed, Pat Outerbridge and Billy Loeb went to Marblehead to campaign for the national junior championship. Within a few years many of these were racing on an international level as crews for the senior members. This was partly due to the instructors including such luminaries as the great professional Charlie Barr, Bill Hammersley, “Pluggity” Foster and John Longley, but the program was still pretty much “catch as catch can”.

With such a nucleus of younger members committed to a Junior program and with an ever increasing number of talented juniors competing around Oyster Bay and on the JYRA of LIS circuit, the next step was inevitable.

By 1936, our Juniors had developed a real spirit of Corinthianism and had also shown their skill as skippers and bilge-boys on the Sound, the Solent, the Clyde, Hamilton Harbour, in trans-Atlantic races and up and down the eastern seaboard. The next generation of youngsters was eager to come aboard. It was time to build a separate club. This almost took place in 1934, but it had to wait two more years.

The first instructor was Bob Amory, who had already been employed by the Club in that capacity. The first boats were mostly club boats, a 15’ LWL keel class designed by Olin Stephens, designated the J Class (later the Manhasset Bay One-Design) and another effort to establish the young in less seaworthy skimming dishes, the Chute & Bixbys.

From this it was readily determined that individually owned boats received much better care than “Club Tubs”. Therefore, during the winter young Olin Stephens was expressly commissioned by the Flag Officers to design the Seabird. A prototype was ordered from Penn Yan Boat Works, owned by member Bill Nichols. It proved to be the largest class ever built by that company which employed at the time a former Herreshoff Mfg. Co foreman. They took some liberties with the design – increasing the flare at the bow, squaring the transom, adding weight, and making her LWL longer. The inspection sail, by junior officers and interested senior members was in a roaring blizzard on the Finger Lakes. After that it was decided to reduce mast height and mainsail measurement. At this point the idea was embraced that ticklish, capsizable small vessels were harder to learn on than bigger, safe and solid yachts. The Seabirds were 24’ LOA and ballasted with balsa wood to keep them afloat in all conditions. Their construction method was new: molded plywood double planked in both directions, with a skin of canvas in between. Most importantly, they had slightly overlapping jibs and, for the first time, parachute spinnakers.

A fleet of 29 was moored off the new clubhouse for the season of 1937. For about the next 20 years the Seabird served as a Junior boat. There was a member who insisted on landing at the Junior float, down-wind into the diving board. There were numerous groundings every year and many individual onslaughts, but the class continued indomitably. They still endure – now in fiberglass and no longer a Junior boat – and are in many respects the most successful Class the Club has ever owned.

While abuse of boats by learners was taking place, there is another side to the story. The 6 meter GOOSE had won the Scandinavian Gold Cup in 1938, emblematic of championship in the world’s most renowned class. Because of the danger to shipping caused by U boats, Seawanhaka decided to send one defender, GOOSE, rather than asking half a dozen challengers to take the risk. GOOSE arrived in Helsinki late; then her owner and skipper, Georg Nichols, came down sick and could not sail. George Nichols Jr., that year’s Junior Commodore was the substitute. Under this youngster, GOOSE won 5 straight races and the Gold Cup, despite blatant ganging-up against her by the Europeans in the final race. Thus, the Junior Commodore blazed a trail for subsequent Juniors which they have followed around the world, especially the Olympics. Mention the Olympics and ex-Juniors like “Bimmy” Duys, “Dooley” Roosevelt, Mike Mooney, Gary Knapp, Stewart Neff, Steve Benjamin, Willy Glenn, Henrick Dunleavy, Will Glenn and others immediately come to mind along with visions of Gold, Silver, Bronze medals and merely a berth on the team.

This then has been one of the Junior Club’s most enduring traditions. We have seldom won the Juniors, the Girls, or the Midget Championships, but we have produced quality sailors whose love of the sport, at its highest level, have grown and abides. Then too, we have won some of the YRA of LIS Championships. In 1936, the Juniors and Girls raced in Atlantics and the Midgets in Star boats. By 1952 when Neil Ulman, Beegie Schnider, Nicho Parks and Larry Glenn won our first Midget Championship, the events were into smaller boats. David Meinertz with Burt Meyer and Mike Dunlaevy repeated that triumph in 1957. It was not until 2005 that Christine Jakob and Jessy Diliberto won the Midgets in their Blue Jay. There is no record of our having won the Girls Championships, though the subsequent exploits of Nancy Loomis, Mimi Neff and Timmie Schneider at the National level and Liz Roosevelt at the LIS events bespeak very sound, early training. It was not until 1970 that we won the Juniors when Terry Neff, Peter Parkinson and Dave Kellogg did the trick in the Club Lightning. Terry darn near did it again the next year. Time marched on, and in 1995 and 1996 Matt DeNatale did it in Lasers.

While some of our Juniors have triumphed in reaching the top level of competitive sailing, there are countless more who have never won a regatta, or even aspired to. These are the members who develop a love of sailing, crew on parents’ and members’ boats and later become members and officers of the Senior Club. This unsung, quiet group of junior sailors are some of our most valuable graduates. Without them, Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club would not be able to maintain its preeminent reputation in the world of sailing.

As can be seen, Junior Sailing is an evolving sport. More than that, it requires new momentum to get the newcomers and mature Juniors started each year. They are, after all, a whole year’s different each season. Their culture and customs, music and dress have changed greatly. This has produced challenges to the Junior Committee and stories of which this brief history has no room to repeat. But the Junior Chairmen, starting with the first, Percy Weeks and extending through Porter Buck, George Bowdoin, Dave Kennedy, Billy Weekes, Perry Neff, Jim Roosevelt, Malcolm Mackey, Nick Gumprecht, Tony Meyer, Woody Glenn, Ole Risom, Lee Smith Mike Neff, Bill Wladyka, Robert Copp, Ed Chimney, Dan Burke, Priscilla Constants, Lorenzo Vascotto, and Peter Johnson to name only a few could tell many.

Like wise, the instructors have seen the highs and lows at close range. In connection with such yarns instructors such as Herb and Sheila Irwin, George Lindsay, Jake Hess, Dave Black, Ted Robie, Bill Swan, John Marshall, Bob Broege, Bucky Weekes, Caro Dellenbaugh, Mark Bellerman, Willets Meyer, Keith Kramer, Maria and Will Denslow and the Troxlers each could spin a tale.

The boats used prove the evolutionary quality of the Junior Club. We started with essentially one class, the Seabird. This was all we required for many years. Then, shortly after World War II, Seawanhaka and the Cold Spring Harbor Beach Club formed a large Lightning fleet. We were part of a national class, in which the top Juniors wanted to participate. So for several years, we had both classes. Later, the Blue Jay emerged for the younger Juniors. Then came the Fireball to the JYRA and a fleet formed at the Junior Club. Indeed, our own Steve Benjamin grew up and went on to win the Fireball Internationals. Following them, there were the 420’s, the championship of which class was won by Hendrik Dunlaevy and Derrick Smith. Later the Lasers came into vogue. The concept of a tricky centerboard boat and a cat at that, had re-emerged. Today we have Optimists, Blue Jays, Lasers, 420’s, and Pixels. This is a total of five classes to serve only slightly more Juniors than one large heavy sloop did in 1936. Each one serves a unique purpose. The age of specialization is here.

Similarly the Junior Cruise involving two over-nights and packing Juniors annually to serve on the Club’s larger cruising vessels – including at least one 12-meter every hear has evolved. These cruises tended to be the high point of the season. Seamanship tests, grades and ranking were the determinant of whether a Junior could go. As boats have down-sized, and liabilities escalated, the Cruise has likewise. Nowadays we are fortunate to borrow a competitive 35-footer for the Dorade Trophy and the Beach Point Overnight. It’s great fun still, but it involves less of the Club membership.

The move to members under 10-years of age may also have something to do with that. Beginning in 1985, under the leadership of Lee Smith, Pam Gumprecht and Pat Erlanger, Maria Denslow started the Sea Urchin program in a strategy to develop a love of waterfront activities for members’ children who were not old enough to enter the Junior Club. It has grown into an active Camp whose members surpass the number of Juniors in some years and provides a transitional program into the Junior Club.

Cutting the season from 10 to 9 to 8 weeks is another evolution based on a different scale of life than that of 75 years ago. In a move to keep the older members involved, the ‘Big Boat Program’ offers flexible hours so they can practice for weekend races.

Thus, the Seawanhaka Corinthian Junior Yacht Club approaches its next 75 years. What will it hold? One thing for sure is constant change. But another is that some things will stay the same. We will emphasize Corinthianism. A few really nice youngsters will catch the spark and share it with pals. They will bond to the sport and devote countless hours to it and to the Club. Some will become Trustees and so keep the spirit alive for the next generation. As many a past Commodore of the senior Club has stated, “The Junior Club is one of the most important things we are doing”.
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