The Chautauqua Yacht Club had a mixed fleet of sailboats which raced every Saturday and Sunday. It consisted of about six Comets, twelve Lightnings, four C-scows and various and sundry sailboats in the handicap class. Each class started five minutes after the previous class had started with the Lightnings getting the first starting gun. Most all the skippers racing Comets were newcomers as I was. At the end of the two month racing series I placed third out of the six boats in the Comet fleet. More important than getting a third were the friendships I made with many others in the Yacht Club. Many of these close friendships have lasted well over fifty years as you will see later in this story.
The most significant event of the 1946 season at the Chautauqua Institution was my meeting your future grandmother. Every day I had breakfast of a quart of milk and cinnamon sweet rolls on the steps of the Colonnade Building where your future grandmother and I first met. We sailed together a few times in my little Comet sailboat. The tiller broke off on my sailboat one time, stranding us in the middle of the lake. This did not favorably impress her with sailboats. These were the first and last times I ever got her on a sailboat as she could not swim.
NEW YORK STATE C-SCOW CHAMPIONSHIPS:
Gram and I were married the summer of 1949 and spent our honeymoon at my grandmother's summer home on Chautauqua Lake. It just so happened that the New York State C-Scow Championship Races were being held on Lake Skaneateles, one of the New York State finger lakes, about a six hour drive away. We trailed four C-scows from our yacht club to Skaneateles, plus your Grandmother and I in our Ford convertible carrying a cold keg of beer. We passed out cupfulls of beer to each car trailing a boat throughout the drive. I crewed with my friend Bryce Burroughs on his C-scow during these races and we won the New York State championship. I was hooked on C-scows for the rest of my sailboat racing career which lasted through 1995.
A sketch of a C-scow is illustrated below. It is a twenty foot planing
sailboat with twin leeboards, (like centerboards), on each side. Depending
upon which tack you are on and the wind velocity, one may lower each leeboard
individually, anywhere from full down to only partially down for best speed.
They carry 160 square feet of sail on a twenty six foot aluminum mast. Most
racers have three sets of sails. Light weather up to 10 mph, medium weather wind
velocity up to 15 mph, and heavy weather wind velocity 16 mph and up. With a
160 square feet of sail and a planing hull design these sailboats really fly
often reaching 20 to 25 miles per hour on a reach, (crosswind). Going 20 miles
per hour on a sailboat on the water is much like going supersonic in a US Air
Force F-86D Sabrejet fighter aircraft.
The old wood C-scow I acquired was made by the Palmer Boat Works about 1946. The leading C-scow sailboat skippers bought a new boat every year or two. After ten years of racing, C-scows were usually donated to YMCA or Boy Scout summer camps. This boat's wood was in perfect condition since the previous owner had fiberglassed it. The problem was that the glass and polyester resin added about 250 pounds to the boat's weight which was a no, no. The more weight you carry the slower you go in light or medium winds. A third man crew is NEVER carried except in heavy weather, (wind above 15 miles per hour). As a result of the extra weight on my old Palmer, I did very poorly in the overall two month summer racing series even with a new sail. So poorly that for the next fifteen years I crewed with my old friend and next door neighbor, Bryce Burroughs. I had crewed with Bryce in 1949 when we won the New York State C-scow championship. Bryce was a second generation C-scow sailor and a superior skipper. We won dozens of first and second place trophies for the skipper and crew during the 15 years that we raced together. Uusally, I would race the Labor Day series of four races as skipper on Bryce's C-scow and I won a number trophies in them. Below is a sketch of a C-scow racing in heavy winds.
1. The crew lowers the upper leeboard and climbs out on it after throwing the
upper back stay line over the side.
2. The skipper swims around the boat and climbs up and stands on the lower leeboard holding on to the back stay line.
The hollow aluminum mast will usually float for about five minutes. As soon as
the wind swings the boat around so that the mast is downwind, assuming that
the skipper and crew weigh at least 150 pounds, the boat will come up and
right itself. Everybody jumps into the boat and continues racing. Experienced
C-scow racers can often tip over and right the boat in two minutes or less.
Here is a graphic of the skipper and crew standing out on the leeboards just
before the boat pops up and rights itself after capsizing. Anyone who races
C-scows in winds over 25 miles per hour is either drunk or a damn fool.
In 1982 my boyhood friend, Dr. Bill Laird bought a new Melges C-scow. I
bought a set of light weather and medium weather sails for the boat. We kept
the boat at buoy in front of the dock in front of my home at Wahmeda on
Chautauqua Lake. I had a little 12 foot aluminum rowboat with a five
horsepower Evinrude outboard to go back and forth to and from the sailboat
and/or tow it to and from regattas that were held further down the lake at
the Lakewood Yacht Club. At first we raced the boat as co-captains,
alternating each race as skipper. Later on, Bill was the full time skipper
and I was the full time crew as he was a much better sailor than I was. We
raced together through 1995 with the Chautauqua Yacht Club. Bill had been
Commodore of the yacht club in 1950s and I was the Commodore of the yacht
club in 1984 and 1985. By the mid-1980s our yacht club had become the one
with the largest racing C-scow fleet in the world. We had 35 C-scows. Starting
each race was much like a C-scow National Championship regatta there were
so many boats. The graphic below illustrates all the boats
in our C-scow fleet with their sail numbers. Our sail number was C-125 which
was our ages of 60 and 65 added together in 1986.