50 YEARS SAILBOAT RACING WITH THE CHAUTAUQUA YACHT CLUB

MY FIRST SAILBOAT:
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The summer of 1946 I was teaching a high school level 'Introduction to Aeronautics' course at the Chautauqua Institution's Summer School near the northwest end of Chautauqua Lake. My parents had purchased me a spanking new 16 foot Skaneateles Comet sailboat for me after I was discharged from the Air Force and returned to Princeton University. With an uncle's help, we uncrated the boat in my Grandfather's monster four story garage in Jamestown, New York, and trailered it to the Lakewood Yacht Club across the lake from my former summer home at Greenhurst. It was also across the lake from my nemesis, GRASS ISLAND. We popped the boat into the lake, set up the mast, boom and rigging and I sailed northwest up the lake to the Chautauqua Institution where I had a one bedroom apartment rented for the summer. It was a beautiful evening about 8:00 pm with a light easterly breeze moving me along nicely.

At 9:00 pm the easterly breeze quit cold dead and darkness fell when I had sailed about one mile up the lake from the Lakewood Yacht Club. I was up the creek without a paddle! My arrival at the Chautauqua Institution the next morning was about 10:00 am when the breeze picked up again. I slept for 14 hours that night and got up the next morning just in time to make my classes.

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:
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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.


In 1965 when we purchased and rebuilt our new summer home at Chautauqua Lake's Wahmeda subdivision, I bought an old Palmer 'wood' C-scow sailboat.

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.


DO C-SCOWS TIP OVER/CAPSIZE EASILY?
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You bet they do! With a very light boat, (about 500 pounds), and a monster sail, they will tip over in the blink of an eye when an unforeseen gust hits you. On capsizing the rules of the game are:

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.


A NEW SAILBOAT RACING PARTNER
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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.


Bill Laird and I continued racing C-scows together through the 1995 U.S. C-scow National Championships which were hosted by our Chautauqua Yacht Club on Chautauqua Lake, New York. Our yacht club also hosted the 1992 U.S. C-scow National Championship races. In 1992 we finished about 50th out of 65 boats and in 1995 we finished about 60th out of nearly 90 boats. One memorable experience from the 1980s when Buddy Melges of Americas Cup Fame was visiting. Buddy patroling alongside our boat in a tune up race and shouting at us, "bow down, bow down" with a megaphone each time we tacked and came about. In 1995, Bill at age 74 and I at age 69 retired from C-scow racing. It truly is a young athlete's sport and not for old geezers.