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 in the 1940-1960s.

I called Seymour Beek and Dave Ullman and asked them what were the most active fleets, names to look for and where to look.

I headed over to the Newport Harbor and Balboa yacht clubs' libraries 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, Snipe and Star fleets.

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. Dick McKibben was the winner.

By the time the '50s rocked in, the entries had grown to 163 boats on the starting line. Names to look for were Ronnie Miracle, Steve Titus, Barton Beek, Janet Power, Tom Frost, Dan Thompson, Jeff Allen, Dick Deaver and Henry Sprague III.

Joe Beek donated the Perpetual Trophy, known as the "Gold S," which was 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 and Fred Schenck.

The boat was used in the 1932 Olympics and then became popular for junior sailors in our harbor. It was about 12 feet long with five feet of beam. It weighed in at 275 pounds.

The Rhodes 33 was built with the intent of sailing in and around Newport Harbor. It is 33 feet long, 6.8 at the beam and weighs in at 5,800 pounds. The CR on the sail dates back to its 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 included Connie Wurdemann aboard Midship, Harlan "Hook" Beardslee on Seebee, Bill Joyce's Crispin II, Tommy Thomas with Nimbus, Bob Collins with 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: Beardslee sailing the No. 8 Seebee. I found this quotation 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 were Jack Hillman, George Fleitz, W.G. Durant and Tom Myers.

It seemed that after you grew out of the Snowbird, you sailed a Snipe. The Snipe is 15.5 feet, 5-foot beam and the hull weighs 381 pounds.

The class goes back to the early '40s in Newport Harbor. In 1946 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 came in second place in junior championships.

That same year Ken and Bob Davis won the Snipe Internationals. In 1953 and '54 Frost and Fred Schenck won the Snipe Class National Championships. In 1950 and 56 King won the championships.

Blend this together, and can you imagine how strong the Balboa Snipe fleet was at that time?

Looking over our harbor's top sailors is like reading a who's who in sailing. Other top Snipe sailors from this time frame were Dan Elliott, Don Ayres, Max King, Jim Lewis, Deaver, Ted Wells, Smyth and Greene. Can you imagine sailing Snipes in our harbor in our summer series back then?

The Star boats came to Newport Harbor when Bill Ficker and Mark Yorston won the World Championships in 1958. That boat is 22.7 feet long with a beam of 5.8. She weighs 1,480 pounds. The fleet was most active from 1958 through 1968 with other big names from our harbor winning the world championships.

In 1964 Don and Kent Elder won the world champions 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.

Sea ya!

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

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