Years Among the Stars
Chapter V - The Birth of a Giant
Five star localities, that became Fleets before the day was over, were represented at the meeting which launched the Star Class Yacht Racing Association. It was held at the Hotel Astor in New York City on January 20, 1922. The charter fleets, in order of size, were Western Long Island Sound, Lake Erie, Detroit River, Eastern Long Island Sound and Narragansett Bay. Each fleet was entitled to as many votes as it had Stars, owned by different members in good standing. That rule still applies. Western L.I.S. commanded more votes than all the others put together and continued to hold Me balance of voting power for several years. Everything ran smoothly. There was the same undercurrent of levity and goodfellowship that has marked all subsequent Star meetings.
The constitution and
by-laws were read and adopted almost verbatim. Ben Linkfield, retiring
treasurer, suggested that our units be called fleets. It was more fitting
than the term chapter, which I had originally used. I cannot recall any
other changes. The western end of the Sound was selected as the scene
of the first championship, because of the size and seniority of its fleet.
The delegates also voted to publish a yearbook, to be known as "The
Log of the Star Class." In addition to the constitution and by-laws,
it was to contain a register of all Stars.
I was made secretary-in-chief, the fancy title being to distinguish me from fleet secretaries. Charles Burlingham, of Black Point, became the first treasurer. We then elected three executive members. Together with the four major officers, that constituted an executive committee of seven, who were in charge of association policy, appeals, etcetera. The three elected were Jack Wood, of Narragansett Bay; Jack Miller, of Detroit River and Bill McHugh. It will be noted that the elective officers were distributed among the charter fleets insofar as possible.
It was already known that Bill McHugh intended to form a Central Long Island Sound Fleet and he did so within a couple of months. It began with four boats. By the mid thirties it had a total of eighty-one, a single Star more than its western neighbor, and became the largest fleet in the association.
The old association turned its bank balance over to the newly formed one. It amounted to the large sum of fifty-nine dollars and some cents. That was all the working capital it had to start with. The most recent balance sheet shows the net worth of the I.S.C.Y.R.A. to be about $15, 000.00. Its chief source of income has been derived from dues, which were only a little more than nominal. There have never been any assessments, contributions, or bonded indebtedness to offset a deficit. Perpetual trophies, including the present World's Championship one, have never been listed as an asset, since they were procured by donations. I wonder how many other yachting organizations existing through so many critical years can match that record.
Approximately thirty-five attended the organization meeting. Following it they dined at the Astor. While it was not mentioned, everyone seemed to sense that a new page had been written in yachting history, one that was destined to alter the future of the sport. That you may know we knew what we were doing from the start, let me quote, in part from an editorial in the first Log:
"It is conceded that the future of yacht racing rests the small one-design classes . . . The first step is to select a boat that meets the requirements of the majority; then for the clubs to build such boats and make intersectional and international competition possible . . . "
After dinner Sig Adler took the visitors and a few locals to an artists's dance in Greenwich Village. And that is the story of the founding of the I.S.C.Y.R.A.
Aside from the Captain's Island race, which I happened to win in 1922, Sound racing had lost its significance, insofar as the Star Class, as a whole, was concerned. The Ratsey brothers had grown up and Ernest, sailing Irex III, won a lot of races, including Larchmont week. Arthur Knapp, then a promising young skipper, had his Star, Southern Cross, cut in half by a steamer, while waiting for a start at Seawanhaka. Atlantic week had folded up. I was too occupied with the affairs of the association to remember much else.
We were obliged to hold a National Championship and publish a yearbook, although we had no funds for either. Pop Corry, with the help of the old timers, handled the former and made a fine job of it. The Bayside, Port Washington and Manhasset Bay yacht clubs were inveigled into holding a race and throwing a party the night thereof. Bayside's vaudeville, Port Washington's stag smoker and Manhasset's farewell dinner dance, featuring the presentation of prizes, became fixtures for a number of years.
Due to Pop's influence, Horace Boucher presented a perpetual trophy. It was a half model of a Star under sail. The plaque on which it was mounted must been three feet high. Pop and Charlie Davis concocted a special prize for the winning skipper. The latter made an exquisite little thing, a tiny Star listed close-hauled, sailing on greenish opaque glass. It was enclosed in a glass case no more than a foot long. It was far more valuable than the perpetual trophy. Pop was the best salesman I ever knew. He could convince any powerboat owner, after talking a few moments, that we were actually doing him a great favor in allowing his boat to be used as a tender for one of the visitors. As yet there were no associate members, but I managed to get the New England Boat Works to offer, as a prize for the winning crew, a half interest in a new Star. Harry Reeve, who won it, sold his share at a good price and is probably the only Star crew that ever made money out of a Star championship.
All the business details of the association, however, were heaped upon my shoulders. With some help, I sold eight hundred dollars worth of advertising space in the Log. Printing was not too expensive then. It paid for the Log, its mailing and we had enough over for three National Championship medals. They were heavy medals of gold, silver and bronze, about two inches in diameter, with a raised Star sailing toward you. They were better than any Olympic medal I ever saw, but am afraid that they were not appreciated.
The most tedious job connected with that first Log was the register. A questionnaire had to be sent to every owner, with a self-addressed stamped envelope enclosed, otherwise no one would reply. Many of the Stars had been in existence for twelve seasons and had had several owners. After the original answer, I had the long drawn out task of tracing all the former owners. Nahant and Rochester, which eventually be. came two of our most loyal fleets, caused the most trouble at first. These owners were not inclined to answer at all. All their Stars had to be given new numbers, as both groups were numbered from one up and the members of the old association, on the Sound, were given priority. That accounts for the jumbled dates among the first hundred Stars in the register. It was at that time that I started the first volume of a permanent register. It was a ledger, with one page devoted to the history of every Star. There are now over a dozen volumes.
If I thought I was busy before, I was just beginning to learn the meaning of the word. We had no forms that first year. Everything had to be typewritten, even the original charters. There were many questions that the executive committee had to decide. Each meant seven copies of a lengthy letter and a vote sheet. I was flooded with correspondence. Some eventually resulted in new fleets, but tile majority, of course, did not. A few commodores misunderstood our aims and ordered me to stop contacting their club members. Later they became our best friends. Toward the end of the year, I drew up many of the forms now in use. It had become obvious that the association must be run automatically on some system of forms, otherwise no one man could do the detail work. It was fortunate that I was on the sick list for a couple of years. We had no money to pay for the work and anyone engaged in business could not have devoted his entire time to it. The old Remington was kept going day and night.
Two serious mistakes had been made. Dues were continued at one dollar, which was not enough to cover our normal expenses. We had also failed to state how fleets should choose their entries. That first year it was done by selection committees. That is how the tenn eliminations came into use. From then on entries were selected as the result of a series of trial races.
Western Long Island Sound had its three most promising candidates, Ratsey, Inslee and Linkfield, sail a number of short races. Any advantage gained by a wind shift was not to count. Ratsey won the majority of the races that first day and Linkfield was eliminated. Inslee had his mainsail re-cut overnight and, on the following day, easily won every race. He was unanimously named.
Even before that first championship, the association started to grow. A fleet was formed at Los Angeles and sent an entry. In fact we had a total of nine fleets before the year was over, with several more forming.
Bill Inslee made a clean sweep of the 1922 National Championship. Number one, the Taurus, was never even seriously threatened. It was simply a question of who would be runner-up. The only exciting moment was toward the end of the final race. Lake Erie's Fejo was second, with California's Three Star right astern. Both were running free. Weston pulled the old fake luff and got away with it. While the Schweitzer brothers, without looking behind, were still trimming in, Ben eased sheets, broke through Fejo's lee and took second in both the race and the series.
The Schweitzers made
another mistake. To quench their thirst, when at home, they had always
dipped a tin cup in the lake. They tried the same thing in the opening
race, without realizing that the Sound was salt water. Having had several
cups, they did not feel too well that first evening.
eople were still very narrow minded, especially in regard to intersectional yacht racing. If the local boy was beaten, they were inclined to take it as a personal affront and attribute it to almost anything, except that the best skipper had won.
That first championship was an opening wedge to the many international Star events that were to follow. Being a national championship, it is not included among the summaries in the back of this book, Nevertheless, it was of historic importance and the complete results should be a matter of record:
At that time it was much harder to win the Western L.I.S. eliminations than the Championship. Any one of a dozen in that fleet could have won the title during the first five years. There were other good Star skippers elsewhere but they were under a handicap. They did not have enough local competition to extend them to the limit. New to the class, they were forced to race on strange waters against a veteran of about ten years of Star experience. Gradually the fleets improved and closed the gap. The same is true today. There is no case on record of anyone comparatively new to the class winning a world's title. It takes a certain amount of big league experience to pick up the tricks of the trade. To get the most out of a Star requires a technique all its own, which cannot be acquired overnight, not even by the best of skippers in another class.
The second annual meeting was also held in New York City, in January of that year, but was very poorly attended. Only nearby local fleets sent delegates. The rest were represented by proxy. About the only business transacted was to place the word "international" before the association's original name. That was made possible by the English Bay fleet of British Columbia. Another small Canadian fleet was being formed at Victoria. The fact is that the championship was already was being called the "Internationals." The title of the event was not officially changed to World's Championship until a number of years later. While international in character, the event has always been for the inter-fleet championship of the Star class. No restriction has ever been placed upon the number of separate fleets, in a given country, that could send entries. It became obvious that a winter meeting in New York City would not serve the purpose. The date was changed to the period of the Internationals. That is why there were two I.S.C.Y.R.A. annual meetings in 1923.
Bill Inslee won his international title in 1923, but he did not have things all his own way. The second race was the first windward and leeward course the Stars ever sailed. Harry Wylie, of English Bay, took advantage of the rule which made a local crew optional. He selected Ernest Ratsey. Harry was the first to loom up out of the heavy fog and win, thereby becoming the first Star outside of the United States ever to win an international race. On the final day, Inslee was last at the first mark. The second leg was a broad reach, but no one paid any attention to him. He went far to leeward, lee-bowed the tide, hardened his wind to round the mark first and won by a good margin. British Columbia placed second in the series and Ralph Walton, of Central Lake Erie (there was then a Western Lake Erie), was third.
There was also an Australian entry that year. Ernest Walker sailed a chartered Star, renamed Kangaroo, to represent the New South Wales fleet. He did not materially affect the point score, which was lucky, as that Fleet never materialized. It taught us never to accept an entry from a pledged fleet thereafter. Pop was so enthused over the international aspect of the event that he wanted Howard Curry's Japanese butler to also sail a chartered Star and represent a proposed fleet in Japan. We turned thumbs down on that.
A disgraceful thing happened at the smoker on the night that Wylie won. Harry was feeling no pain, when the daily prizes were being presented. His empty plate pushed aside, he was enjoying a restful snooze, head pillowed on his folded arms. The announcement that he was the winner was greeted by cheers intermingled with boos. A shower of uneaten rolls was tossed at the recumbent figure. Perhaps that was done playfully, but some inebriated fool tore down the Canadian flag from the wall behind the speaker's table. He was immediately ejected and the flag replaced. A lot of outsiders crashed the gate at those early entertainments. He must have been one of them, as I never saw the fellow before and would have recognized him if he had belonged to the Star class or the host club, of which I was then commodore. I mention the incident only to show that I was not exaggerating about the feeling against anyone who beat the local entry in those days.
The annual meeting, held during the period of the Internationals, accomplished quite a lot. Ben Weston was elected vice-president and Bill Gidley, of Narragansett Bay, treasurer. The most important thing was to change the Internationals to a five race series. The boys from a distance felt that it was asking too much of them to make such a trip for only three races. Harry Wylie wanted a news publication and Ernest Ratsey named it Starlights. Miller, of Detroit, became the first editor. Bulletins were to be issued now and then and contained in a loose-leaf folder, on which was a beautiful picture of twenty-five Stars starting at Larchmont. Members could get all this for fifty cents. It's a minor matter but a milestone in Star history.
Pop was becoming a problem. He had several typewritten pages of new business to place before the meeting, but could not keep his mind on the agenda. Who wanted ham and who wanted cheese sandwiches to take out on the morrow? Then he interrupted things again to explain about the spectator boats. When urged to please get down to business, he would laugh and say, "Before I forget I must tell you about . . .", and he would drift off into an endless story of some race sailed in his youth. Pop was simply not interested in rules or business. It was all a gala affair to him at which everyone must have a good time. The night was hot and nearly two hours were spent with practically nothing accomplished.
Bill Gidley left the room. A few moments later the club steward opened the door and said there was a long distance phone call for Mr. Corry. Pop dashed off and I took the chair. Watterson was absent and Weston not yet elected. Skipping the reasons, I read the proposed resolutions. Almost before I was through with each everyone yelled, "Yes, read the next." By the time an indignant and puzzled Pop returned, all the business had been transacted. He had spent a long time arguing with the regular and then the chief operator who could find no trace of any such call. Bill told me later that he had left the receiver off the hook and a dollar tip to the steward had taken care of the rest.
Bill Gidley was really responsible for the Narragansett Bay fleet. He bought Stars and sold them on easy terms to young fellows, who otherwise could never have afforded one. That quiet old New Englander had a heart of gold and a head on his shoulders. He is gone now, but will always be remembered for his unselfish efforts in behalf of the Star class.
Jack Robinson was the sensation of 1924. He had sailed Stars on the Sound for a number of years, but had never even been a threat in the "B" division. He not only won the "B" Championship (from which he was automatically disqualified), but the eliminations and carried his streak right through to the Internationals. Arthur Knapp was his crew in the last named event, which certainly did him no harm. The Little Bear was found to be seven inches too short and a false bow had to be added. Yes, there were limitations by that time, but they were not published. It was Jack's first and last big year, but no matter what he did in 1924 he gained by it.
Let me give you an example. A flock of Stars were sailing the reverse course at Larchmont. They had rounded Scotch Cap and were drifting along on the last leg, sheets eased. The Little Bear was about twentieth and far behind the leaders. A big triple-decked houseboat came barging through the almost becalmed Stars. A davit caught Little Bear's shroud. After a vain attempt to free her, Jack and crew jumped for the guardrail and hung on, as the Star was being sucked under. Half full of water and listed, Little Bear broke clear of herself. They dove in and swam back to the Star. The houseboat never slackened speed. Whoever was at the helm should have been prosecuted, but nothing was done about it. The Star had been dragged almost to the finish line. With wet sails and still bailing, Jack placed third. Even being run down helped Jack that season.
Bill Inslee left the Sound and joined a new fleet on Gravesend Bay. To return to the waters whence he came, seemed like a perfectly natural act, but it caused much malicious gossip. The rooters that accompanied Bill and his new Star Sonny to the Internationals were so sure that he would win for the third time, that their attitude only made things worse. Pop had bought the Taurus and renamed it Little Dipper. He felt that he should be the owner of Star No. 1. For a time Pop did very well with the boat, but he could not keep it in tune and gradually fell back.
In order to hold five races, it was necessary to seek the help of two clubs on the north shore of the Sound, Larchmont and New Rochelle. Both had efficient R.C.'s, but they were used to running open regattas. They believed in starting on time whether anyone was there or not. The fact that the home fleet was responsible for getting distant entries to the line on time did not much interest them, nor would they act on a violation reported by a Star mark or course official. Larchmont insisted on starting off its breakwater. The race had to be held in the morning, not to conflict with an open regatta that afternoon. The Stars were sent over a special course. The wind was light and they were finishing as the large yachts were starting. The latter, unaware that an international race was in progress, yelled at the Stars to keep out of the restricted area and those on the Stars had a few choice words to say in reply. There was a lot of confusion but the Stars were strung out and no position was affected. Only a few Star members attended the entertainments given by those two clubs. After returning to Manhasset Bay, no one felt like crossing the Sound again.
A sequence of black Thursdays started that year. A tropical storm from the south with violent rain and wind squalls was the order of the day. At the attention signal Bill Inslee bent on his mainsail, started to hoist it, lowered it again and went back aboard his tender. No one ever knew the reason for his withdrawal. It was said that the crew was ill, but that was only a rumor. Certainly Bill did not mind bad weather.
Comstock and Gidley won the race, in the worst blow of the week, and gave Narragansett Bay second place in the series. With his most dangerous opponent eliminated, Jack was content to keep clear of everyone and bring the Little Bear back in one piece. At that he finished second to win the championship. Ben Weston took third honors for California.
The Star roster had jumped to twenty-seven fleets and with Cuba, New Zealand and Hawaii. the class had really become international. A gold star on the mainsail officially became the emblem of the champion and was retained by the skipper. A pair of these gold stars were presented to Jack Robinson at the final banquet and various sailmakers continued the practice for a long time. It was decided at the annual meeting, held in the Manhasset Bay Y.C., that the Boucher half model was not a suitable perpetual trophy anymore. As Bill Inslee had won it two out of three times, it was presented to him. Pop undertook the task of obtaining funds, by subscription, for a large silver cup. Sam Pirie, Woodie's father, was the largest individual contributor. He stipulated that no race should be held on Sunday, but Pop managed to get around that somehow.
A lot of things happened at the annual meeting. Starlights was to become a printed monthly publication and included in the dues, which were already five dollars. Stakeboats were to be used as marks instead of buoys and courses sailed twice around. A race circular was to be printed by the association and the accounting for rule emphasized. It must be remembered that a different club was holding every race and that the nearest starting line was about five miles from the anchorage. There had to be standard signals and courses and we could not take the chance of some race being started, which a visitor was unable to reach through no fault of his own. To sail twice around would also tend to limit any advantage gained from local knowledge and wind hunting. I agreed to take care of all this.
Six districts were established and, according to my original scheme, each was to be under the supervision of a district secretary. He was supposed to be a connecting link between the association and the district, but for a number of years that officer was only a fifth wheel to the cart. Fleet secretaries ignored him and continued to transact their business directly with the association. In fact the district secretary did not really come into his own until the members voted by ballot. Then voting for that officer was restricted to members within the district. Before that district secretaries were elected by the delegates to the annual meeting, who often did not know enough about strictly local district conditions to select the proper person.
What could we do with Pop Corry? He knew practically nothing about the organization, parliamentary procedure and seemed incapable of conducting a meeting. The old timers understood the situation, but the many new delegates, who had made a long trip to discuss business matters, were annoyed by the sort of horseplay, which had characterized our annual meetings. I believe it was Ray Schauer that came up with the answer. Create the office of commodore, especially for Pop's benefit. It would be a promotion, but would keep him out of executive matters. It was not the sort of thing that could be brought up at an open meeting and had to be planned several days before. It was done and Pop was elected. He did not like it at first. He thought he was being sidetracked and his feelings were hurt. After sleeping over it, however, he changed his mind. He was the number one member of the Manhasset Bay Y.C., had started it on a barge in Little Neck Bay, but had never been a commodore. The job fitted him like a glove. In that capacity he became a great asset to the association and, as I have said before, no one will ever be able to fill his shoes.
I became president and Tim Parkman, the one association minded member of Gravesend Bay, was elected secretary-in-chief. These changes necessitated a lot of amendments. The more important were to confer powers upon the president that had previously been vested in the secretary-in-chief. At first we had been forced to write the constitution around the officers we had, instead of electing officers with the qualifications for the respective jobs.
The Ace, sailed by Adrian Iselin and Ed Willis, qualified for and won the 1925 Internationals. Phillips gave English Bay runner-up honors and third place went to Schauer, of Southern California. By this time there were more fleets on the Pacific coast, but the original one did not change its name to Los Angeles Harbor until the following year.
The fourth race was between Iselin and a five hour time limit, which then applied. Ace just did manage to win, as the sun was sinking in the west. On one of the days it blew, the Ace finished ninth. Many felt that a shorter time limit would have cancelled a couple of races and that the result might have been different. I doubt it. Iselin and Willis, at that time, were the best combination in the Star class. Ace was second on the other windy day and, I believe, would have won regardless of conditions. Nevertheless, we changed the time limit to three and one-half hours and it has so remained. With a very light air, provided it is steady, a standard Star championship course can be sailed in that time. This has been proven over a period of twenty-eight years.
It was a period replete with notable incidents. Iselin, winning the Pandora trophy, had the most far-reaching effect. It was presented by Commodore Vance, of the Port Washington Y.C., for the highest score made in the last three races by entries representing fleets on the Atlantic seaboard. That was the first Star district and it became the first District Championship. Such championships are now held in almost every district in the association. The Pacific coast claims to have held such a championship as far back as 1923, but that is impossible. There were no districts at that time. As a matter of fact, the event in question was an open one for all classes on the Pacific coast and did not meet the requirements of a Star District Championship.
Any skepticism about the international aspect of the event was dispelled. M. deSena, who brought his Star up from Havana, could not speak a word of English. Earl Blouin, Talita's Cajun skipper, could, but no one could understand him. The new vice-president, who served for five years, came with the New Orleans boys. He acted as delegate and chaperon combined - and what a chaperon Prentice Edrington turned out to be. Far-off Hawaii was entered. We saw and heard (with emphasis on the latter) Herb Dowsett for the first time. He was and still is the leading Star spirit around Honolulu. Prentice, of course, was no shrinking violet. He answered to the nickname of "Noisy" for a time.
Joe Jessop, a California entry, brought his Star from San Diego Bay. While at anchor, mainsail flapping in the breeze, the boom hit his crew in the head and knocked him overboard. When Sykes did not come up, Joe dived for him and managed to get the unconscious Sykes back aboard the Windward and revive him. That was almost a fatal accident. There might have been another. In a light air race, Blouin slipped and fell in, while fussing with the outhaul. He claimed that he could not swim a stroke, but he learned mighty fast. He covered the twenty yards that separated him from Talita in nothing flat.
It was a year in which many things happened for the first time. Lake Otsego, of the little inland lake fleets, was the first of such fleets to enter the Internationals. It was represented by Bill Hyde, who sailed the Cooperstown. It was a shame that Colonel Wait did not make it that year. For two years he had represented Eastern L.I.S. and "Waiting for Wait" became a byword. Sometimes one added, "He may finish with the help of the Lord," Lord being the name of his crew. Yes, the colonel would have found a worthy opponent for last place in Bill Hyde. They were two of the nicest and most popular fellows imaginable, but in championship competition they sure were babes in the woods. The following is almost unbelievable, yet it actually happened.
Bill Hyde missed one
race because of a luncheon date in the city. On a rainy morning, he boarded
the Cooperstown with an umbrella and wearing galoshes. Sailing a windward
and leeward course, he was half a lap behind on the second leg. He met
the other boats, again tacking for the weather mark. Evidently Bill decided
that he was not doing too well because he had his sail out. In any event
he strapped her down and sailed Cooperstown downwind close-hauled for
the last half of that leg. Nor did the crew Brewster fail to contribute,
as a delegate at the annual meeting. He suggested that one of the title
races be a sort of novelty. Women's bathing suits were to be placed on
a float and numbered. The entries should sail a short course, anchor,
skipper and crew swim to the float, put on the bathing suits, swim back
to their boats and sail to the finish line. It had been tried on his local
waters and created a lot of interest. The heck of it was that he was perfectly
serious and it was introduced as a motion and voted down.
As per schedule, a printed Starlights appeared in January, 1925, and not a single monthly issue was skipped for nineteen years. During the second world war, due to lack of material, only seven or eight issues were published for a couple of years, until the regular monthly schedule was again resumed. Starlights has been one of the chief mediums of keeping the Star membership united. "Little Star Boat Of Mine," words and music by Nell Jacobsen, came out that year. It was a simple, catchy little tune, that became the theme song of the Star class for a number of years. One of the printed score sheets is on file at the central office. It is the only original tune especially written for the Stars and should be revived.
Another thing done at the annual meeting was to create an international race committee. It was quite similar to the one we have today. All major association officers, present and eligible, by reason of not being contestants, plus as many district officers, as had to be elected, constituted an I.R.C. Of five. It was not supposed to run races or have anything to do with rules of right-of-way. It was given jurisdiction over class rules and regulations only and required to have at least one member aboard the committee boat, to act as an observer and advise the R.C. about class requirements. The Star class was again lucky, as the I.R.C. was forced to act the following year.
Everyone was getting fed up with having the Internationals constantly on the Sound and interest was starting to lag. Other fleets had developed to the point where they could now hold the event. It was voted that the Internationals could not be held on the waters of any given fleet for more than three consecutive years. Then, if not won outright by a challenger, it would go to the fleet having the greatest aggregate points in those three years. The rule was changed several times, until the present rotating system was finally perfected.
The defender of a Star championship (primarily the skipper) is the entry representing the fleet that last won the title in question. In other words the fleet defends, regardless of who represents it or where the event is held. If not represented, then there is no defender. People were not yet accustomed to the idea in 1926, at least not as applied to yachting, and being the defender was looked upon as sort of an empty honor, since the Internationals had to leave the western end of the Sound.
I was sailing 343 that year, my first Iscyra. It was built the previous winter by Joe and Tom Parkman, Tim's father and uncle respectively. Tim, our secretary-in-chief, was a young lawyer and not connected with his father's boat business. The name Iscyra, suggested by Herb Dowsett, is the initials of the association and seven of the fifteen Stars I have owned were so named.
Iscyra won the home eliminations hands down. It was still more difficult to win than the Internationals, as there were the normal number of entries in all but the last two races. Due to a postponement, they were held as a double header. Having already qualified, I did not have to enter either. Ed Willis, the potential runner-up, would have to put about a dozen boats between us to top Iscyra's percentage. The series, to all intent and purpose, was over. There were no daily prizes and the races did not count for anything else. In those days, the boys did not race without an incentive. I just went along to see what would happen. One other Star showed up in the morning and Ed and I were the only starters in the after noon. Perhaps he had to sail one more race to qualify, I cannot remember. Otherwise those two races were a farce. He won both and I just followed leisurely over the course, to wind it up.
With three firsts, Rhody won the Internationals easily, It was a popular victory and far better than if the event had gone to Narragansett Bay on the aggregate point system. Swing Starring gave Central L.I.S. second place and Harry Fisher, of San Diego Bay was third. With two Cuban entries, one representing Cienfuegos and three from California, it gave us a total of sixteen.
Stainless steel rigging was not yet in use. Iscyra had been hauled to dry out and we found that the shrouds had rusted through just above the turnbuckles and had to be renewed. That meant stretching the wire and tuning all over again. I came down with the gout and could not do it alone. My crew, Ray Finlay, was one of the best, but he had to work late right up to the first day of the series. He had a brood of kids that could not be left home alone so he was forced to help his wife wash and dress them every morning so they could come along. I had to conduct the annual meeting and attend to a lot of advance details. To tell the truth it did not worry me and I never gave a thought to the boat. I was suffering from the overconfidence of most Sound skippers. I thought that I could take care of all this while racing - but I was very much mistaken.
The foregoing is not an alibi. I might have done better, but am sure I would not have won - the gap had been bridged. It is mentioned to illustrate a point. Many of our fleets have made the mistake of electing a skipper, who brought a title to their waters, to some important local job. The intent was to confer an honor upon him, but actually it hurt both his chances and theirs. It's the old story. Executive work and racing ability are separate and distinct and cannot be combined at the same time. No one can win a major championship unless he devotes his entire attention to his boat, both before and during the races. Star records will bear me out in this.
A distant skipper could still use a local Star, if he desired. The theory was that racing a boat, with which he was not familiar, placed him at a disadvantage. Harry Fisher took advantage of the option. Ernest Ratsey, who was willing to do anything to cooperate, put his Irex III in tip top shape and brought it over to Port Washington for San Diego's use. Harry took one look at Irex III and said something to the effect that he would just as leave bend his sails on the club float. Irex III had won at Havana and was also Sound champion that year. Many thought it the best conditioned and fastest Star on the Sound. Everyone, of course, is entitled to his own opinion and eventually Harry was able to obtain another Star.
That incident brought to light several defects in the chartering rule. In the first place skippers, who had gone to the expense of shipping their Stars a long distance, began to ask why they should continue doing so, if a fellow could bring his sails and race a local boat, which had not been subjected to the rigors of a lengthy trip and was already in perfect condition. A new fleet, which did not yet know too much about tuning a Star, gained by using a local one. We already had more distant entries than there were Stars in some of our smaller fleets. Suppose all distant entries requested local boats of such a fleet, it would not have enough to go around. The chief objection to the rule was the bad blood it caused. Fortunately very few had ever availed themselves of this option. If there were two, however, the fellow who did the worst would claim favoritism. No owner likes to loan his Star any more so than his tooth brush. "Charter" was a technical term. It involved the passing of a mythical dollar. Hence the use of chartered Stars was barred from then on. An exception, however, could be made in extraordinary cases, such as a yacht being damaged beyond repair.
The first race of the Internationals, held by the Bayside Y.C. is worthy of mention. Ernest Ratsey had presented me with the lightest weight duck sail I have ever seen. There was not a cloud in the sky and we decided to give it a try. The R.C. made a mistake and gave us a gun on the lower. I was almost on the line and got quite a start on the others. The first leg to leeward and Iscyra ghosted away. Then it began to breeze up. When we hauled on the wind that sail just collapsed. I was lucky to be able to finish ahead of two boats. If it had stayed light, Iscyra would have gone into a very big lead, but I doubt if we could have finished within the three and one-half hour time limit. The moral is, do not use light weight ghosting sails in a championship.
Now we come to the all important incident of 1926, which affected the method of holding all future Internationals. The New York Y.C. had agreed to hold one of the races, replacing New Rochelle on the schedule. It was considered a big feather in our cap. Pop and I had a long talk with Edmund Lang, then commodore of Manhasset Bay Y.C., and a member of the New York Y.C. race committee. He wanted to be sure that our I.R.C. would not reverse their decision on right-of-way rules. We assured him that the I.R.C. had no such power but explained that it did have jurisdiction, on appeal, over class rules or procedure. An I.R.C. member, however, would be on the committee boat just to make sure that nothing went wrong. That was fully agreed to and should be remembered, in the light of what happened.
It started to blow the night before and kept increasing. The east wind had an unobstructed sweep of nearly two hundred miles. By starting time it was blowing fifty-six miles per hour (weather bureau) and was accompanied by a cold driving rain. The seas were sharpened and curling, as it was blowing against an ebbing tide. The Stars started out at the appointed hour behind their tenders, mostly small cruisers and auxiliaries. When they rounded Gangway, these could not buck the wind and sea and headed for the sheltered waters of Crescent Cove, so the crews could bend on sails. The two marker yachts could not take it and were there also, having turned their marks over to John Atwater, course official, and the Mongoose. She came in a little later with the two marks, anchored them and Johnny circled about with a megaphone. He had tried to place a mark, but it would not hold, nor would the Mongoose. He did not think there could be a race, but instructed us to wait there until he went back to the committee boat and found out what the R.C. wanted to do. When he returned he told us that three Stars were already racing, although there was no mark. He had reported that twelve entries were awaiting instructions, he said, but no one paid any attention to him.
What actually happened was this: a large steam yacht (presumably Fred Bedford's) had managed to tow four Stars to the line. The R.C. gave the signals and three of those Stars started, with double reefed mainsails and no jibs. They were Bill Inslee, Vic Darlinson and Floyd Clancy, who finally finished in the order named. The fourth, Starring and Bedford, used better judgment and did not attempt it. Our two I.R.C. representatives aboard the committee boat, Prentice Edrington and Tim Parkman, went below and partook of champagne and an elaborate buffet lunch, which no one else seemed interested in. They claimed to have called the R.C.'s attention to the fact that it could not start a race without marks or all the entries being accounted for, but were told that the responsibility of placing marks was that of the Star class and that the race would start regardless of who was missing. Pop Corry was largely to blame for what followed. He was aboard a drifting Coast Guard boat and had no authority over the course sailed. It was perhaps a mile and one-half from the line, when Inslee approached. Pop signaled him to round the Coast Guard. The second time around, the Coast Guard boat had drifted to within less than a mile of the line and was rounded again.
The R.C. insisted
that it was a race insofar as it was concerned and that it would present
the daily prizes to the three who sailed. A notice was posted and the
R.C. went home. When the skippers and crews, who had followed instructions
and waited in the cove, saw this, hell broke loose. When efforts to reach
the R.C. by phone failed, they got together and protested the race, for
gross violation of class rules. It was not sailed around specified marks,
the marks used were drifting, the course was about half the required distance,
the attention signal was given with twelve entries unaccounted for and
the R.C. would not heed the report of the Star course official or the
advice of the I.R.C. representatives aboard. After about half an hour's
debate, the I.R.C. announced that the protest was sustained and the race
thrown out. Too many cooks spoil the broth and it was simply an unfortunate
misunderstanding as to who had authority over what.
One more race had
to be sailed, but there was no club to conduct it. The I.R.C. did so,
using a Coast Guard boat as a committee boat. It was a dark fall day and
still blowing pretty hard. We were sent to the east over a windward and
leeward course. The weather mark, which still displayed a black shape,
was easy to find, as a Coast Guard searchlight was kept on the metal cone
above the shape. By that time I had Iscyra going again and won. The daily
prizes were presented by the I.S.C.Y.R.A. Comstock and Gidley sailed to
an easy third and took the series.
That unfortunate race, however, made one point very clear. There cannot be two heads to any given enterprise. At the second session of the meeting, the duties of the I.R.C. were extended to cover the actual conduct of all World's Championship races and decide all protests.
A few yacht clubs objected to this at first. They felt that if their name was in any way connected with a Star World's Championship race, it should be sailed over the club's courses and under its own method, or not at all. This was the dawn of a new era, however, and they.soon began to realize that the championship races of a world-wide class must be conducted according to a uniform system and that only those versed in regulations of the said class could be expected to enforce them properly. In fact I believe they soon welcomed shifting the responsibility to our shoulders. From then on clubs could play host to an international event without risking criticism that was bound to follow any unintentional mistake, or having a decision of theirs overruled.
At that time we were only measuring Stars entered in the Internationals. Adrian Iselin's suggestion that all Stars be measured and that a certificate become mandatory, to enter any Star race, was approved. This made it necessary to develop a new department. We already had a chief measurer in Fred Teeves, but he had to appoint certified measurers in every Star locality. Their job, for which they were entitled to a fee, was to take the physical measurements only and submit them to Teeves, who would apply the allowed variations, granting or refusing the certificate. While those variations existed, they had not as yet been made public. It was a gigantic task, since around five hundred Stars already existed, nor was it possible to fully complete it during the first year.
Those first five years,
when the Internationals were held on the Sound really amounted to an experimental
period. We were floundering around in the dark and making many radical
rule changes. Others followed, of course, but generally speaking they
were of minor importance. From time to time our rules have been amplified,
more or less to plug loopholes that had been discovered in existing ones.
Practically all of the fundamental rules, the rules around which the Star
class has been built, were adopted during those first five experimental
years on the Sound.