Photo Credit: FRIED ELLIOTT /

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.

George A. Corry was elected president and Henry Watterson, of Cleveland, vice-president.

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.

From the point of view of the association, the event could not have been more satisfactory. The three major sections of the United States, the Atlantic coast, Pacific coast and Great Lakes had placed in order named. All the entries had won one or more daily club prizes, except Eastern L.I.S. The entertainments were crowded every evening. Inslee's victory had been a foregone conclusion from the start. The locals, who constituted the great majority of those present, gave all the visiting contestants a rousing ovation. Had a visitor won, it might have been different.

People 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.

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