Years Among the Stars
Chapter III - Geneology of the Star
Having met the Star Class during an old fashioned Atlantic race week, I hope that the reader may have gained something of the same impression of it as I did. We must now delve into the dim past, for there is no point in embarking upon a voyage without knowing from whence you start. Those who have been in the Star class for some time, probably know much of what is contained in this chapter and they will have to bear with me. To others, however, the genealogy of the Star, which can be quite accurately traced, and the circumstances and general conditions leading up to the building of the first Stars, should prove to be of considerable interest.
The hull is of humble origin but, nevertheless, of sturdy pioneer stock. Its design is strictly North American and cannot be mistaken for anything else. When the first settlers were able to obtain boards and gave up using log canoes, they began to build little boats known as flatties. These flatties became abundant along the North Atlantic coast from the Carolinas to and throughout New England. In these little flat bottom boats you find the first trace of what eventually led to the Star's design.
The Star's common ancestor was the New Haven Sharpie, which can be traced back to 1835. Although we blush to admit it, these sharpies were used primarily for oystering. They had two masts with leg-of-mutton sails, but no jib. Next came the Nonpareil Sharpie, built at Roslyn, Long Island, in 1880. It had a slight V bottom, another step toward the Star hull. All of these little boats, up to this point, had centerboards. The type was not considered especially adaptable for racing, nevertheless, several more or less unsuccessful attempts were made in that direction. There was the Mascot of 1879, a big lumbering craft with little speed. Then the Question, built in 1895, on whose performance I have no information. The Departure which appeared in 1896 was designed by William Gardner to beat the Newport 30's. It was able to do so in a breeze or with plenty of reaching, but not otherwise. The Departure has straight sides, a chine and a fin keel. It is the last connecting link, in an unbroken chain, from the primitive log canoe to the Bug class, the Star's immediate predecessor and prototype.
The rig, all four phases, which have been of European influence, is of more aristocratic lineage, that is to say rather of yacht than work boat derivation. There is no point in going into much detail of the genealogy of the rig, since it applies to all racing yachts. Only the present phase, namely, flexible spars, originated in and were developed by the Star class. Thus we have a new world hull and an old world rig, a truly international combination for a world-wide international class.
The Bug rig and first Star rig was the sliding gunter, presumably English. It consisted of a gaff (or yard) almost as long as the boom, which peaked up to more than half its own length above the top of the mast. To give you some idea of the length of the gaff, it was about 3 feet longer than the present boom. It looked quite different from the average gaff rig of those days, which had a shorter gaff that set at perhaps a 30% angle to the mast. The first Stars had only one set of shrouds. The mainsail was laced to the gaff and the boom and the luff was lashed to old fashioned wooden mast hoops, which were supposed to slide up and down the mast but often jammed. Like the little East Side Kids, who used to be sewed up in their underclothes for the winter, the mainsail, once on, stayed on and in most instances for the entire season. After a rain you went aboard, took off the waterproof sail-cover and hoisted the drenched sail to dry. Within a week or so mildew began to appear and by the end of the season the sail was pretty black. It would have been difficult to beat any rule limiting the number of suits of sails allowed per season, had there been such a rule, because you could spot a new sail as easily as you can a substitute who has just gone into a football game on a muddy field. No one even thought of changing sails before a race. It was much too long a process.
In 1921 the short Marconi was made optional. Owners were rather skeptical about this, because an experiment a few years before on Star No. 46 proved a failure. The mast was the combined length of the old mast plus the distance the gaff had extended above it. Because good skippers had always kept the old gaff peaked up so high that it was practically parallel to the mast, the mainsail could be used on the short marconi by simply putting slides on the luff. The boom remained unchanged. The track and slide idea was so convenient that it was immediately applied to the boom also. From then on skippers began to own sails of different draft and bent them on just before a race. The rig varied considerably. Some used long wooden spreaders and others none at all. This rig was retained for nine or ten years, and in case of some fleets for even longer. The term Marconi rig is really a misnomer, although it has now come into pretty general use. When the first tall sticks appeared on the larger racing yachts, with several sets of spreaders and their complex systems of staying, it reminded people of a Marconi wireless station. Hence the name Marconi. The correct name is Bermudian rig. It made its first appearance in Bermuda on a racing sloop in 1808 and that yacht is recorded as having easily beaten its rivals. Later it was used even on pilot boats in Bermuda, but more than a century elapsed before it began to gain favor among the racing yachtsmen of either continent.
The tall Marconi was made optional by the Star class in 1930. Enrique Conill had a long talk with the writer in January, 1929, at Havana. He was trying to develop the Star class in Europe, but reported that the European yachtsmen would not adopt any such antiquated rig as the Star still had. Actually the short Marconi, with its long boom, was a bastard rig. The only excuse for it was to make it possible to use the same mainsail. Modernizing the rig had already been discussed, but economy in those days was the underlying thought that governed any proposed revision of the rules. It was obvious that the Star was beginning to look pretty seedy and out of date. Those intending to have new Stars built, both abroad and in America, did not own old mainsails and were not interested in that angle of it. Conill's arguments, however, were the deciding factor. A tentative tall Marconi rig was demonstrated by Frank Robinson during the World's Championship at New Orleans in October of 1929. The mast was lengthened by almost five feet and the boom shortened, but the annual meeting, which adopted the rig in principle, insisted that the sail area remain the same. A committee consisting of Earnest Ratsey, Prescott Wilson, Frank Robinson and Larry Bainbridge worked out the new specifications. They are the same specifications that apply today. This was the starting signal for the really worldwide development of the Star class on all continents. It made a remarkable difference in the boat's appearance, which can best be described in Commodore Corry's own words: "The Star now looks like a slim, graceful, young girl, instead of a fat dumpy little old woman."
Spar flexing, is an operation. It was the fourth major phase in Star development, but it was no more a change of rig than the advent of the roller boom. By this I mean that it involved no change in the tall Marconi specifications, which were not even morally infringed upon. Spar diameters were slightly reduced, especially that of the boom. The latter was trimmed from about its mid-point to a bar across the center of the cockpit. Spar diameters and method of rigging had always been optional. Only the length of spars and size of sails were regulated. This maintained uniformity in design, but gave the skipper enough leeway to use his ingenuity and this policy has been responsible for the continued improvement in Stars. Flexible spars can be credited to Walter von Hütschler. They originated in Germany in 1936, although von Hütschler claims that he was simply trying to lighten his rig and did not realize the advantage to which they could be put until he raced his "Pimm" in the 1937 World's Championships on Long Island Sound.
European Stars raced in the 1936 Olympics with booms that trimmed to the
center of the cockpit. These included "Wannsee", the winning
German entry, sailed by Dr. Bishoff. Leading skippers in the Americas
began to experiment with flexible spars in 1938. This process opened up
an entirely new field in draft control. It is the only completely new
theory, of any real scientific value, connected with the aerodynamics
of sail, which has been introduced since the Marconi rig. While this almost
automatic method of draft control, by means of spars, may not be thoroughly
perfected as yet, the theory is simple and fundamentally sound. For that
reason, either in its present or some improved form, it will be eventually
adopted by all racing yachts. But more about flexible spars later. At
the moment we are dealing with the general development of the Star's design,
and this brings us up-to-date with regard to the rig.
One-design racing in the old days, or to be more exact, the adverse conditions surrounding this type of racing, had a very definite bearing upon the rules, policy and ultimate growth of the Star class. At this point, therefore, it would be advisable to briefly review the salient facts which affected the one-design yacht of the past. The dividing line between its ancient and modern history, was World War I. As we now look back, we can see that the first world war marked the end of an old era and the beginning of a new one. This was true, not only of one-design racing, but of yachting in general.
The first one-design yachts were the Water-Wags. They began racing in the year 1878 on Dublin Bay, Ireland. The enterprising owners of these little boats, who were far ahead of their day, even had a class organization, known as the Water-Wag Association. It is too bad that they were unable to spread their idea further afield, since that might have saved about forty years in getting one-design racing organized on a sound basis.
An epidemic of one-design racing raged throughout the yachting world about the turn of the century, but it got off on the wrong foot. That, of course, was during the hey-day of the large racing yacht. The activities of those majestic creatures, however, were confined to very few highly developed racing centers, localities where a number of prominent yacht clubs were clustered together within a comparatively small area. In such centers, one-design classes had a name and sail emblem, and were included in the weekend open regattas, held by various clubs. Once you moved away from these centers, however, yacht clubs were widely separated. There was no inter-club racing and no large racing yachts were to be found in their anchorage, unless they were visitors. The one-design classes were smaller numerically, few carried any sail emblem and they were known only by the name of the club.
Every yacht club, large or small, had its own one-design class The smaller clubs, that were scattered throughout the world and constituted the great majority, were entirely dependant upon their one-design class for such racing as they had, plus, perhaps, a handicap class made up of miscellaneous small boats. The idea seemed to be that each club must have a distinctive one-design class of its own, a boat especially designed for its particular weather conditions and different from any other one-design class. In other words a one-design class was considered a strictly local proposition and the private property of a given club. That was fine for the designers, but it isolated every group of small boat skippers and prevented them, as well as the clubs, from having any interests in common.
Most of these classes of little inexpensive cat boats, sloops or knockabouts (a knockabout being a sloop without a bowsprit) consisted of from four to six boats. Of course there were some larger classes of a dozen or more, but I am speaking of the average little club. After the first flush of enthusiasm, which seldom lasted beyond the first season, the class began to break up. One skipper won most of the races, which was natural enough, and the tail enders became disgusted and sold their boats. They were frequently sold out of the club, and then there would not be enough boats left to make a race. As soon as one class died out, another was started. The average life- of such little classes was two to three years. In the established racing centers, their life span was a bit longer. There, if a couple of boats were sold to a neighboring club, it did not make too much difference, since most of the racing was in open Saturday regattas. Even in such instances, however, unless the class was fairly large numerically, the boats soon got into inactive hands.
There were also some one-design classes of large yachts, such as the N.Y. 30's, 50's, and 40's. The first named held together for many years. While these were New York Yacht Club classes, nevertheless they enjoyed inter-club racing, since their owners, in almost every instance, also belonged to other clubs. Furthermore, they had the support of all the prominent clubs, which the little classes lacked. The little one-design classes were constantly changing and difficult to keep track of. There were so many of them, all of which had to be provided for in an open regatta, that several were started on the same gun. There was one rule which held true in all cases, every one-design class gradually began to dwindle after the first year and in no case were new boats ever added to such classes, until the Star came along. Before the Star, there was no such thing as a growing one-design class.
The Bug class made its inauspicious debut, in the midst of this chaotic jumble of small fry, in 1907, at the Western end of Long Island Sound. It was a seventeen-foot knockabout the smallest keel boat of its day. The keel weighed one hundred fifty pounds and the boat cost one hundred forty dollars. It has often been referred to as a Star in miniature, but such was not quite the case. According to Francis Sweisguth, while the design was very similar, it was not absolutely identical.
Very little of the Bug's history has been handed down for after all, it was only one among innumerable little classes and did not attract much attention. Evidently they were pretty seaworthy little fellows, for the New York Herald of July 27, 1907, published a glowing account of a wind-swept Sound, of lost masts and split sails, and stated that the Bugs were the only class to finish without a casualty. The Big Bug, sailed by George Corry, won that race. Again in 1909, when the Larchmont Yacht Club cancelled its regatta, because of a northeasterly gale, four Bugs sailed the course with double reefed mainsails and no jibs; Corry winning and Donald Cowl finishing second. While several of the Bug owners sailed for the first couple of years in Stars, the two just mentioned and Commander A. B. Fry, were the only ones whose names made Star history. The Bug was also one of the very few classes that actually started as an interclub class, rather than becoming one later as a result of boats being sold into other clubs.
There was one interesting story about the Bugs, which George Corry was fond of telling. It seems that some of the owners became fed up with his winning so constantly while his shadow, Commander Fry, placed second. Then for a time Pop was beaten by boats which he had experienced no trouble with before and could not remember having seen in the race. Race committees also began to notice that more Bugs finished than had started. What happened was that some of the Bugs sailed over to the Long Island shore or lurked behind Execution Light, depending upon the course, until all the miscellaneous small fry began to round the mark. Then they would sail out and mingle in the parade, making sure that no Bug had yet rounded. The race committee, of course, gave a gun to each new sail emblem that crossed the line. It might have jotted down the number of boats that started, but it did not have a list of the numbers on their sails, that is not until Pop smelled a rat and put a stop to this.
You may think that the above is a pretty tall tale, but I am not so sure that it is. I raced in those days myself and can tell you that the idea was to win, no matter how. A smart trick, if you could get away with it, was something to even brag about, that is after the time limit for filing a protest had expired. The general feeling seemed to be that rules were written to be beaten, if you were clever enough to do it. For example, I doubt if there was a skipper who did not, at one time or another, haul out his boat secretly in the dead of night, before some important race, and apply potlead to the bottom. It was believed to be against the rules, but the laugh was on them. Not so long ago, Yachting published an article about having looked back over all available old racing rules and having found no rule against the use of graphite on a boat's bottom. In spite of this, I know of cases where race committees, of small clubs, disqualified yachts for having done that, so sure were they that it was against the rules. You can scarcely blame them, for there was no standard code of rules in those days. A race committee of one of the isolated little clubs was lucky if it had an old year book of some larger club to refer to. I know that I raced cat boats for two years before I ever saw a rule book of any kind. If we did get our hands on one, we assumed it to be a syllabus and not the complete text.
If you really want to hear a tall tale, also told by George Corry, here it is. Before the day of the Bug, when he was sailing a Swamscot Dory, a race was arranged from Cow Bay (now Manhasset Bay) to Hempstead Harbor, the next bay to the east. This was a free for all, open to all the little centerboard boats. No rules, other than right-of-way were to apply. That meant that you did not have to round any given buoys but cut corners as you pleased. The first in was to be the winner. Since there were no power boats, the question of getting a tow was not considered. Immediately after crossing the starting line, one of the entries sailed back to the club and beached his boat. The crew went overboard and carried it to a farm wagon, which was waiting. Passing through the village of Port Washington, they picked up a little German band that was playing in front of a saloon. It was only a short distance overland to Hempstead Harbor. When they reached there they launched the boat, stepped the mast, and, as there was no crew limit, crowded the four piece German band aboard. It almost sank the boat, but the weather was light and they only had a short distance to go. With the band playing "There'll Be A Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight," they crossed the finish line. Having complied with all the conditions of the race, the triumphal procession started home, with the cup, before the first sail was sighted in the mouth of Hempstead Harbor. It was just as well, for fists had been known to fly after a race for much less provocation, especially when Baymen (professionals) were allowed in the boats. My only comment on this yarn is that George Corry was always known to be a pious, temperate and truthful gentleman.
Getting back to the Bug class, after four years, the owners decided that the boats were too small, too wet and much too uncomfortable. Anyone who has ever raced a Star can well imagine what it must have been like in a six foot shorter boat, for two persons to handle themselves in a proportionately smaller cockpit. In all other respects the owners liked their boats and believed that a slightly larger boat of the same design would be ideal - and in this they were right. It has been generally believed that George Corry was the first to suggest that the lines of the Bug be extended. That may be true, as he was the ring leader of that group. If we are to stick to the known facts, however, there is no proof of it. In discussing the matter, he always said "we." From that one might assume that it was a natural conclusion reached by the majority of the owners. Commander Fry had every reason to think of it first. He was a man of such ample girth, that he must have suffered more discomfort sailing a Bug than any of the others. Be that as it may, a committee was appointed, consisting of George Corry, A. B. Fry, Thornton Smith and William G. Newman, to take this matter up with William Gardner. That was done in the early fall of 1910, and thus the Star was born.
Because George Corry, in later years, became known as the "Father of the Stars," numerous false rumors have been spread about his early activities. He accomplished enough for the Star class, as it was, without the need of any mythical buildup, to further prove his right to the foregoing title. To keep the records straight, let us correct these rumors. More than once I have seen it in print that he designed the Star. While it is understandable that some uninitiated reporter may have assumed this, I happen to know that quite a number of people believe it, as I come across one every now and then. He was not a naval architect and could not have designed any boat. One ambitious Log editor, amplified upon my data, in an effort to show that George Corry was responsible for the Bug class, since he had always felt that a flat bottom boat with a fin keel would be popular. He may have thought that, but William Gardner incorporated that principle in the Departure, which was built eleven years before the Bug class. Nor did our former commodore name the Star. He himself admitted that he wanted it called the Big Bug class. One shudders at the thought, for under such a handicap, no class could hope to attain international dignity or respect. Stuyvesant Wainright, of the American Yacht Club, suggested the name Star, although he never owned one of the boats. What George Corry did, once the project was launched, was to promote the Star class. He did practically all of the committee's work. He was the one who went out and found the original twenty-two owners. He possessed the rare attribute of being able to impart his own enthusiasm to others, and this he continued to do for the Star class as long as he lived.
The Star and the Bug also were designed by William Gardner, all other theories to the contrary notwithstanding. Curtis D. Mabry was the draftsman, who put the Bug on paper, although Francis Sweisguth had something to do with that also. The latter was the draftsman assigned to extending the Bug lines into those of the Star. William Gardner supervised the work in each case, but even if he never touched pencil to paper, the others were in his employ and he was the chief designer. He took far more interest in the Star than most people realize. He lived in Port Washington at the time and was a personal friend of George Corry. On an average of twice a week these two went over to Ike Smith's shop and watched the first Stars being built. They did this in the evening on their return from work. I have that information from the taxi driver who drove them from the station to Smith's shop and who still drives me down the Island now and then when I go on a fishing trip.
William Gardner was a very meek self-conscious little man. For that reason it was always very difficult for us to get him to attend Star functions. He had the mistaken idea that he was only invited for the purpose of astounding us with some new ideas about yacht design. That we just wanted him there for himself never seemed to occur to him. Throughout dinner he was always too nervous to eat. Once he was through with his brief speech, however, he would relax, light a cigar, and tell very interesting things to those who were near enough to hear him. If we had only thought of just asking him questions, it would have been much easier for him and more interesting for all, as he was a man who never felt at home in a crowd.
Ike Smith of Port Washington built twenty-two Stars during the winter of 1910-11. Half of these boats went as a unit to the American Yacht Club of Rye, and the rest were sold to members of various clubs at the western end of the Sound. They cost $260.00 each. Here again I must correct a false impression. They were not the only first Stars built, as Green Brothers of Chelsea, Mass., built eleven Stars Hat same winter. These Green Brokers boats were built for members of the Nahant Dory Club and were originally known as Nahant Bugs. It was not until ten years later that we discovered they were Stars. That is why Ike Smith was credited with building the first Stars, instead of having to share that questionable honor with another firm. Why William Gardner never told George Corry about this, is difficult to understand, as they saw each other almost daily on the train. He may not even have known that Star plans and not Bug plans were sold to Nahant, for his was a large and busy office at that time. The Nahant Bugs, in spite of their name, had a Star emblem on the sail. They raced at Marblehead Week each year. Yachtsmen from the Sound went there in larger yachts and still no one noticed that there were Stars up there. It only goes to show how disorganized small boat racing was at that time. The Nahant Stars had duplicate numbers to those on the Sound, hence when this group joined the association, they had to be given new numbers, which were not in keeping with the year the boats were built.
The first Star race was held by the Harlem Yacht Club on May 30, 1911, off Execution Light, at the western end of Long Island Sound. The order of finish was as follows:
No. 17 Little Dipper
G. A. Corry 3:13:52
* NOTE - Except in the summary, published by the New York Herald, the following day, Star records do not reveal either a boat or owner of this name. No reason is given why the rest of the 22 new Stars did not start.
George Corry's winning streak continued throughout 1911. He won 10 out of 12 starts and the Sound championship. Larchmont Race Week, however, went to Twinkle. Corry and Alley are the only two names that figured in Star history thereafter, although it was Jack Alley, the son of A. B., who sailed Twinkle from that point on. There is no record of who won the first race later that summer at Nahant, but A. S. Johnson and the Motley brothers were the most consistent winners. I did race against A. B. Alley during a Larchmont Week, some years later, when he was substituting in one race for his son. He was way back and never bothered to round the last mark - Scotch Caps. He probably did not intend to cross the finish line in entering Larchmont harbor, but he did and his time was taken. He beat about 10 boats that were ahead of him, as a result of this, but no one protested. No one liked to protest unless they had a chance to win some silverware because of the hostile attitude of most race committees. One who protested was always made to feel like a very poor sport, no matter how just his cause.
The family tree had two other branches, the Indian class and the Fish class, both of which withered without bearing fruit. The Indian was a glorified Bug. Sponsored by a Mr. Carpenter, about a dozen of these boats started racing at Ossining, on the Hudson, in 1909. Some claim that they were Bugs, except for the sail emblem, the profile of an Indian chief, with feathered headdress. I question this, for two reasons. I have seen plenty of Bugs and a couple of Indians, but not together. I never mistook a Bug for a Star, but I did the Indian, at first glance. It impressed me as being a step nearer to a Star. That was too long ago for me to remember whether this was due to the hull or the rig, but there was something different. Then too, I know the tendency of Gardner's office to make some changes in plans or specifications, upon the least provocation. Remember that clubs, at that time, wanted a special class of their own, designed for their particular conditions. Unless the designer made some changes, he would hardly feel entitled to his fee. There have been a number of Fish classes, but the one I refer to was a twenty eight foot Star. There were four or five of these boats built for owners at Port Washington, N. Y., in 1913. Ed Willis, who later became a famous Star skipper, won all the races. The Fish, with a Dolphin as a sail emblem, suffered the common fate of all one-design classes of half a dozen boats or less. It lasted less than two years. Star lines, extended to that size, made a very box-like clumsy-looking boat.
It will be seen from the foregoing that the Star hit the happy medium of this type of design. Larger boats did not look yachty and smaller ones were much too cramped for comfort. The reason that the Star has been able to keep modern in appearance is that its hull design is unique. A Star is a Star and looked upon as such. No comparison is drawn between its hull design and that of other boats, hence the hull can never be out of date, nor need the Star fear competition in other boats of similar design, as it has been tried in both larger and smaller yachts and proved to be a failure.
The age of fittings really began in 1924, when Rhody, sailed by Comstock and Gidley, of Providence, appeared at the Internationals (now called World's Championship) with enough hardware on the boat to sink a small battleship. Those fittings were very heavy, but accomplished much the same purpose of most of the fittings now in use. At least they supplied the idea from which lighter and more efficient fittings were later developed. The Rhody Runner, for example, was the first self locking backstay device. It consisted of a track and a latch, which fell over the end of it. The tension of the stay was adjusted by a small turnbuckle or a lanyard. This, and a number of other Rhody fittings, were introduced by Walter C. (Jack) Wood, also of Providence, who was the first manufacturer of special Star fittings. Hence Providence, R.I., was the birthplace of Star appliances.
The original gaff rigged Stars had only a few very simple fittings - a stern traveller, half a dozen cleats and a metal strap, with just one hole drilled in it, which served as a chain plate. Those who used backstays (they were optional) usually had a small block and tackle at the end of the stay, which hooked into a ring bolt on deck and you then trimmed and fastened to a cleat. No one ever thought of setting the backstay, when going to windward, to keep the jibstay taut. Those short masts were heavy and substantial and, in fact, a backstay was really not necessary running down wind, unless it was blowing half a gale.
When the short Marconi came into vogue, regular chainplates, with a cross piece having a number of holes in it, became necessary to take care of the two sets of shrouds. That is when Star owners first began to become fitting minded. The first mast raker was nothing but two threaded bronze rods, held in place by brackets. To shift the mast, you unscrewed one, pushed the mast fore or aft and tightened the other. It meant crawling in under the deck. Then came a partner, a flat bronze plate, with a hole in it for the mast. At each corner was about a four inch slot, through which it was bolted to the deck. You loosened the four wing-nuts, pushed the mast to the desired position and then tightened them. While all this took time, it did give those who possessed that sixth sense of tune, an opportunity to exercise it. It was a vast improvement over former conditions. Then came the tall Marconi and finally flexible spars. The latter brought into use all sorts of fittings. I will not attempt to describe them, for every builder and a number of hardware firms, each had their own line of special Star fittings. Everything on a Star was adjustable and almost everything could be controlled from the cockpit, while under way. The fitting craze reached its peak in 1939 and 1940. There were so many things to fool with that unless you really knew what you were doing, you usually got into trouble. Since World War Two, the tendency has been to again eliminate all but essential fittings.
Each phase of Star development resulted in a number of old timers, and I mean good skippers, fading out of the picture. They did not leave the class, but their names no longer appeared among the winners. New and unfamiliar names, of younger men, came into the limelight. Of course, there were exceptions. A few skippers, like Adrian Iselin, took each step in stride, and did not seem to experience any particular difficulty. Many veterans, however, could not keep pace with this. It may not have been noticed in any given locality, where it applied to only one or two. To anyone like myself, who was in a position to see the class as a whole, it was very obvious. Each step forward meant that the skipper required additional knowledge of tune. The rule of thumb skipper, by trial and error, had learned to get the most out of his boat. He was accomplishing the same thing as those who had greater knowledge of tune, but did not know the reason why. When a change of rig occurred, he was lost and did not know what to do. In other words, it was just a question of being unable to teach an old dog new tricks.
Strangely enough, the first affected by this was George Corry himself. That was even before there was a change of rig. In 1915 it was found that Star keels were too far forward. The better skippers shifted their keel about two and one-half inches aft. That made a lot of difference. The boats pointed higher, were more responsive to the helm and no longer wallowed in a knockdown
Star owners became much more condition conscious. I do not say tune conscious, because, with everything in a fixed position, it was almost impossible to tune a boat properly. They did, however, begin to haul their boats out every week, to keep them light, and rivaled each other in maintaining a perfect bottom finish. For one of his enthusiasm and experience, it was astounding how little attention George Corry paid to the condition of his Star. He slapped on a new coat of paint in the spring and pulled it up, over one tide, alongside the dock, now and then to scrub the bottom. That was all. As I have already stated, he was one of the best helmsmen that ever lived, but in 1916, for the reasons given, he ceased to be the undisputed champion of the Star class. He freely admitted that he knew little about tune and this was proven in 1924, when he bought No. 1, Taurus, from Bill Inslee. That boat had won two Internationals. For a short period George was his old self again, winning races. Then gradually he kept slipping back to where he had been before. He just could not keep the boat in proper tune and condition. Only under exceptional weather conditions did he win, now and then, as result of experience.
The short Marconi
was not a very drastic change and did not affect the veterans too much,
plus the fact that competition then had not developed to too great an
extent. The tall Marconi was a more radical departure and some never did
learn to master it. Flexible spars, however, took the greatest toll. They
required some knowledge of sails and aerodynamics. A new generation, of
the airplane age, knew something about such things. The old fellows did
not. Father Time, quite naturally, slows up all Star skippers eventually.
This last innovation, however, was just one too many for the great majority