|International Star Class Yacht Racing Association||
Gaff Rigged Era 1911 - 1920 (and before)
From its very beginning the Star Class has attracted photographers' attention. Morris Rosenfeld and Edwin Levick were among the early photographers who took pictures of the Star. The beauty and power of the modern Star boat continues to be an object interest for both amateur and professional photographer. We are thus fortunate to have a fairly good pictorial record of the Star Class starting with those early days of 1911 when the Stars first put in an appearance on Long Island Sound and at Nahant Dory Club in Massachusetts.
The Star Class also has a very good historical record of itself. An annual Log which lists the boats and their owners, gives race results, carries the Class Rules, and other pertinent information has been published since 1922. An additional source of information is available from Starlights, the Star Class newsletter which has been published since 1925. Added to these sources there are two history books about the Star Class: "Forty Years Among the Star", written by George W. Elder, and "A History of the Star Class", written by Class Historian and long-time Log and Starlights editor C. Stanley Ogilvy.
It is the purpose
of this pictorial history to bring together some of the more interesting
photographs and events which have appeared in the Star Class publications.
The history of the Star began even before 1911. In 1906 a boat called the Bug was designed in the office of William Gardner in New York. These boats about eighteen feet long, were miniature Stars, their design being very similar to the as yet unborn Star boat. The Bug was at least in part the idea of Commodore "Pop" Corry, who wanted a small one design boat within the means of the not very wealthy yachtsman who liked racing. The boats cost $140 each, not an exorbitant sum even then. But the Bug proved to be too small and wet for comfort, and in 1910 Corry went back to Gardner to ask for a somewhat larger version. The Star was designed by the late Francis Sweisguth that winter, and twenty-two of them were built by Ike Smith of Port Washington, Long Island. They appeared on the Sound for the first time on May 30, 1911, for the Memorial Day regatta of the Harlem Yacht Club.
The original Star was not the trim vessel of today. Although the basic design has never been altered, construction methods and the care with which the boats are built have improved so much in sixty years that a 1911 model would not be recognized as a Star today. They cost $240 and looked it. Also the rig was entirely different from what it is now. A short mast carried a long gaff almost parallel to it, and an enormous boom hung three feet over the transom. Fittings were crude or non?existent. In spite of all this, the basic superiority of the hull design began to show itself and more Stars were built. At a time when small classes were springing up and dying out every year the Star survived, with nothing to support it but its own performance and the enthusiasm of Pop Corry and a few others.
In 1914 occurred an event without which there might have been no Star Class today. At least we can safely say that without it, the organization of one design classes of all kinds would have been delayed by years or decades. This event was the arrival on the scene of George W. Elder. When he bought a Star and interested himself in the welfare of the Class, a turning point had been reached, although no one knew it then. Pop Corry was the "father of the Stars", but George Elder was the father of the Star Class Association and remained its guiding administrator for most of his life.
It is hard for us to realize today what Elder did. Not only were there no international classes or class organizations in pre-1920 days; there were not even any inter?club classes. Each yacht club had its own design of boat, which raced locally, and that was all. Against this heterogeneous background Elder conceived the idea of a unified organization with enough influence to administer the affairs of many fleets of the same class, not only in various harbors of Long Island Sound (which in itself would have been a novel idea), but all over the country and eventually throughout the world. The outline of this grand scheme was presented by Elder in 1916 but not adopted until 1922. To appreciate its scope and daring we must recall the travelling and transportation conditions of those days. Inter-fleet racing was unknown because there were no two fleets of the same kind of boat. There was no electric haul-out equipment; boats the size of Stars were always kept in the water all summer. The automobile was still a new invention; that it would ever become sufficiently reliable to handle a trailer was doubtful. Thus many of the advantages which we reap from our class organizations, which we take for granted now, depend on modern communication and transportation facilities.
Yacht racing was suspended during World War I, and in 1919 the Star was one of the few classes which put in an appearance at Long Island Sound regattas and helped revive the sport in that area. Meanwhile Stars had taken hold elsewhere, and the groundwork had been laid for Elder to make his dream an actuality.
POPULARITY of one-design classes seems to be on the increase, and there are several new classes proposed for next season; one, a class of small schooners. Several of the most prominent classes racing on Long Island Sound were designed by Mr. William Gardner, of New York, and on the following pages are given drawings of a number of these boats as well as the drawings of two proposed classes. One of the most popular classes ever raced on the Sound in the small?boat division are the "Bug" boats, which were designed and built in the Spring of 1906. These boats are 19 feet over all, and cost complete only $125. Fourteen of these were built for members of the Manhasset Bay, Larchmont, Horse Shoe Harbor, Huguenot, and New Rochelle Y.C.
This year designs for a new class similar to the old, but 3 feet 7 inches longer over all, and known as "Star" boats, was gotten out and the boats cost complete $250. Fifteen of these were built for members of the American Y.C., six for various members of the Manhasset Bay, New Rochelle, Larchmont, and Horse Shoe Harbor Y.Cs., and ten for members of the Nahant Y.C. of Nahant, Mass. Both the "Star" and "Bug" classes were described by Mr. Thornton Smith in the January, 1911, issue.
All of the old boats as well as all of the new, except ten for the Nahant Dory Club, were built by Isaac Smith, of Port Washington, L.I. The ten for the Nahant Club were built by Richard T. Green & Co., of Chelsea, Mass.
A class similar to the new "Star" boats, except that they are 1.7 feet longer, a foot wider, and of the center-board type, has been designed with a view to placing the class on Gravesend Bay. It is proposed that members of the various clubs in the Gravesend Bay Association build to this class, and if the proposed plans are carried out, the class will be a great addition to racing on the Bay.
Star # 1 was one of 22 Star boats built by Isaac E. Smith of Port Washington during the winter of 1910-1911. Given the boat-building practices of the day it is probably incorrect to say that Star # 1 was the first Star boat built. Most likely all 22 boats were built and completed at the same time, and it was only the luck of the draw that this boat received # 1. The very first owner of Star # 1 was W.K. Emerson. Mr. Emerson named the boat Taurus. Between 1913 and 1918, when Bill Inslee bought the boat, the boat had three other owners, none of whom were especially successful in racing it.
After Bill Inslee had two successful seasons with the boat, winning the top Star prize in 1922, the "Nationals", and then after the Star Class became international in 1923 the "Internationals", Commodore George Corry figured that he should own Star # 1, and renamed it Little Dipper. Perhaps part of the incentive for Mr. Corry buying Taurus was the hope that he would regain his ability to win races as he had back in the early 1910's. It didn't happen.
HERE'S TO "BILL"
AND THE "TAURUS" AND THEIR TWO GOLD STARS
Two Gold Stars the emblems of two International championships when will the same man and same boat ever carry these marks of honor again ? Probably never. It is the more remarkable because W.L. Inslee of Western Long Island Sound, under the colors of the Bayside Yacht Club sailed No. 1, the first Star ever built, "Taurus", a Star of a vintage of a decade and a half ago, had many an owner before Bill, but her record under these various skippers was more or less of an obscure one, proof enough that it is the man and not the boat. These two battled scared veterans of many a race, twice fought their way through a perfect elimination system and twice defeated all comers in the largest one design class in the world beating boats built in recent years, boats that were the last word in perfection and modern improvements. Who else, we ask, could have accomplished, or ever will again accomplish, such a feat?
Inslee's record is worthy of note for it demonstrates what can be accomplished by persistency, study and application. His career as a Star Skipper began on Gravesend Bay in 1915. Inslee was always good but by no means what he is today. He was the recognized champion of his locality in those days but a greatly surprised one, when eight yachts of the Star Class invaded his domain in 1915 and the best he could do against them in that series was 8th. The following year he did better. Then he moved to the Sound where competition was keener. There he studied his boat and everything pertaining to the class, sails, paints, the balance of his boat, and every little detail. For four years he improved steadily, moving a notch or two nearer the top each year, finally in 1921 he reaped the results of his labors and won his first championship and in 1922 and 1923 easily repeated this feat.
His 1923 record was remarkable for he won every series in sight in which he qualified. Luck? Could it be luck to finish 1-2-3 every day at Larchmont Race Week against a field of 32 Stars in all sorts of weather and to win 5 first and 1 second in 6 International races?
We salute you Bill Inslee, as the greatest star skipper, the greatest small boat skipper of all times.
Star # 1 was renamed "Little Dipper" when this picture was taken. Mr. Corry bought # 1 after the 1923 season. His reason was that he felt he should own the first Star ever built.
After "Pop" Corry died in 1943 Star # 1 was placed on display at the Manhasset Y.C., the yacht club from which "Pop" Corry had sailed throughout his career. However, unfortunately the boat was allowed to deteriorate and was finally broken up in about 1955. Only the transom, stem, and tiller remain and are on display in the yacht club.
from Cuba, France, and the U.S.A. about to round a mark during Star Class
Week at Habana, Cuba. The Cuban yacht, "Aurrera IV", which represented
Habana in the last Internationals, leading.
In the April, 1929, issue of Starlights, in an article entitled "Modernizing Star Rig under consideration", there is the following comment: "Though the idea of adopting a more modern rig for the Star Class is not a new one, Larry Bainbridge, D.S., is responsible for placing it before the I.E.C. in such a convincing light that it has been unanimously voted to give the project wide publicity and then place it before the next annual meeting at New Orleans… Our present rig with it's long boom is out of date, it does not appeal to the new man who is coming into the game and it will not retain the interest of the keen skipper who may be driven out of the Star Class and into classes that offer the modern improvements in sail design…."
The Starlights of November, 1929, continued the story in the article "Modern Rig Adopted for 1930": "A modern rig was adopted at the annual meeting in New Orleans by a vote of 434 to 66, to become effective March 1st, 1930…. The rig recommended by the Bainbridge Committee, which gives a boom to the transom and about the same sail area as the present rig, was adopted in principle and referred back to a Technical Committee, to be appointed by the President for any necessary refinements. This Technical Committee consists of Prescot Wilson, head of Geo. Burrows, Inc., sailmakers, Ernest Ratsey, of Ratsey & Lapthorn, Inc., sailmakers, and Francis Sweisguth, who drew the original plans and was formerly with Wm. Gardner."
Obviously, although now almost 20 years later, Mr. Sweisguth still had more than a passing interest in the Star boat and the Star Class. It is interesting to see that the Class included him on the Technical Committee when the decision to go to the tall Marconi was made. In as much as no direct evidence has been found one can only speculate how much Mr. Sweisguth had to do with the development of the modern rig and sailplan.
In 1929 Francis Sweisguth was named as a member the Technical Committee when the Class decided to go to the tall Marconi. In as much as no direct evidence has been found one can only speculate how much Mr. Sweisguth had to do with the development of the tall rig, and in particular the rigs experimented with on Ernest and Colin Ratsey boats Irex (#24) and Joy (#361). Pictured here is Joy with the experimental modern rig in 1929. Even after the modern rig was adopted by the Star Class in 1930 Mr. Sweisguth continued to be listed in the Logs as the head of the Technical Advisory Committee until 1933
Ace, Star # 202, was built in 1924 by its one and only owner, Adrian Iselin II. Mr. Iselin and Ace have been probably the most successful combination ever in the Star Class. Aside from winning two World's Championships, once in 1925 and again in 1936, Mr. Iselin won four Silver Stars, two Blue Stars (1925 and 1945), three Bacardi Cups (1927, 1935 and 1936) and a great number of Long Island Sound regattas.
Unlike Ceti, Star # 7, which was never updated by its owners since it was built in 1911, the Ace was constantly being updated to keep up with the newest equipment. Here we see her with the short Marconi rig which was used until the end of 1929. Note that when this picture was taken in 1925 Ace was still using the original backstay arrangement of just a simple two-to-one block-and-tackle. In 1925 Ben Comstock and Bill Gidley installed backstay tracks and slides on their boat Rhody, Star # 143. They won the "Internationals" in 1926, and in true Star Class fashion everyone had to have these new fittings, which at the time were called "Rhody Runners". The use of backstay tracks and slides became the standard way of setting up the backstays and remained in use until the 1980's
Here is Ardian Iselin
II with his Ace near the end of their racing days. As far as can be determined
from the records in the Logs, the last year Mr. Iselin raced Ace was in
1952. Boat 2664 to the right of the picture was built in 1947, so this
picture was taken in the final five years. Ace has been up-dated and appears
to be as well equipped as any of the newer boats. Note that the boats
in this picture, including Ace, had all gone to the single spreader rig
by this time. However, from time to time people would try out the double
spreader rig, one of the last examples probably being Harry Nye's Gale
which appeared in the cover of the 1960 Log.
UNDER CONSTRUCTION AT PURDY BOAT COMPANY
The start of the 5th race at the 1932 "Internationals", Pequot Y.C., Southport, CT. Patsy does not have the best of starts, her boat being the one with white topsides center-right in the background. Despite this, she managed to finish 9th in this race. Notice that most of the rigs are double spreader rigs.
As was seen earlier in the picture of Bill Inslee's Taurus which appeared in the 1924 Log, the idea of both the skipper and crew hiking out by laying down on the rail was a technique of long standing in the Star Class. Walter von Hütschler's crews Hans-Joachim Weise and Egon Beyn carried this hiking technique to the maximum as can seen in the above picture. However, Mr. von Hütschler was not alone in having his crews use this hiking technique, as can be seen in the spoof shown to the right.
Compare this style with that of Lowell North's crew Jim Hill, which is shown in the pages about the late 1950's in which it appears that even more athleticism was needed to hold the body as far out as possible away from the topsides.
style of hiking finally gave way to the present method of mini-hiking,
first with the introduction of hiking straps in 1969 and then the hiking
vest in 1981.
The last World's Championship held before World War II was held at Kiel, Germany, on August 21-26, 1939. Only three boats went from the U.S. Here is Stan Ogilvy's Spirit, # 1776, followed by Agostino Straulino's Polluce, # 1540, sailing past a German cruiser during the Championship.
In 1938 Walter von Hütschler won the World's Championship and took the series to Europe for the first time in 1939. Actually, were it not for a mishap in the first race of the 1937 World's, he probably would have taken the series to Europe a year earlier. After pulling the luff rope out of the mast and finishing 22nd, he went on to finishing 1st in the remaining four races, always winning by a large margin, the greatest of which was almost five minutes in the last race.
Because the very difficult conditions as a results of the impending war the German hosts did everything possible to make sure that all the contestants and their boats made it back to their respective homes safely. For example, the French contestants were escorted to the border by a German Naval Attaché in uniform to make sure that there would be no problems as they crossed the German border. The three American boats were sent to Denmark by horse-cart and then onto Norway where they were loaded onto one of the last American freighters to leave for the U.S. And the winner of the Championship, Walter von Hütschler, being actually a Brazilian national, left Germany for Norway and made his way to the U.S., where he was able to continue sailing Stars during the war years. The Star Class is fortunate that Mr. von Hütschler was able to bring the World's Trophy along with him, or who knows what fate it might have met as the war progressed.