Chapter 25
Wood-Pussy Class

sail boat plan


In writing the history of the Wood-Pussy, this popular little catboat might well be termed a War Baby. During World War II, Donald B. Abbott, sponsor of such well-known sailing yachts as the Weekender, Overnighter, Visitor, Caller, and Dater, found himself faced with the problem of war shortages. Not only were men and materials hard to find, but the pinch of high taxes was making itself felt to the extent that boat-minded folks were thinking in terms of smaller craft.

Turning to Philip L. Rhodes, who had designed most of the Abbott fleet, Don Abbott commissioned him to design a small boat that would be suitable as a junior trainer as well as a day sailor for grown folks who no longer had the time and money to care for larger boats. The splendid job accomplished by this outstanding designer in carrying out Don Abbott's commission is best attested to by the popularity of the little 131/2-ft. catboat that came from his drawing board.

When the design was completed, Don Abbott went to Palmer Scott and Company, of New Bedford, Massachusetts, and placed an order for the building of the new boat. The question of a name then arose. Thinking in terms of a catboat made of wood, the name Wood-Pussy was suggested. Although there is some question as to the wisdom of this choice of names, it is a fact that the skunk or wood pussy is a very pretty little animal. It is also a fact that the skunk is a very tough little customer with which to fool. There is no question but that the Wood-Pussy is a very pretty little boat, and skippers of other boats of comparable size and sail area have found that she can be a tough little customer. Considering these facts, it would seem that the name Wood-Pussy was well chosen.

As men and materials were available, between government contracts, Palmer Scott and Company built a number of Wood-Pussy boats, which were shipped to various parts of the country. Wherever they went, the Wood-Pussies received an enthusiastic reception. They quickly proved themselves fast and able. Added to this, due to the design of her shallow rudder, the Wood-Pussy is almost noncapsizable and will float in water that is only ankle deep. For her 13V2-foot length and six-foot beam, the Wood-Pussy is the biggest little boat ever built and will accommodate four or five adults in her spacious cockpit.

At the time that this is being written, there have been over 1,000 Wood-Pussies sold and they will be found not only in all parts of the United States, but in many foreign lands as well. Although the Wood-Pussy was not designed for racing, it was not long before Wood-Pussy owners were engaging in informal races and a number of local fleets were organized to conduct races on a more or less formal basis.

In 1946, the present National Secretary of the Wood-Pussy Class, Mr. Grover C. Kirchhof, bought a Wood-Pussy which he named X-Q's Me. Like all red-blooded skippers, he felt an urge to try his boat and his sailing skill in competition with other Wood-Pussy owners. Since there was no Wood-Pussy class organization and no organized fleet in the Larchmont and Mamaroneck area of Long Island Sound, he set about forming what became known as the Scotch Caps Fleet. The success of this venture prompted him to go still further and organize a National Wood-Pussy Association. The first organization meeting was held in the fall of 1946 and by the spring of 1947 the National Wood-Pussy Class Association was launched and a constitution, by-laws, and set of racing rules were drafted.

Mr. Palmer Scott, the builder of the Wood-Pussy, became interested in the movement and donated a trophy, known as the Palmer Scott Perpetual Challenge Trophy, which was to be symbolic of the National Wood-Pussy Championship. Not to be outdone, Don Abbott donated a second trophy, known as the Donald B. Abbott Trophy. This trophy was to be symbolic of the Wood-Pussy Championship of Long. Island Sound. In the meantime, through the efforts of the Scotch Caps Wood-Pussy Fleet, the class was recognized by the Yacht Racing Association of Long Island Sound and Wood-Pussy owners participated in 29 Long Island Sound regattas during the 1947 racing season. Plans were made during the summer of 1947 for the sailing of the first Wood-Pussy championship regattas. Under the sponsorship of the Orienta Yacht Club, of Mamaroneck, New York, the first National and Long Island Sound Wood-Pussy Championship Regattas were sailed off Orienta Point during the latter part of September. Altogether, 28 boats from Mamaroneck, Larchmont, Manhasset Bay, Cold Spring Harbor, Noroton, and Shelter Island participated. The first championships were pretty much a Long Island Sound affair.

The honor of being the first National Wood-Pussy Champion fell to Jack Cow-ley, of Manhasset Bay, while Fred Gade, of Noroton, Connecticut, became the first Long Island Sound Wood-Pussy Champion. The following year, 1948, both the National and Long Island Sound Championships were sailed in Manhasset Bay under the sponsorship of the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club. Fred Gade, of Noroton, proved himself a real sailing champion by carrying off the honors in both the National and the Long Island Sound Championship Regattas. Gade continued his winning streak in 1949, when both championships were sponsored by the Larchmont Yacht Club. Gade not only won the honor of having his name inscribed on the Palmer Scott Bowl for the second time by again winning the National title, but he also retired the Donald B. Abbott Trophy by having won it three times. The 1949 National Championship Regatta introduced some new competition, which was provided by three representatives of the Naragansett Bay Wood-Pussy Association and one boat from the Shrewsbury River in New Jersey. The Hudson River was also heard from for the first time through the participation of Edward Dean of the Shattemac Yacht Club.

In October of 1949, Donald B. Abbott passed away and the Wood-Pussy Class thereby lost one of its most ardent supporters. A campaign was immediately started to raise a fund with which to purchase a trophy that would be a fitting memorial to the father of the class. This trophy was placed in competition in 1950 to replace the Donald B. Abbott Trophy which had been retired by Gade.

The 1950 National and Long Island Sound Championship Regattas were sailed in Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, under the sponsorship of the Cold Spring Harbor Beach Club. These regattas resulted in the crowning of two new champions. Robert Ayer became the fourth Wood-Pussy owner to have his name inscribed on the Palmer Scott Bowl and W. A. W. Stewart, Jr., had the honor of being the first to have his name inscribed on the new Donald B. Abbott Memorial Trophy. The 1950 National Championship Regatta produced the largest number of Wood-Pussies that ever competed in a single Wood-Pussy regatta. A total of 38 boats participated.

An unfortunate combination of circumstances made it necessary to make a change in the dates of the 1951 regattas and as a result many boats from distant ports were unable to participate. Bill Ayer, the son of the 1950 National Champion, carried off the National Championship and Peter New-kirk, of Port Washington, Long Island, emerged as the new champion of Long Island Sound.

Beginning in 1949, a third championship trophy was placed in competition. This trophy, donated by Mr. Palmer Scott, symbolizes the Wood-Pussy Championship of
New England. Also beginning in 1949, the National Wood-Pussy Class Association introduced a high-point series to establish champions of local fleets. Sailing a designated number of races during the season, the skipper earning the highest number of points is awarded a special trophy provided by the National Association.

Following is a list of the winners of the various 1951 Wood-Pussy championship awards:

National Championship—Bill Ayer, Cold Spring Harbor, N. Y.

Long Island Sound Championship Peter Newkirk, Port Washington, N. Y.

New England Championship—Bruce Loring, Wickford, R. I.

Cold Spring Harbor Championship—A. W. Rossiter, Cold Spring Harbor, N. Y.

Manhasset Bay Championship—Robert Oram, Port Washington, N. Y.

Hudson River Championship—Edward K. Dean, Ossining, N. Y.

Shrewsbury River Championship—J. J. Johnson, Little Silver, N. J.

Now a word about the National Wood-Pussy Class rules and regulations. Membership in the National Wood-Pussy Class Association is open to any Wood-Pussy owner or part owner who is over 18 years of age or the parents or guardians of Wood-Pussy owners who are under 18. An associate membership is open to any Wood-Pussy owner or part owner under 18 and to non-owners who are interested in the aims and objects of the Association.

Any group of three or more Wood-Pussy owners may organize a Wood-Pussy fleet by making application to the National Wood-Pussy Class Association.

Racing numbers are assigned by the Secretary of the National Wood-Pussy Class Association. A number is not assigned in the usual manner, but is given out according to the geographical location of the boat at the time that the number is issued. Unlike racing numbers in other classes, the Wood-Pussy racing number is no indication of the age of the boat.

Any Wood-Pussy Class yacht whose owner is a member or associate member of the National Wood-Pussy Class Association is eligible to participate in any regatta sanctioned by the association.

All races or regattas sanctioned by the National Association are sailed under the rules of the North American Yacht Racing Union.

The Wood-Pussy Class Rules do not permit any alteration of the hull. Certain modifications of the rigging are permitted, but spars must not be altered. The mast, boom, rudder, and centerboard must conform with standard measurements. The sail must conform to maximum measurements of 20 ft. 6 in. in the luff, 22 ft. 4 in. in the leech, and 11 ft. in the foot. No more than three battens are permitted and the lengths of these must be 18 in. for the top one, 30 in. for the middle one, and 24 in. for the bottom one. The battens must be spaced as evenly as possible along the leech. The rules provide that all boats must be in the water not less than 10 of the 14 days previous to a race day.

The crew required in all races is two people and no dead weight may be carried as ballast. Required equipment, which must be on board during all races, consists of an adequate anchor and anchor line, at least one paddle, a 10-quart pail, and one life preserver or life-preserver cushion for each member of the crew.

At the present time, there are organized Wood-Pussy fleets, which are active in the National Wood-Pussy Class Association, at the following places: Larchmont, New York; Manhasset Bay, New York; Cold Spring Harbor, New York; East Hampton, New York; Ossining, New York; New Bedford, Massachusetts; Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island; and Shrewsbury River, New Jersey. There are also local fleets at Cambridge, Maryland; Shelter Island, New York; Edgartown, Massachusetts; Cedarhurst, New York; and a few places on the West Coast and in the South. There are individual, unattached members of the National Wood-Pussy Class Association in the states of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, and Illinois.

The Wood-Pussy is truly a boat for people of moderate means. At the present time, a new Wood-Pussy can be bought from Palmer Scott and Company, New Bedford, Massachusetts, less sail, for $645. The cost of a sail is from $75 to $110, depending on the maker. A good used Wood-Pussy can be bought for about $450. One in perfect condition might cost a little more.

Wood-Pussy Specifications

Builder: Palmer Scott and Company, New Bedford, Mass.
Designer: Philip L. Rhodes.
Length over all: 13 ft. 6 in.
Length on water line: II ft. 9 in.
Beam: 6 ft. 0 in.
Draft with centerboard up: 7 in.
Draft with centerboard down: 2 ft. 6 in.
Sail area: between 105 and 110 square feet.
Information on new boats can be obtained by addressing the builders.

sail boat plan

sail boat plan

Information concerning the National Wood-Pussy Class Association can be obtained by addressing the Secretary, National Wood-Pussy Class Association, P. O. Box 515, Eatontown, N. J.

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