Part of the Chattanooga fleet racing in a good stiff breeze on Lake Chickamauga in Tennessee.
OVER-ALL LENGTH: 1 5 FT. 6 IN. HULL DRAFT: 5 IN. BEAM: 5 FT. SAIL AREA: 113 SO. FT. COST: $800.
The Snipe was originally designed by William F. Crosby in 1931 as a small, sporty craft that could be carried about easily on a trailer and yet be capable of sailing in almost any waters from protected inland lakes to the open ocean. She was made 15 ft. 6 in. long so that a builder could plank her with standard 16-ft. boards and thus not be required to pay premium prices for over-length lumber. Beam was set at 5 ft. and draft of hull alone at about 5 in. Snipes may be equipped with either pivoted center-boards or dagger boards, whichever the builder prefers. The rig is a Marconi knockabout with a jib-headed mainsail and an overlapping jib. The total sail area is a little over 113 square feet. The idea throughout was to have a boat that could be built for the minimum amount of money. In line with that thought, no light sails, spinnakers, or extra working jibs can be carried.
At present, Snipes are available from many builders all over the world at prices ranging from about $650 to $1,000. They are also available as semi finished boats. All the buyer has to do to one of these is to put in the deck beams, deck, hardware, rig, finish, etc. Such hulls are available for around $300 each. They are also sold as kits at even more reasonable terms and, of course, the plans are still used by many amateur builders to make their boats complete from scratch.
At the present writing, there are 9,090 numbered Snipes forming the Snipe Class International Racing Association. About 5,000 of these boats are in the U. S. and the rest are scattered all over the world in about 25 different countries. Most countries have complete national organizations with national secretaries through whom the parent Association keeps in touch with developments. On odd-numbered years, the Association holds world's championship regattas at which the champions of the competing nations meet. The first regatta of this type was held soon after World War II at Lake Chautauqua, N. Y., with five nations competing. The following year, the regatta was held at Geneva, Switzerland, with 13 nations competing. Spain was host in 1948, with 10 countries present, and in 1949, the scene was Larchmont Yacht Club, near New York, when nine national champs raced it out. The series was then changed over to every other year and in 1951 the regatta was held at Havana, Cuba, with the Argentina team winning.
On the even numbered years, the Association holds a championship of Europe and a championship of the Western Hemisphere. In 1952, the European championship will be at Copenhagen, Denmark, and the Western Hemisphere championship will probably be at Washington, D. C.
There are many other trophies that are raced for regularly and the Association has a system of point scoring by means of "which various fleets may race right in their own waters for national and international high-point championships. At the end of the season, all scores are sent in to headquarters and collated to determine which skipper had the highest points—nationally and also internationally. This system has been in use for a number of years and has worked out so well that sometimes there are 300 to 400 boats competing with virtually no ties in the scores at any place.
Other trophies include the Junior National Championship, the Midwinter Championship, the North Atlantic Coast Championship, the Upper Great Lakes Team
Championship, the Southwestern Championship, the New Jersey State Trophy, the Long Distance Race Trophy, the Long Island Sound Individual Championship, the New York State Challenge Trophy, the New England Championship, the Great Lakes Championship, the Pacific Coast Championship, and many others. There are also various championships for foreign fleets such as the John Leckie Trophy for the Championship of Canada and the City of Vitoria Trophy for an annual series between Argentina and Brazil.
There is no particular hot bed for Snipe racing as these little boats seem to be equally at home on tiny Santa Fe Lake, at Wichita, Kansas, and on the broad reaches of the South Atlantic off Recife, in Brazil, where the skippers have to force the boats out through heavy surf in order to enjoy an afternoon of racing. Luanda, Angola, West Africa, has a big Snipe fleet racing on the mouth of Cuanza River. At Lourenco Marques, way down in Mozambique (East Africa), Snipe skippers hold a series of races with other Snipers from Natal, South Africa.
The outstanding U. S. and world skipper is Ted Wells, who is Chief Engineer and Vice-President of Beech Aircraft Corp., Wichita, Kansas. He is at present Chairman of the International Rules Committee and Rear-Commodore of the Association. He was third in the Internationals at Detroit in 1942 and won at Geneva in 1947 and again at Larchmont in 1949. He won the National Championships in 1947, 1949, and 1950, and barely missed it in 1951. He won International High Point Championship in 1945 and again in 1948. At Clear-water, Florida, he won the Midwinter Championships in 1948,1950, and 1951. One thing about racing a Snipe is that everybody can get in on the fun. For instance, there's Frank J. "Doc" Moyer from Olcott, N. Y., who admits to at least 70 summers, but who can get out there and race just as hard, and win just as many times, as anyone else. Also, there's young Billy Roberts, not yet in his teens, who went out last year and won the fleet championship at the Privateer Yacht Club near Chattanooga. No other sport can boast such wide participation. And there are plenty of women who are mighty hard to beat. Examples are Patricia Hurley from the Cedar Point Yacht Club in Connecticut and Beth Olsen of the Beachwood Yacht Club on Barnegat Bay. Even the best of the men know they've had a race when they stack up against these gals.
Much of the popularity of the Snipe class is due to the fact that the plans have remained virtually unchanged since originally designed. Sizes of materials, planking thickness, frames, stringers, etc., all remain exactly as they were to start with. The better race boats are built as closely as possible to the minimum specified weight of 450 pounds for a boat complete ready to race. Unfortunately, as with most boat plans, many amateurs and some professionals have tried to make Snipes "stronger" by making them heavier and in doing this have defeated themselves and their boats. Also, there are many old Snipes still trying to race—Snipes that have accumulated heavy moisture and paint over the years and which have not been kept in good condition. Owners of such boats sometimes wonder why they cannot compete on an equal basis with the newer Snipes and, of course, loudly yell that they have been "out built."
This boat is heeled over too far for best speed. Weather helm makes rudder act as a brake to slow up boat.
In sailing boats such as this, everything is important; not any one thing will do the trick for you, but it is the sum total of it all that counts and puts you across the finish line in the lead. Sails are your horsepower and unless you have good ones, properly broken in, correctly set, and sailed as they should be, you can't expect results. The paint job is also important, on the bottom particularly, for unless it is glass smooth, it cannot be expected to do anything except cause resistance to your passage through the water. Many Snipe owners spend most of the winter getting the finest possible finishes on the bottoms of their boats—spray and sand, spray and sand— sometimes up to 15 or 20 coats.
Snipes are famous for their speed to windward and their ability to point high. In many cases, they have taken the measure of much larger boats with a great deal more sail area. For heavy weather, the high-crowned deck and small cockpit make a boat that can be driven through almost anything. A good sailor can capsize a Snipe, putting the sail all the way down in the water, and climb out on the centerboard and bring the boat back up again without getting a drop of water inside. The writer has seen this happen in a race; the capsized boat was upright in only a few seconds and on its way again just as if nothing had happened. A Snipe cannot sink; we saw one sail in during an extremely bad squall, under jib alone, with the skipper and crew sitting in the cockpit and the boat filled with water. If properly sailed, though, with a good heavy center-board, a Snipe is almost noncapsizable.
Each Snipe must be measured according to class requirements by an accredited measurer. When this is done and the special sheet made out and sent to headquarters, the owner pays $3-a-year dues, for which he receives a membership card, a copy of the class's current rule and record book, the right to race with other Snipes, and the Snipe Bulletin, a monthly "house organ" that goes to all active Snipers all over the world. A fleet must have a minimum of five boats to be eligible for a fleet charter. Each fleet pays the sum of $5 annually, in addition to members' dues, and receives measurement sheets, measurement certificates, race-result sheets, bulletins, and technical assistance as needed.
The present officers, elected in January, 1952, for one year, are as follows: Commodore Owen E. Duffy, Privateer Yacht Club, Chattanooga, Tenn.; Vice-Commodore Carl Zimmerman, Portage Lake Yacht Club, Akron, Ohio; Rear-Commodore T. A. Wells, Wichita Sailing Club, Wichita, Kansas; and Treasurer Hub E. Isaacks, Lake Worth Sailing Club, Fort Worth, Texas. The Executive Secretary is William F. Crosby, 522 Stellar Ave., Pelham, 65, N. Y., to whom all correspondence should be addressed.—William F. Crosby
Pier on race day at the Privateer Yacht Club. Chattanooga. Tenn., is a bustling, animated place to be.
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