Sailboat Racing in the 1930's
By Frank & Lisa Mighetto
The OYC’s historical archives received a windfall in 2010: as Gary Waldherr stood outside the clubhouse, an unidentified car pulled up and he was handed a stack of mimeographed bulletins called "Starboard Tack" from the 1930s. The historical committee is grateful to him for passing them along. These turned out to be delightful accounts from the "sailboat committee" of the OYC. The masthead, which is reproduced here, established a whimsical, casual tone, noting that the bulletin was "published once in a while." But a review of the articles throughout the 1930s reveals a spirit of commitment and great enthusiasm for sailboat racing.
The boats seemed smaller back then, and there was much talk of a new flat-bottomed vessel called a "flattie," designed by Seattle Yacht Club commodore Ted Geary. Interestingly, the Seattle YC’s history identifies Geary as a strong supporter of their saltwater outstations, as the fresh water mainstation in Seattle did not, in his view, encourage racing of sailboats. Olympia had the edge in this respect, which perhaps accounts for the Seattle boats that participated in the sailboat races organized by the OYC in the 1930s. In any case, the relative merits of the flatties were described throughout the pages of the bulletin. "We have it on good authority," noted one bulletin in 1931, " that [our commodore] has offered to bet anyone any amount of money (against a lead nickel) that his dad could take a flattie out for the first time and with it beat any…sailboat on the bay." Thus challenged, some OYC sailors responded, "We, the undersigned owners of homemade suicide sloops, not yet convinced of the superiority of flattties and not yet convinced of the superiority of gray hairs at the helm, hereby wager …that one or more of us can out sail any flattie whatsoever; said wager to be settled in a sailing race off Boston Harbor…"
Weather was also a big topic throughout the pages of the bulletin. "Boisterous west winds…predict a lively time at the races off Boston Harbor this Sunday," read one entry from 1931, while another from that same year reported "one knock-down and four capsizing within an hour. A wind that was a wind!" Additional events chronicled in the "Starboard Tack" include a "Lady’s Day Race," which required a woman at the helm for the entire race. Among the records is the first invoice for the bulletins, indicating that the cost to print 55 issues was $3.71, which might have been a significant amount during the Great Depression. In summary, much about the history of the OYC as well as boating in the 1930s can be gleaned from these bulletins, now a part of our rich historical archives.