Early History of C-20s as part of WRSC

Posted in: 1970s, History and Evolution of the Class
Jun 24, 2008 - 5:13:57 PM

History of West River Sailing Club

Chesapeake 20s

Excerpts by N.H. Smith

February 22, 1978


N.H. Smith wrote an outline of the history of the West River Sailing Club from its formative years until 1978.  The history of Chesapeake 20s and WRSC are closely intertwined:


A group of young residents of Cedar point plus a few natives from both shores of West River formed their own yacht club in the summer of 1930.  They were a bit contemptuous of the usual clubs of the time and chose for a name, “Our Own Damn Yacht Club” (OODYC).  William (Bill) Heintz was the spearhead for the new organization serving as commodore for the first three years 1930 thru 1932.  Bill also was elected commodore for 1936 and 1937, and although has served the club in nearly every office, possibly his greatest contribution was organizing the Junior Fleet in 1953 and supervising instruction as Fleet Captain through many seasons.


The new club offered their first Annual Regatta over the Labor Day weekend in September and this prime date has seen the WRSC event scheduled each year through 1977.  The first regatta was more of a neighborhood gathering with residents from both sides of West River participating in events which included many youngsters.  Bill Heintz typed all the programmes boasting ten events with a Handicap Sailboat Race heading the list.


The boats were handicapped with C class as scratch boats, based upon 150 to 200 Sq. Ft. of sail: Class A was given 4 minutes (under 100 sq. ft.) and B, 2 minutes with 100 to 150 sq .ft.  This Handicap was the only sailing race scheduled; the nine remaining events were fun games as boys’ and girls’ swimming races, tilting, sculling and rowing.  The trophies were made by “the boys at the point” for a number of years and presented at an alibi party, under an umbrella tree on Cedar Point (referred to as Wagner’s Point) for William Wagner home.  A tool shed was converted to store sailing gear and a mast erected for a certain flag to be flown on Sundays on which there was to be no regular races.  Club meetings were held at the Point, Zang’s Pier or in neighborhood homes.


The first boats used were mostly sailing bateaus built by Capt. Ed Leatherbury or converted flat-bottom rowboats.  Capt. Ed proceeded to lead the boys around the course and won the Championship of West River for the Wm. Wagner Memorial Trophy in 1933, but this only served to whet their appetite.  The search for faster and better boats parallels the entire history of the club to this day.  Earnest H. (Capt. Dick) Hartge, a boat designer and builder, was mainly responsible for launching, building and racing the proper boat at the proper time to weld the imagination of thie eager group of sailors.  Capt. Dick served as Commodore for years 1933-1934 and 1944-1945.


A series of historic contests began between Capt. Ed Leatherbury, Capt, Dick Hartge and a boat from Herring Bay called the “Lucky Strike.”  The latter was 20 feet long and was rigged like a log canoe.  It was a happy day for West River when Capt. Dick soundly trounced “Lucky Strike” in her home water with the “Albatross.”  This was the beginning of the “Albatross” Class, a 20 foot double-ender with centerboard and thirteen were built by Capt. Dick over a period of years.  He also produced the “Sea-Witch”, a few chine bottom 20’s and a class of 16 footers called “Chesapeake Sixteener” during this period.


Osbourne Owings and John Gregory were dissatisfied with the results from their Snipe during the early thirties and requested plans of a twenty footer from Charles Mower of New York.  The plans submitted were for a round bottom 19 and 21 footer with directions for building it to 20 feet.  This size was most important for Bay racing at the time because regattas favored this class and held the “Free-For-All” to 20 feet and under.  John Gregory, a pattern maker and master craftsman, built the boat and he and Owings raced her.  Capt. Dick was sailing his “Sea-Witch” at that time and confessed that he beat her but twice: first, when Owings was late for a St. Michaels Regatta and secondly, when Owings capsized during a President’s Cup Regatta.  The name of this boat was “Vanity”, recently owned by Hartge Fifer, Bob Brand and now in the possession of Bill McGuire.  One member admitted that the “Albatross” was a good boat until “Vanity” came along: another said that regardless of who sailed her, you were doing well to finish within the same lap as “Vanity.”  Considering the competition of the day, it was a fast boat and later, the boat was the key to success and “Vanity” created a boat-building reaction.


Capt. Dick built a double ender along the likes of “Vanity” and names her “Challenger.”  It was a good boat in light air but not up to “Vanity” in a breeze.  A second double-ender named, “Wings” bas built by one of Capt. Dick’s men for Carroll Smith.  This boat was faster, because as it is rumored, it was flattened since the men sat on it every day to eat lunch. After “Wings”, Capt. Dick concentrated on building round bottom “ Chesapeake 20s” as we know them today.  “Ranger” was the first one completed and built for John Harding.  The first seven or eight had a tumble home to the stern which was eliminated for the balance of this well-known class.  No boats could or will equal the distinction of the 20’s for providing class racing during the lean or in the more profitable years of the Club’s history.


Additional comments relating to Chesapeake 20s:


In 1933, the WRSC Annual Regatta included Class A, B and C sailboat races.  In 1934, the program included pictures and paid advertising including the “Championship of West River for the William Wagner Memorial Trophy which was won by “Vanity.”  In 1935, the classes were: The Albatross, Sea-Witch, Comet, Moth, 14-16 and 18 foot classes and the Handicap Race appeared in 1936.


A new system called the “40 Square” was adopted for scoring in 1937.  20 ft classes were split between the open and the restricted or chine bottom.


World War II bought a lull to most activities within the club, however, a number of races were held and members, home on leave, would join in. A race held on July11, 1944 included 20s and Sixteeners.  War stamps were awarded the winners of the summer series in 1943, $10 first, $5 second and $3 third.


The Albatross Class faded during the war years but the Chesapeake 16 Class (Sixteeners) submitted a letter in 1949 requesting that they be included in future racing.  In 1947, the Heintz-Faye system of starting signals was used for the 1st time.  The regatta included Ches. 20 Div. 1 and Div. 2 (Chine bottom).  Pre-regatta races were held from Annapolis and Fairhaven.  In 1949, the Ches. 20 Div. 2 (Chiine) was deleted.


In 1953, Hartge Fifer began a revival of the Chesapeake 20s.  (Laurence Hartge organized a cruising fleet. He had also begun his series of Quadrants.  Harold Blood bought a new Quadrant this year.  In 1957, a number of Quadrants sold to date:  Basic $4950 or Deluxe $5750.)


In 1958, Capt Dick launched “Compass Rose”, a Chesapeake 30 built for Charles Trammell.  There were summer racing series for Ches. 20 and Class A Juniors.  Hartge Fifer, head of 20s Ass’n this year and responsible for the revival of the class, built a private little mecca off W.R. for racers only.  No charge.


In 1959,  annual regatta trophy presentation was made on Laurence Hartge’s lawn.  Summer series consisted of Ches. 20s, Penquins and Dutchman.


In 1973, the first Ches. 20 Golden Regatta was held: 13 skippers 50 or older and sailed 20s in the 50s or earlier.  Skippers included:  Dick Hartge, Hartge Fifer, Eric Steinlein, Bill Heintz, Delbert Zang, John Nairn, Bob Orme, Doug Kolb, Emile Hartge, Eldridge Zang, John Kramer and Walter Lawson (based on photo).