A group of young men that spent their summers around Cedar Point and on both shores of West River formed their own yacht club in the summer of 1930. They were somewhat contemptuous of the usual clubs and named theirs, “Our Own damn yacht Club” (OOdyC). They soon renamed the group West River Sailing Club. William “Billy” Heintz, just 22 years old, was the driving force behind the new club.
The club held its first regatta in 1930 over the labor day weekend. it was more of a neighborhood gathering. There were nine events for kids such as swimming contests, potato sack jumping and dog races with the first ashore the victor. The highlight was a handicap sailboat race with three classes based on sail area: less than 100 sq. ft. with a four minute head start, from 100 to 150 sq. ft. with a two minute lead, and scratch boats of over 150 sq. ft. These “racing” boats were mostly bateaus built by Cap’n ed leatherbury or converted flat-bottom rowboats. At the first regatta, Cap’n ed, who was in his 80s, led the boys around the course in a 22 ft. heavy cypress boat with a sprit rig.
The search was on for a faster and better sailboat. ernest H. (Cap’n dick) Hartge, who became West River’s major boat designer and builder, the next year built the Albatross – a 20-foot, double – ender with a chine or V-bottom. He beat Cap’n ed with a lighter and thinner hull, who in losing proclaimed, "those damn shells, they won’t stand a beating up against a wharf.” A series of historic contests took place between Cap’n dick and the boys from Herring Bay, led by leroy “Babe” Brooks in Lucky Strike, a 20-foot long bateau rigged like a log canoe. it was a happy day for West River when Cap’n Dick soundly trounced Lucky Strike in her home water with the first Albatross. This was the beginning of the Albatross Class, thirteen of which were built by Cap’n Dick in the early 1930s. He also produced Sea Witch, the first chine bottom precursor of the Chesapeake 20 class. These sailboats were mostly built by eye without formal plans, and many were home-built using traditional Chesapeake Bay workboat construction.
The Twenty Footer class, as it was then called, had no rules – other than the boat had to be twenty feet. in 1938 at the Annapolis yacht Club, Ozzie Owings held an organizational meeting to form the Chesapeake 20 class with dues at $2 each. He said the purpose of the association was to prevent being overrun by “freaks and racing machines such as Double Trouble, the Owens scow.” While the sail area and length werefixed, Chesapeake 20 rules remain only about three pages long and as described by Billy Heinz in a 1942 Yachting Magazine article, remained an “evolution” class.
in 1939, Cap’n dick was approached by Andrew Kramer, President of Annapolis Bank and Trust, who told him “to get serious about building Chesapeake 20s.” Kramer provided a loan to build twenty Chesapeake 20s which were “mass produced” in lots of four at $600 each. The first of these boats was Stormy, now registered with the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties. in 1942, the “Hartge 20” was advertized as a “racing sloop or day sailor”: “(by leaning the boat over on a beach) no haul out necessary to keep the bottom clean”... “get a Twenty, the smartest boat you will ever sail”... “Here it comes: Twenty feet of able, fast racing sloop.”...”(With wide decks,) the buoyancy of the Hartge Twenty is such that she will not fill with water, even with the masthead awash.” Cap’n dick Hartge built about 40 round-bottom Chesapeake 20s from 1939 until 1943, and only four after World War ii as cedar wood and materials were in short supply and expensive. He said that “i lost my shirt” after the war when the cost to build them doubled.
Regattas were held throughout the middle Bay and on the Potomac in Washington, d.C. prior to World War II. Racing continued through the war years and results were reported to the troops in the field in weekly Galesville Home News. Usually, Chesapeake 20s were either sailed or towed by water to away regattas, as they continue to be today.
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