A Century of Service, 1921-2021 Centennial Celebration Southern California Yachting Association

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA YACHTING ASSOCIATION HISTORY
Through 1970

About all the history we have to go by today is in painfully long scrutinizing study of the newspapers of the period. However, most sports reporters give little time study of yachting and less knowledge. So, we have fallen back on the Minutes of SCYA meetings and have tried to bring some sparkle and life into these proceedings. For much of the color of debate we must fall back on personal glimpses, largely furnished by the survivors of the formative years. Much of the time motions made, but not passed, were given no space in the minutes and these spirited and often acrimonious sessions remain a deep secret today.

Besides the wealth of information from those who have directed the affairs of the Association, it is apparent that decisions swing, like a pendulum, from one extreme to the other, and other discussions start at a point and go around like a wheel, and come back to the same point, proving there is nothing new in yachting.

We can find expressions of sentiments in matters legislative where the Association takes a decided stand for or against legislators. Then again, we find solemn declarations that the Association should take no action in projected laws. We see the Race Committee commended for well-handled races, and again we find the Committee coming before the Directors and asking the Association more help and authority to conduct regattas or disci­pline perhaps recalcitrant crews. We find our Senior Flag Officer referred to as Admiral, Commodore, Admiral, Commodore, Admiral again and back to Commodore, then Chairman, and finally back to Commodore. We also see the rather surprising proposal – that almost went through – that we have two sets of Flag Officers — one for the big boats and big clubs and the other for the small boat clubs; reminiscent of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Gondoliers with the Twin Kings of Barataria.

We have also seen the task grow, for no sooner do we cruise down one channel, but we find it full of gunk holes and blind leads, all fascinatingly interesting, so to com­plete the story and to search further will take years.

And then there are those things which ought to be but are not in the record. In most years the racing results, logs of the regattas, are missing and we must search the public prints for the story. It is our feeling that these re­sults should be filed at the time of the Committee Reports.

Doing this has been fun – we only regret that so little time is available after the daily bread has been won, and the not inconsiderable slice of pie set aside for the appe­tite of an unsatiable Government. We only hope it gives the reader some pleasure in the recounting.

Paul W. Hiller
Historian

Paul has been a Corinthian yachtsman since his early boyhood in New England. He came to Los Angeles in the mid 1920s and has been a vital part of the Southern California yachting scene ever since. Paul has contributed to the affairs of virtually every yachting activity including the Newport Harbor Yacht Club, the California Yacht Club, the 1932 Olympic Games, S.C.Y.A., B.O.A.T., California Marine Parks and Harbors Association and the Newport Ocean Sailing Association. He is currently (editor: in 1970) a director of the American Boat and Yacht Council, an honorary of the Voyagers Yacht Club and a member of the Los Angeles Yacht Club. Paul H. Hiller is extremely well qualified for his position as Historian of the Southern California Yachting Association.

(Written in 1970)

HISTORY UNTIL ABOUT 1940

Web Editor’s Notes:The history of SCYA will be added as we have the time to find and scan the yearbooks.

Print Edition Editor: This portion of Paul Hiller’s history of yachting and SCYA ends about the year 1940. Further installments will be printed in subsequent issues of the Yearbook. SCYA Historian Hiller is now at work gather­ing material covering the years 1940 to 1970 and requests the help of those interested. It is hoped that yachtsmen whose files include pictures’, data, stories and background material will support Paul’s efforts.

Credits for this part of History:
History of SCYA: Paul W. Hiller. “SCYA Yearbook.” The History of S.C.Y.A., 1970, pp. 115-124.
Photographs from the private collections of the author, Los Angeles Yacht Club and Fritz C. Ripley, Jr.

YACHTING 1921

What was the position of yachting in Southern California in 1921? World War I was three years gone, the movies were firmly intrenched, salaries lush, and the land in the throes of a boom. Real estate men were in a fresh tizzy over the Huntington Beach and Signal Hill oil strikes. To the parvenu, yachting was a magic word, pictures of clipper bowed steam yachts and towering schooners stopped the reader’s eye wherever published. This was an eye-opener, and a hair raiser to the old-time yachtsman. For years, the favored few had sailed their modest boats quietly up and down the coast, occasionally getting together for gams and cruises. The boats were an assortment, virtually unclassed, and all the participants knew each other either by sight or by reputation. Into this group was now projected a new group. We pass up the type of fellow who could, and did, buy a boat, make a flash in local waters for a bit, and then finding he could not buy what wasn’t in him, sell his boat. Instead, let us consider only the men who really loved the sea, and never before had had the time nor the means to enjoy it. Usually the fever took them so quickly and so strongly that few could or would wait for a new boat to be built to their wishes. So it was common practice to scour the East Coast for a good used boat, buy her, and bring her West. It was also just as natural to make a “good buy”, meaning a cheap one, and our waters have seen from that day to this a long procession of outclassed, out built, or just plain “unsuccessful” boats come to the Pacific. In this parade were many long forgotten and unsung boats, but among them came many sweet, highborn ladies, brought here for good, hard competition. The results were about the same, the lot were taken by-and-large, still a motley assortment of unclassified boats.

Soon demands for anchorages, clubs and other facilities became so strong that realtors began casting loving eyes at lagoons and sand banks, envisioning homes and beaches and profits in every light. Here and there men like Admiral A1 Soiland of Newport and Frank Garbutt of Los Angeles sensed the strength of this incoming tide, and took a hand, turning the drift into definite channels to the everlasting good of the sport.

Let us say, then, that Newport Harbor today is the result of the vision of Soiland, the perspicacity of Joe Beek and the Corinthianism of scores of others who saw YachTing as a medium in which their children could grow up in the true traditions of the sport.
In Los Angeles Harbor, Frank Garbutt took several enthusiastic yachting groups, and welded them into the mighty California Yacht Club. It had magnificent facilities which, despite the utter commercialism of the Harbor Authorities (who to this day have never given yachting a break), maintained until World War II a splendid yachting organization. Let those of us who care to scoff and think of the old CYC as “Garbutt’s Sailors’ Boarding House” do so, but all of us owe him a debt of gratitude for his foresight, for he brought many to the waterfront, and a surprising number of them turned out to be the pillars of the sport for many years. I honor his memory.

So we see, in 1921, yachting was growing. The Old Timers have sowed the seeds, the sea was fertile, and it was time for the sport to grow and ripe for organization. Our founders picked the time, and we today gather the fruit of their labors.

Newport Harbor Yacht Club's boats dress ship for the Fourth of July 1921

Newport Harbor Yacht Club’s boats dress ship for the Fourth of July 1921

AN ASSOCIATION IS BORN

To those of us who can recall 1921, the memory of an enthusiastic group of yachtsmen still is strong in our minds. In San Diego the SDYC had a very close-knit group of hard sailing men, who were also known for their prowess in splicing the mainbrace. The Jessops, Clem Stose and their ilk had composed a rollicking, riotous song “We’re from Sunny San Diego,” and they wanted more places and occasions to sing it, other than on the sand flats of the old home town. Up Newport way, the NHYC had refurbished an old dance pavilion and Warmington, Vibert, Putnam, Heseman and Beek, heard of a strange bird, started a cult to advertise this same wonderful Woofle, who laid cubical eggs with spots on them with which, when properly treated, the aborigines had used as an economic control of wampum. Los Angeles Harbor had a fine new clubhouse erected by Frank Garbutt, and the old South Coast Corinthian and L. A. Boat Clubs had been asked to consolidate and make the California YC a going concern. This they did, while Radford, the Laubershiemer Bros., Hesselberger, Brown and Dickson joined in with a few choruses of the Animal Fair. Further to the North, Major Max Fleishmann, Ed Gurley, the Cornwalls, Doultons and others in Santa Barbara, repaired to the old Caprice to dream of a breakwater for their harbor.

So, in 1922 the stage was set for the consolidation of these interests. Unlike youthful city gangs, these groups of yachtsmen did not fight when they got together, other than that of rousing competition afloat, but preferred to refresh themselves while the Rocking Chair Fleet resailed the races. It was the era of Volstead and little can be said about such matters, but at least companionship and good will flowed along with the kindred spirits. The great day was April 14, 1922, articles of association of these groups were signed by no less than five clubs as the result of meetings starting the previous year. The leaders were none other than the Grand Old Man of Southern California Yachting, Dr. Albert Soiland, and Claude Putnam for NHYC. Walter Brown and Dan Laubersheimer of the LAYC, Otto Widley and Jim Dickson of the LAMBC, Clem Stose of SDYC, Earle Ovington and G. E. Berg of the SBYC. The California YC was originally in the group, but for some reason it was not a signer of the original Articles of Association, but later joined and became a moving force.

Today most of the boats of the era would be classed as “Pushwaters,” as they varied tremendously in line, rig and displacement. The rule of the time was the Universal Rule, but each owner made modifications much as he saw fit, and accurate measuring was still for the future. A race was apt to be a matter of extreme skill, plus a certain amount of ingenuity in preparation. While the day of the sandbagger had passed, the art of lightening the ship before a race was apt to be carried to extremes. In fact, at the April meeting in 1923, the delegates demanded that uniform measurement and racing rules be adopted, and Edson Schock was called upon to formulate them. About the only one-design classes at that time were the R Boats and the Stars. The Snowbird was about to be launched in Newport by our own Jim Webster. So it was, that when the clubs got together for a regatta, it became a compromise of the practices of each club. Hence, the time was ripe for co-ordination. With this accomplished, the demand for one design classes became acute so inter-club races could be held. We were years behind the East where these facts were established. The immediate and lusty growth of yachting is enough testimony to the farsightedness of the founders.

Let us look at these founders. First, comes Doctor Soiland, who will go down in history and affection as The Admiral. In the early days it was reasoned that as clubs had Commodores, it was only natural that the head of the association should hold higher rank, and so Admiral it was. The first minutes refer to him as Admiral. It can be no reflection upon Al Soiland that he dearly loved the title. He knew he had welded the association together. No one ever lived that loved the honor more, or did more to deserve it. Though it was soon apparent that it was just too much “dog” for us yachtsmen, the Admiral loved and cherished the title until his dying day. It was af-fectionately used by those of us who best knew his contributions to the sport. The NHYC, The Honolulu Race, the SCYA, and the 1932 Olympics are his monuments. Let us think of him with great and silent respect.

The other NHYC signer was none other than Claude G. Putnam. “PUT” to most of us. Many an early member of the NHYC looked upon him as the ACE of those Woofle Bird Eggs he was ever extolling. Fresh from the deserts of Arizona, where in Salome he had illustrated the stories that made Dick Wick Hall famous. For many years it was reasoned, he rigged a line about his waist whenever he went to sea, fearing that like the famous Tog, he had never learned to swim. Perhaps our concern over him was enhanced by his voyage in the Joy, when, sailing from Santa Barbara to Newport, he fetched a land fall on Pt. Loma. His explanations had to do with the un- nautical habit of laying a pair of pliers beside the com¬pass. He was a bad man to compete with in any regatta, and a true friend around the clubhouse fire. He was ever active in association affairs, and the Pirate Cartoons in the NHYC clubhouse are his bequest to the sport.

From the LAYC Dan Laubersheimer, one of a family of fine sailors and an attorney of prominence, could be found at the helm of the Ortona most any weekend. He had the vision to see the advantages of organization, and his legal knowledge made it practical. He, with Walter Brown, brought with them the very active and militant LAYC, than which there has never been a lustier group of deep water racing sailors.
Otto Wildey and Jim Dickson signed for the LAMBC, keen powerboat men, and just as keen sailors. Jim built and sailed the Jubilo in the 1923 Honolulu Race, and was still sailing her on his death two years back. Sunny San Diego had but one man there, our own Clem Stose, now the #1 in SCYA affairs.

The California Yacht Club was not yet in being, but the LAAC, as a club within a club, listed among its members many owners of fine yachts. Led by Frank Garbutt, and his associate Matt Walsh, spoke for a sizable fleet, their enthusiasm and zeal gave impetus and much financial help to the new association.

Now that we had an association, and it was functioning, it was of course, necessary to have a summer regatta, and right away we find Newport Harbor and Santa Barbara competing for such an affair. At the April 14th meeting, the regatta for 1922 was awarded Newport Harbor and the 1923 to Santa Barbara. No mention of financing ap¬pears in this set of minutes, so it must have been provided by the local boys.

Race Start in 1919

Off of Seal Beach Pier, the race starts. To the left, MINERVA is in the foreground, ORTONA is beyond.

THE BOATS IN THE 1920s

Almost every seacoast area has developed its own type of craft. The Friendship Sloop of Maine, the Cape Cod Cat, the San Francisco Bay Sloop, the Chesapeake Bugeye, and the Columbia Bar Boat to name a few. I have never been able to sense a distinct type that could be called the Southern California type, unless it be just an all-round healthy sea boat, good in light or heavy airs and able to stay at sea, be it power or sail. There may be more reason for this man appears on the surface. We have neither the shallows of the Bay or of the Cape, nor the tides and currents of the Maine Coast or the Northwest. Then too, as we already pointed out, to our waters have come boats from the world over; each model has been appraised, its good points studied until the home product was a fine wholesome design, incorporating as many of these advantages as the poor beleaguered builder and architect can work in. Our seas demand high free-board, which is now rather stylish; the heavy ground swells need a sea kindly hull; strength of hull and rigging; our calms, an easily driven hull and so it goes. We can tell a beautiful boat as far as we can see one, but until recent years I have not been able to identify a boat in a distant anchorage and know for certain that that is the Southern California type. This has changed since World War II.

This applies to the sailing fleet and to power boats alike. At one time the modified Monterey boat — the Catalina Island sport fisher, made its appearance. For many years there appeared among larger cruisers, a Western type from the board of Ted Geary, who evolved a pleasing sheer, low deck house fitted with alternate round and square ports, and later a seagoing cruiser, strictly business, with the power and grace of a small steamer or large tug. Purely West Coast creations. These have gone the way of the “Hunting cabin cruiser,” the semi-open bridge and pure raised deck hull. To the motorboat field has come the production-lined stock boat, so the chances of a California type ever developing is slight. Now and then an individualist comes along, and in the fleet, we find different appearing boats identifiable as Western, if not Californian, designs by such men as Garden, Monk, and De Fever.

Seawanhaka Rule Marconi rigged Columbine

“COLUMBINE,” one of the famous Seawanhaka Rule boats, forty-seven feet on a twenty-four foot water line!

The sailing fleet had its course shaped more deftly. Rules, not designers, did it. Before the days of the Universal Rule, the Association saw long, low freeboarded vessels gallantly go through as much water as they went over. Their long ends pounded and their crews shivered. They were the survivors of the old Seawanhaka Rule. The Universal Rule produced a better boat, more freeboard and a better racer, with much more comfort. Since World War II the Ocean Racing Rule has produced a fine, healthy, sea-kindly hull, with excellent speed; but with the possible drawback that the interpretation of the rules produced virtually a one-design boat, regardless of the architect. Then too, about the time the Association got started, the Bermudian, or Marconi rig, displaced the old gaff headed one, and that alone was responsible for terrific arguments, with resultant consumption of tobacco and grog. When a smart sailboat appeared in our fleet, it was natural that another owner would want one like it, or faster. Hence, boats built close to a rule being the fastest it wasn’t long ‘til one boat in a class led to another, and then another, and the class was established. The R Class became particularly strong, as did the Qs and Ps. The boys up North produced some good ones and our own went them one better. Designer Edson Schock took full advantage of the opportunity and his finest effort, the R boat Debra is still to be counted on to gather in silver¬ware. Though, for many years, she has sailed in mixed cruising classes, and under rules unknown when Ed laid out her lines. Then came the 6 meter class, the Sacred Sixes, so called for the religious fervor in which the crews raced them — days, nights, and Sundays. When not on the water, continued their races on the table cloths of count¬less cafes. The Eights made a valiant attempt. Potter turned out a few lovelies, but before the fleet became as famous as the 6s, the depression days were upon us, and today the 8 meter class is a memory.

With its growing popularity, sailing — and particularly competitive sailing — has produced smaller and smaller boats with a larger and larger number of competitors. The mighty schooner is gone, our stately sloops come out seldomly today, 6 meters were once regarded as one of the smaller classes, and the Stars are easily the smallest in a regatta. Our largest one-designs were the PCCs and the California ’32, while Rhodes, and PCs are the backbone of many regattas, and were considered large boats. The smallest is not yet.

2 Stately Schooners

Stately Schooners racing off Santa Barbara. AMARILLO, ENDYMION and DIABLO

After World War II, a young designer, William Lapworth, studied our winds and waters and evolved, with the aid of the fiberglass industry, an astonishing series of small racing – cruising boats that have grown to fabulous proportions. It was in 1931 or 1932 that the writer, as a publicity stunt, at the behest of the old California Yacht Club, instigated the SUNKIST dinghy series to offset Eastern “Frostbiting.” It was Rusty Fellows and Jimmy Schuck of the Fellows & Stewart organization, that came out with a fiat-bottomed skiff, with centerboard, much like a painter’s skiff, and surely no competition boat today. They ran away with the series, and in so doing implanted the seeds of today’s successful small boat racing. In small boat classes, the Alamitos Bay Skimmers, led by Sid Exley and Rose Pasel, gave the Committees a lot of headaches by insisting in sailing “right out in the ocean” with the big classes. One August in Santa Barbara these boats became known as Jack Fletcher’s Ironing Boards, as Lieutenant Fletcher, the Coast Guard officer in charge of the patrol, had an exceedingly busy time one dusty afternoon when about seven out of ten swamped in a gust. It wasn’t the same day that the committee got a thrill when the Axelson boys coming down¬wind through the line proceeded to sail an “Ironing Board” under. The Coast Guard offered help, and were waved away. There was much splashing and bailing after a clever righting maneuver, and away went #53—I think it was—to wind up in second place.

Legions of boats under 30′ began to appear, and they are right handy cruisers, too. No handicap rule could contain them and the bigger boats often took a beating on time allowances. This led to the formation of a division, under SCYA guidance, of the MORC, Midget Ocean Racing Class. Today they are more numerous than the “big” boats over 30′ long.

Then from over the waters, came a bright Hawaiian who had studied and improved upon the South Sea Islanders catamarans. Rudy Choy promoted and developed these craft and they, too, have their group and their rules and race with us.

 

NAVAL ARCHITECTS

Yacht racing, be it sail, power or out-and-out speed boat competition, would be far behind what it is today were it not for the designers, or naval architects. For the most part, a set of brilliant individualists, apt to be introspective and a bit sour, for as a class they were for years, vastly underpaid, and overburdened with the demands of yachtsmen. But withal, the history of our Association should give them a lot of credit, and can point to much that they brought to the Association. Southern California has been lucky to have as residents an outstanding group of these men — D. M. Callis, Nick Potter, Edson Schock, Ted Geary, Dair Long, Bill Lapworth, Skip Calkins and “Uncle” Hugh “Bones” Angelman.

In the early days of the Association I met my first Naval Architect, D. M. Callis, a product of old Baltimore, who physically resembled President Woodrow Wilson. In those Republican days DM kept any similar political views well covered. His office was at 6th and Main in Los Angeles, and I dropped in there just to meet a yachtsman. Naively, DM took me for a weekend on one of his new power boats, one of the first 40-footers powered with a Diesel engine. It was in January, and we went to Catalina. And brother! What a weekend, for it snowed in Avalon while we were eating our hotcakes Sunday morning! And it was that weekend that Major Mott had elected that some 50 odd outboards would race around Catalina Island for glory and untold inches of newspaper space. DM had offered to act as part of the Committee, and I was tagged to assist. Other than that, it was a wild hassle, the details are hazy, for but two boats finished a shoreline course, but the gang was good enough so that in a year or two, DM had had me promoted to where I was running regattas. Two of the other boys of those days stuck to it, Erwin Jones and King Brugman. But for a few months, DM had the greenest, land-lubberist regatta committee that ever sat on a protest.

Another time he coaxed about five of us over to the L.A. Athletic Club, had a small table set up alongside the pool, and we called it the Yachtman’s Luncheon. It was a Wednesday noon, and that luncheon, now sponsored by the LAYC, was held every Wednesday at the L.A.. Athletic Club. DM never designed a Cup defender, to be sure, but he created much in Southern California yachting lore.
Soon after DM and King Brugman got interested in predicted log power racing he organized the first LA-SF Power Cruiser race. That, boys, was Yachting! Four days at sea and four days and nights in the hands of a Pre-depression San Francisco Entertainment Committee was wonderful, and tiring. DM was, an organizer. It wasn’t many years after that he was called upon to put together the first aquaplane race between Avalon and Hermosa Beach. Again, he called on his old gang for help, and what a time that was! And with all of this, many of his yachts have had long fine careers as excellent boats.

Many an architect comes here from up North. Callis did, and so did another, Ted Geary, whose fine power boats are mentioned in another chapter. Ted was a sailor par excellence and a mean man to beat. His R boat Sir Tom held many records up in Puget Sound and came down here often enough to make things hard for the local boys. Ted brought with him such mainsheet men as Rob Maitland of Vancouver and others. After a few years of this he decided to live down here and carried on his designing business from the Craig Yard in Long Beach. One of his later creations was the now famous International Flattie, and Ted could still be seen avidly watching the progress of the class, up and down the coast for years.

Another naval architect, Edson B. Schock, early in life left the staff of the RUDDER, went to Puget Sound and then, too, came South. He liked his boats fast, and wasn’t at all satisfied that Ted Geary should do so well with Sir Tom on the Rs, so he brought out Heather, and finally Debra, for Silsby Spaulding. Many feel that she was the sweetest R ever built. Ed’s boats won races. His schooners were famous for many a year in the 45′ class. Most of them are still sailing. When the two stickers get together – ScaraMouche, Almardine, Wiletie, Monsoon among them, then Seymour and Velshi would be in the cruising boats. Many of us thought that Ed’s boats were tender. For often you could see the rudder and keel as they ate by you. But that was largely because Ed gave them lots of sail for the calm going, and they would pack it come the trade wind. His development of the sensible 31′ sloop, Blue Jay being the prototype, has given a host of people comfortable cruising and sporty competition for lo! these many years.

As an interpreter of rules, and an arbiter and handicap per for the 45′ sailing association, Ed served many years with the Association and was beloved by all. Few designers have had as many popular boats in the fleet as Ed.

In the late 20s and 30s when the 45-foot sailing association was having its fortnightly cruises for two stickers in a dignified and acrimonious manner, along came a peppery lad from our smallest state. He had a nice eye for smooth curves, and the ability to argue it out with a prospect ’til very late hours, given encouragement. His name? Nicholas S. Potter, who started the tough way by designing 6 meters and Rs. One of the latter, the Friendship, was a very smart R, and Nick hated to see those 45s sail off in their smug way. But Friendship wasn’t a two-masted vessel, at least until she came out one week end with a mizzen, making her a yawl, even though the sail was borrowed from an OLD TOWN canoe. We can’t say she was really welcomed by the bunch, but they did have to admit that Nick had a right smart yawl there. Later Nick brought out Caprice and Angelita. The famous Westward was converted to a Marconi sloop by Nick, as was the Amorilla, and today the Serena. He designed Endymion as a schooner and later converted her to a sloop, and designed Heifitz’ Serenade.

THE OLYMPIC REGATTA

Perhaps Admiral Soiland had the Olympics in mind when he organized SCYA, and perhaps he realized that if Los Angeles ever hosted the Olympics, the yachting events would be less of a success without the Association. But one thing we do know: that once the Association was under way, the topic of the 1932 Olympic Games was soon introduced. From that moment the Admiral drove relentlessly until the Olympics were an accomplished fact and in the Association’s hands. These races were the jewels in the Admiral’s crown, or the scrambled eggs on his hat! It was no easy thing – this matter of securing the sanction, selecting the courses, finding a boat for the monotype, and then making the financial arrangements. Then the Association found that, because there was no “gate” to yachting events, there would be no money for expenses from the Olympic Organizing Committee. It was necessary for us to raise our own, and a committee consisting of Commodores Morgan Adams, Al Christie, A. N. Kemp, Donald W. Douglas, Al Rogers, Al Soiland, Douglas Radford, Max Fleischmann, Slysby M. Spaulding, and Owen Churchill acted as guarantors for the expenses and entertainment of the contestants. That was not all; the consent and co-operation of the North American Yacht Racing Union had to be obtained in order to select the Monotype. The International dinghy was relatively unknown in these waters, and so the Snowbird was selected, and an entire fleet of Snowbirds was built for the Olympics, in rotation, through the series. The Stars, 6 meters and 8s made up the rest of the classes raced, and eliminations were held. Boats were provided for those nations that could only send their teams, and not boats. Some seventeen nations entered and race. Sailors from the United States were successful in the 8 meter and Star classes. France won the Monotype class and Sweden the Six Meters. The whole affair came off creditably without bitterness or even harassment and is one of the happiest pictures of the years of Southland Yachting.

COLORFUL CHARACTERS

The early history of the SCYA is high-lighted by many colorful characters. The sport was smaller than – every¬body knew everybody else. If you chose to be a “character,” everybody was tolerantly amused and played up to you.

TAYLOR and HESSELBERGER

The next two yachtsmen must be mentioned in the same breath—Ellis Wing Taylor and Milt Hesselberger, business associates, fellow yachtsmen and fine men. They were civil engineers when the Association began and demanded measurement certificates, it was only natural that the job should fall to these two. Ellie had been a yachtsman from the time he was in knee pants and always participated in regattas as a crewman. He was a member of the famous Aafje crew of the Honolulu Race fame and could always be counted upon to carry his share of the load. So consistent was his performance that it is hard to think of any phase of the sport where he was outshone. Perhaps one of his greatest claims to fame was his refusal to be rescued by the Steamer Catalina in mid-channel one Sunday. Returning from the Island on the Jubilo, with only Jim Dickson and their wives on board, he had had the bad luck to go overboard. Knowing he was in for a long swim while Jim got his canvas down and his motor going, he decided to shed his clothes, but carefully saved his sheath knife and nonchalantly tied it about his middle. The Catalina was quick to see he was in trouble and wanting to demonstrate their snappy rescue team, hove to, dropped their lifeboat and headed to where Ellie was treading water. Ellie could not face the predicament of going aboard the Catalina clad only in a sheath knife, so waved the rescue boat aside and waited until the Jubilo came along to pick him up. Milt has been just as good a sailor. His Molly Lou, a consistent contender for Honolulu honors, was for years the homing spot of many of us at regattas and races. We can recall the sad start of the 1926 Honolulu race when a power boat disastrously removed Milt’s bow sprit just as the gun was going off and the valiant Milt returned to Newport, re-fitted a new one and was on his way in less than 24 hours. Milt’s knowledge of the rules of measurements was as great as that of any other man—in fact, in a way he might be considered the Sherman Hoyt of Southern California.


THE PEDDERS

The Pedder brothers were brought up on the ocean, principally around San Diego. Jack, the older, had a marvelous little boat on San Diego Bay called the Butcher Boy. She was a Columbia Bar Sloop and incredibly fast. It is said that in her early days—no one really knows how old she was—she was actually the butcher’s delivery boat in San Diego, hence the name. When she passed from Jack’s hands he bought from Louis C. Tiffany, in New York, the fine 60′ Herreshoff schooner Haswell and renamed her Diablo, entering her in the 1923 Honolulu race. You know the rest of that. Coming back to the Coast she was for many years in the championship class in Southern California and San Francisco waters. Finally Jack sold the Diablo to his brother Wilmer. The Pedder family moved aboard, continued racing and keeping the Diablo at the top of her class. It was not until the coming of the tall Marconi schooners that Diablo was defeated, and even then when the Island races were determined by sail handling at night in the calms, Diablo could coast with her tremendous spread of canvas so that she was always a serious contender. Wilmer Pedder prided himself on never dropping out of a race. On one occasion the race around Catalina was sailed in such calm weather that it was late Tuesday afternoon that Diablo sailed in from a Saturday’s start. On one occasion Wilmer met more than his match as the minutes of the Association testify. Batt Huber came forth with the famous Block Islander Pacific Child and took the Diablo’s measure in a regatta at Santa Barbara. Wilmer decided to protest some of Huber’s actions, and Huber in turn contended that the Diablo was not a schooner, that her main mast was some two feet too forward. Herreshoff had not built her for racing and the main mast had been located at a handy point in the accommodation plan. Measurements proved that Huber’s contentions were correct and the mast was moved aft to a legal position. Strange to say, this increased Diablo’s performance, so in reality Huber did Diablo a great favor. In the 30s Jack Pedder returned to the sport in none other than his first love, the Butcher Boy, and proceeded to take the measure of such boats as the mighty Enchantress. In fact, so much of a winner did she become that the boys spent much time in trying to find some way of keeping Butcher Boy off the course. The same situation after the war when Lapworth’s small fiberglass sloops took the trophies led to the formation of the MORC class. Wilmer died in 1934 and the Diablo remained in racing condition under Mrs. Pedder’s management until World War II. After the War she left the Pedder family. Then Jack built himself the Butcher Boy II and participated in the first Ensenada race in that lovely sloop. His health was not good and he passed away soon after… a seagoing yachtsman if there ever was one.


MATT WALSH

Of course, no history of Southern California yachting is complete without tribute to Matt Walsh, the “Old Fox” as he was known. Matt for many years was associated with Frank Garbutt (Garbutt & Walsh), and was in his own way a perfectionist. While realizing the necessity for rules of competition, he felt that the premises of them were often fallacious, and Matt enjoyed spoofing the rule makers. His methods of running a yard were always in¬genious and his work of the highest character. We can recall the time Matt made a contract price with the owner of a three-master to scrape and varnish the masts. Taking three of his best men he sent one up each mast and put a fifth of something rather good on the deck and said the first man that finishes his job gets the fifth. He really made money on that contract! A teetotaler himself, he was always quick to reach for the bottle when the owner came to settle the bill, and the lubricant always pleased the owner, and it was a smart man, indeed, who thought he out-foxed the “Old Fox.” Sailing with Matt Walsh was a treat. In the late afternoon williwaws in the Catalina channel, Matt could always seem to smell where the next puff of wind would hit, and it was “ready about” long before anyone else saw where there would be wind. In most cases the rest of the fleet were looking at the taffrail and Matt’s fedora. The building of the Thoroughbred was a direct affront to the 45′ Sailing Association, whose boats were all two-stickers, and when they wouldn’t let Matt sail, his popularity with the news reporters was so great that when he sailed along with the Class and beat them badly, the Thoroughbred was always featured in the press as the first boat in, though some other boat was named as the winner in somewhat smaller type farther down the article—and more power to him.


NORM PABST

Did you ever want a job done and done right? Did you ever want to know the other side of any argument? If you did. you consulted Norm Pabst. The writer got acquainted with him one cold, rainy day in Catalina waters, when there were snow flurries in Catalina that morning and some fifty luckless outboards had elected to race around Catalina around the persuasive urgings of Major Mott. Two or three boats actually finished a trip up to the Isthmus and back. Norm Pabst. with his Cruiser Lady Bug, rescued some and the Coast Guard and other boats took care of the remainder. Somehow from a position with the Coast Guard, the Lady Bug seemed every¬where. So it was a few months later that we had just as snappy a Mid-Winter regatta and everybody and everybody’s aunt wanted to get out on the Committee boat, a nice snug, warm 125′ Coast Guard patrol boat, that we delegated Norm as master of arms to keep the crowd off our necks, and what a job he did! Through all of our years in regatta work and the Olympics Norm ever willingly supported the regattas and did the dirty work, and a “thank you” and a handshake were all he ever expected. In the meetings he has always wanted to know both sides of the question, and for many years the Association meetings were enlivened by arguments between Norm and Pier Davis. Both of them I think enjoyed it as they realized it brought all the facts out and we could make up our minds clearly with full information. Although the repartee might be sharp, there was nothing mean about Norm. The good of yachting always came first.


TED CONNANT

If Matt Walsh was the “Old Fox,” certainly Ted Connant might have been considered the “Young Fox.” Brought up in Santa Barbara, a sailor all his life, there is little Ted does not know about wind and wave and how to combine the two to keep his boat out ahead of the others. The early experience with R boats, then 6s and 8s, brought him to the top in time for the Olympics. His ability to train a crew and his split second timing was the envy of other skippers for years, and the finest thing about him was that even when he was taking such a glorious licking as the U.S. 6 meter got in the Olympics, he was at the end of this contest, still the same unperturbable Ted, fighting until the last race was over. Just as adept in the handling of the big schooner Endymion and the California 32 Altamar, he finally succumbed to the beauty of these boats. Purchasing and sailing the Tempest, whose tall cream stick was seen in either Howland’s or Fisherman’s each weekend, for many years, where if you were lucky you would be asked aboard for an abalone chowder.