THE PAID SKIPPER
In today’s racing fleet, the owner of a Wianno Senior generally handles the tiller, makes decisions about maintenance, and plots the right course to win. In the early days of U.S. yacht racing, a professional skipper was hired to play most of these roles. Despite a shift in the late 1800s to owners sailing and managing their own boats, half the Wianno fleet historically preferred to hire professional skippers. From 1914 through the 1930s, a Senior owner would pay for someone to tune and maintain their boats as well as coach and advise the helmsman and his or her children. The professionals were mostly local men, including Crosby boatbuilders, who knew the area’s wind shifts, tidal currents, shoals and sand bars. For the most part, these men did not take the tiller during the races; instead they counselled and directed the Senior owner on when to tack, jibe, set the spinnaker, and pull up the centerboard. For those without a professional skipper, the fleet included both “Professional” and “Amateur” divisions.
In an interview for 75th anniversary book on the Wianno Senior, published by the Wianno Senior Association, Joseph “Joe” Mattison, Jr., the owner of Wianno Senior #84, Kypris, recalled one afternoon racing with his paid skipper, Chester (Chet) Crosby, Ned Crosby’s grandfather. Chet sat quietly alongside Joe in the heat of the race and said in his slow, polite, native cape drawl: “Joe, I think we should take in the main a bit.” Then a little later, he would add: “Not quite that much. Just a little. I think maybe we might peak her up a little. Just a little bit more, if you don’t mind.” During that same race, professional skipper, John “Johnny Linehan,” sailing #11, got them and beat Kypris. After the race, Joe apologized to Chet for the boat’s poor performance off the wind. Chet’s face lit up: “I don’t care,’ he said, “We beat ‘em all to windward, didn’t we?”
In a memoir created for his family, this same professional skipper, and owner of Chester Crosby and Sons boatyard, detailed his early education in helping Seniors go fast. “In 1919, I went to work for the Hallidays, who lived at the present Townie Hornor mansion (in Osterville). I was deck hand on their 50’ yacht and a jib sheet tender on his daughter’s, Anne, Wianno Senior, #4, called A.P.H. At that time, Anne’s professional skipper was my cousin, the well-known boatbuilder and skipper, Max Crosby. It was Max who taught me how to set the jib on a Wianno to the 10-15 knot southwest winds on Nantucket Sound and how toscramble quickly out as ballast on the windward rail, and there were no oil skins in those days.”
AND THE WINNER IS …
Today, the Wianno Senior is still as vital to Nantucket Sound racing is it has been for over 100 years. The Senior is the still the major one-design for adult competition at the Wianno Yacht Club and several other Cape yacht clubs also compete, in both their own summer races as well through interclub regattas. Several trophies celebrate this community spirit: The coveted Frederic F. Scudder Memorial Trophy, the H. Manley Crosby Memorial Trophy and the Ross W. Richards Memorial Trophy are awarded annually by the Wianno Senior Class Committee following the six interclub races sponsored by the Bass River, Edgartown, Hyannis, Hyannis Port, and Wianno Yacht Clubs. There have been some changes to materials, hardware and sails since the first boats were launched in 1914, but the design remains the same as originally promised. In the world of yacht design, this legacy makes the Wianno Senior a winner.