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Racing 2017-10-21T07:03:59+00:00

RACING THE WIANNO SENIOR

“There’s nothing like a good boat to make a man feel young again.”
~ H. Manley Crosby, designer and builder of the Wianno Senior

LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD

H. Manley Crosby, designer and builder of the Wianno Senior, once said, “There’s nothing like a good boat to make a man feel young again.”  The Wianno Senior is that boat.  Commissioned by the Wianno Yacht Club, whose members sought a “fast, able, good-looking, unsinkable” racing yacht, the Senior was designed as a unifying vessel for competition on Nantucket Sound.  In 1913, 13 racing families in Osterville approached H. Manley and requested a one-design boat that would reveal a skipper’s knowledge of the area’s wind shifts, currents, and shoals.  They desired a sensitive craft that would demonstrate the helmsman’s touch for  “porpoising the waves,” as Chet Crosby, paid skipper and 6th generation Crosby boatbuilder recalled.  Once launched, the Wianno Senior proved to not only level the playing field among skippers, but also was instrumental in training young sailors – both male and female – to compete regionally, nationally and internationally.

FLEET RACES

Members of the Wianno Yacht Club began racing Wianno Seniors during the summer of 1914, according to Stan Greyson in “The Wianno Senior Story, A Century on Nantucket Sound.”  That summer, the local weekly newspaper, Hyannis Patriot, recorded that eight of these one-design boats had competed on Nantucket Sound on August 15th.  The fleet continued to grow, and 3 years later, several other yacht clubs on the Cape commissioned “Seniors” from H. Manley Crosby.  In 1917, the national yachting magazine, The Rudder, ran a brief article stating that the Crosby yard was building 5 new Seniors for South Yarmouth yachtsmen.  By the 1926, the Senior was fundamental to the local sailing culture; By the mid-1920’s, the Senior was fundamental to the local sailing culture;  there were 30 boats in the 1926 racing fleet, with home ports on the south shore of Cape Cod including Osterville, Vineyard Haven, Bass River, Hyannis Port, Quisset, Woods Hole and Edgartown.

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.

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