The Great Schooner Model Society

Event Reports

Chesapeake 50 Construction - January 7, 2001

A couple of society members began construction of a new class of schooners based on the staysail schooner Pleione, a New York 50 Herreshoff design. The class is intended to augment the existing fleet of schooners maintained by the society, allowing members to hold match races throughout the year with a relatively modern schooner design (circa 1930).

Herb Jones began the process by tracking down and acquiring the plans from the Herreshoff collection at MIT. Based on the plans, he scaled the 70+ foot boat down to the 48 inches allowed by the AMYA schooner rules, allowing the Chesapeake 50 to be raced in their sanctioned events. Herb constructed a wooden plug of the ship, using a plank on frame technique, including a fully planked deck. The bottom 5 inches or so of the keel was left off of the plug in order to make hull production easier. After sanding and preparing the surface, Herb turned the plug over to Frank Pittelli for molding and continued to develop a plug for the keel.

Frank created a three-part mold of the boat, including a two-part hull mold and a one-part deck mold. The mold was made out of fibreglass and polyester resin, resulting in a relatively inexpensive, yet durable mold. Frank has molded over 30 hulls using the same technique with good results. After constructing the mold, Frank laid up 6 hulls and decks, using fibreglass and polyester resin. Each hull/deck assembly weighed between 2.25 and 2.75 lbs.

At the present date (1/7/1), three of the hulls have been distributed to society members for assembly and the keel plug/mold is under construction. It is expected that the other hulls will be distributed shortly and that at least 3 of the hulls will be ready for racing in the Spring.

Surgent Spring Regatta - April 8, 2001

Once again, the schooner sailing season was kicked off in fine weather and spirit at the Surgent Spring Regatta in St. Leonard, Maryland. Ten skippers were in attendance, with up to 8 boats on the water at any time.

As the result of some hectic, last minute building sessions, Frank Pittelli brought a functional, but not completed Chesapeake 50; one of the six hull kits produced over the winter by Herb Jones and Frank. Herb also brought his hull, with much of the deck planking, cockpit and cabins finished. All society members provided advice, whether solicited or not, on how to best outfit the boats. Naturally, we won't know for sure who is correct until they are all on the water and racing at the same time. Mike Summers, a prospective society member, picked up the sixth hull with serious intentions of raising himself from the ranks of dust-collector modeler, to a bonafide schooner captain.

Right: Frank's Chesapeake 50 on its maiden voyage. The hull and decks don't have their finish coats, but its lines look great in the water.

Click Photo For Enlargement

Click Photo For Enlargement
Ed Gera brought his new Pinky to the regatta, with plenty of detail work and a great paint job. The Pinky came equipped with a new sail winch and even a tiller man nicknamed Little Ed. Although Ed did not have much time to tweak the boat, when he placed it on the water, it sailed straight and true, with an excellent motion through the water.

Left: Ed's Pinky on its maiden voyage, with a fantastic paint job and excellent details.

The weather presented a mixed bag of tricks to the skippers. In the morning, skies were overcast, with reasonably constant, light-to-medium wind, at a chilly 45 degrees or so. During lunch, the winds almost stopped completely and the afternoon races were more a function of tidal motion than actual racing.

Right: Although the Sharpie leads the way with the Whitehaven in close pursuit, the Whitehaven carried the day winning most of the races.

A total of five official races were held, with the following top-three results:

  1st 2nd 3rd
Race #1 Bob Jones Marla Surgent Frank Pittelli
Race #2 Bob Jones Jim Wilson Marla Surgent
Race #3 George Surgent Bob Jones Jim Wilson
Race #4 Don Miller Ed Gera George Surgent
Race #5 Don Miller Jim Wilson Herb Jones

It is important to note that Don Miller was operating Bob Jones' Whitehaven schooner in the 4th and 5th races, giving that boat four bullets in five races during the day. Clearly, the Whitehaven, which was built in the 1930's by Bob and Herb Jones' father was performing very well in the light air conditions.

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Above: The Whitehaven shows its graceful lines.

Right: The Bugeye, Chesapeake 50 and Skipjack jocky for position at the beginning of a race.

Although we've always threatened to keep official standings in past years, this year we may actually accomplish that goal. As such, the current standings can be found here.

Mid-Atlantic Maritime Festival - May 20, 2001

Despite some blustery conditions and the threat of rain all morning, the Society made its annual appearance at the Mid-Atlantic Maritime Festival in St. Michaels, Maryland.

Prior to the start of racing, the skies were overcast with steady winds at around 10 knots. The heavy air conditions made all captains a little uneasy, but all boats took to the water. During the warm up period, the winds rose a couple more knots (white caps were just appearing) and a number of the boats suffered accordingly. George's Sharpie was over-powered and had trouble steering, as was the case for Frank's Chesapeake 50, Ed's Pinky, Bob's boat (unknown design) and even Marty's Topsail Schooner, the largest boat on the water. In response to the heavy air conditions, George reduced sail significantly, Frank retired the Chesapeake 50 and brought out his Chinese Junk and Ed hung on for dear life.

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Just as the race was about to begin, Mel's Lynx was seen heading off very quickly across the harbor, as it was unable to tack or turn downwind in such strong air. Similarly, Ed's Pinky was following as well, without any sail control. Upon retrieval, Ed learned that the main sheet had wrapped itself around the pilot's neck and caused the sail winch to throw a gear. Ed vowed that "Little Ed won't be riding along anymore". Both Mel and Ed had to retire from racing for the day.

The first race began with George's Sharpie in the lead, followed by Bob's boat, Marty's Topsail Schooner and Frank's Junk. The Sharpie made it to the first mark in record time, only to discover that it was too over-powered to turn and go downwind, which sent it on a course far longer than necessary. Bob's boat took a similar course, without the helm needed to proceed around the course. Both Marty and Frank took the opportunity to move into better positions, since both of their boats are much larger and were handling the now gale force winds (in scale) better. At the downwind mark, Marty lead the race and was assumed to be a sure winner. However, during the last upwind leg, the Lady Jane was giving up too much leeway and missed the finish buoy by a foot. She still had plenty of time over the Chinese Junk to pull out a victory, but a mechanical problem prevented the Topsail Schooner from completing its turn.

That's when it happened. Surely, said the Jones brothers, such a thing could never happen. But it did. With whitecaps starting to appear and all other boats out of control or way off course, Frank's Chinese Junk crossed the finish line and took a first place. The Sandy Lee had braved the storm, fought every leg around the course, and had finished without a problem ... slow but steady wins the race. A few minutes later, George's Sharpie finished its circumnavigation of the harbor to take second place and then Marty's Topsail Schooner edged out Bob's boat to take third.

After such a brutal race and with the winds remaining very strong, all boats retired from the course except for Marty's Lady Jane and Frank's Sandy Lee, so Marty and Frank had a match race around the course. Marty had the lead at the first mark, but Frank made a better mark rounding and pulled ahead downwind, while Marty was fighting for his life against the wind and waves. Frank rounded the downwind mark well ahead of Marty, but then had some tough upwind tacking against very strong seas, which is not the Junk's best feature. Nonetheless, the Junk made some good turns and was approaching the line when the Topsail Schooner scooted past and earned first place.

Marty and Frank decided not to run up the points by holding their own regatta and everyone went off to lunch hoping that the wind would subside a little ... it didn't.

Here were the official standings for the abbreviated racing schedule:

  1st 2nd 3rd
Race #1 Frank Pittelli George Surgent Marty Hayes
Race #2 Marty Hayes Frank Pittelli  

Calvert Marine Museum Regatta - June 17, 2001

On a nearly perfect summer day with blue skies, bright sun and plenty of air, nine captains raced for glory in some of the most exciting racing so far this year. As always, the winds behind the Calvert Marine Museum were swirling, puffing, unpredictable and downright heartbreaking all over the course. Although only 3 buoys marked a standard triangular course, some captains swore that they were close-hauled the entire way around the course.

Six official races were held, with one practice lap beforehand. Ed Gera came out of the gate fast, winning the practice lap with his new Pinky Schooner. In the first official race, Frank's Chesapeake 50 and Bob's Gloucester Fishing Schooner were trading places in the lead around most of the 2 lap course until Bob decided to T-bone Frank going around the last mark, taking both of them out of the race. George's Sharpie (which nearly flipped over during the warm up session because of a strong puff and little ballast) took advantage of the race leaders problems and crossed the line for the win. In the second race, Frank was battling with George for the lead on the first down-wind leg when George's Sharpie was overpowered by a gust of wind and, yes again, T-boned Frank's Schooner taking them both out of the race. In fact, two other pairs of boats, 6 in total, were tangled along the course because of very strong puffs while running downwind. Herb's Bugeye steered clear of all trouble and took the gun. In the third race, Marty's Lady Jane weathered the course better than anyone else and won the first race without a major tangle of boats.
Frank's Chesapeake 50 overpowered
by a heavy puff.

After lunch (which was, of course, another wonderful appetizing affair) the winds were still unpredictable and puffy so everyone braced for more exciting races. In the fourth race, Herb Jones began to assert his racing dominance of old by steering to another first place, his second of the day. During the first four races, Herb won twice and was completely out of the top three twice, not exactly consistent, but he was racking up good points. In the fifth race, Bob Jones took first place, to pull into striking range for the daily trophy. Unlike the Jones' up and down approach to racing, George and Marty took 2nd and 3rd places, respectively, in both the fourth and fifth races. Finally, since the weather was great and the racing exciting, a sixth race was held and once again Herb crossed the line first for his 3rd victory of the day. Marty earned some more points by literally edging out Ed's Pinky because of a longer bowsprit, giving Marty the most top-three finishes for the day.

With three bullets, Herb Jones won the Commodore's Trophy for the day, with Marty and George tied for the day.

Here were the official standings for the day:

  1st 2nd 3rd
Race #1 George Surgent Ed Gera Don Miller
Race #2 Herb Jones Jim Wilson Ed Gera
Race #3 Marty Hayes Jim Wilson Bob Jones
Race #4 Herb Jones George Surgent Marty Hayes
Race #5 Bob Jones George Surgent Marty Hayes
Race #6 Herb Jones Marty Hayes Ed Gera

Jones Regatta - July 1, 2001

The second annual Jones Regatta was held on an almost perfect day at the Lake in Columbia. The temperature was in the low 90's, with sunny blue skies and variable winds. The layout of the course and the variety of prevailing winds made every race close and exciting for all of the participants.

As shown in the diagram above, three prevailing winds made for interesting sailing. The winds came from each direction steadily throughout the day, but varied in intensity, causing various eddies and dead spots. As soon as captains became familiar with these air currents, a number of different racing strategies emerged.

On the first leg, captains could either stay to the inside of the course, as indicated by the blue line, or move towards the outside, as indicated by the green line. In both cases, ships could sail close-hauled on the same tack, despite courses that were up to 90 degrees apart. Ships in the middle found slower going as the East and SouthEast winds canceled each other. Naturally, throughout the day, the favored course moved as the East and SouthEast winds changed intensity relative to each other.

Similarly, on the "downwind" leg between the first and second marks, captains had to make a crucial choice. On the outside track, a ship could proceed downwind pushed along by the East wind, while on the inside track, ships could proceed close-hauled for much of the way, using the SouthWest wind. Naturally, if the wind speeds changed relative to each other, a ship could be caught in a pocket with no breeze. During one memorable leg, Bob, Frank and Ed rounded the first mark in front of Herb and Marty, who proceeded to take the extreme outside and inside tracks, respectively. Interestingly, both Herb and Marty sailed quickly past the other three and rounded the second mark clear in front of them.

Finally, when coming around the last mark to the finish, captains were met with an excruciating choice. If the SouthWest wind stayed strong enough, then it would easily push a ship along to the finish line on the outside (green) track. However, if it didn't stay strong enough, then the East wind would propel ships along the inside track to the victory. Consequently, on quite a few occasions, the leader of the first or second laps of a race were befuddled as they rounded the 3rd mark free and clear of everyone else, but then got caught on the wrong track, while the captains of the ships behind watched the situation unfold and got the benefit of the lead ships selection.

All in all, the variety of wind directions and speed made for a very exciting set of races and all captains enjoyed the day. The official standings for the day were as follows:

  1st 2nd 3rd
Race #1 Frank Pittelli Bob Jones Herb Jones
Race #2 Frank Pittelli Herb Jones Marty Hayes
Race #3 Frank Pittelli Marty Hayes Herb Jones
Race #4 Herb Jones Marty Hayes Bob Jones
Race #5 Marty Hayes Bob Jones Frank Pittelli
Race #6 Marty Hayes Herb Jones Frank Pittelli

Frank squeaked out a victory over Marty by 0.5 points to claim the Commodore's Trophy for the day (Frank's first time winning the cup in 5 years of racing schooners).

This day saw the debut of Herb Jones' Chesapeake 50 which was painted a nice teal color and which was finished at around 1am the night before. Herb once again did a great job detailing the boat and he performed very well on the day, despite having no time to adequately balance the rig and work out other minor problems (like jib sheets getting caught.) Frank also worked on tuning the rig of his Chesapeake 50 since the last regatta and together, the two boats racked up 4 out of 6 first place finishes. (They might have won a fifth bullet if Frank hadn't tangled bow-sprits with Herb during the second lap of the fifth race when they were running first and second!!!) Overall, the changing wind conditions favored the Chesapeake 50, especially in light to medium air. When the winds strengthened in the afternoon, Marty's larger schooner began to perform more up to its potential and he gave both Herb and Frank a couple of sailing lessons.

Surgent Fall Regatta - Oct 28, 2001

Captain Marty Hayes' schooner Lady Jane continued its dominance of the pond at the Surgent's Fall Regatta, which once again gave the captains plenty to talk (and complain) about. Capping off a season of racing successes, Marty received the prized silver Commodore's Cup. For his efforts, Marty will have Lady Jane, which is named after his wife, added to the list of past winners on the cup. In fact, Marty has won the cup in the past for his exploits sailing the beautiful two sticker Ginger Lee, which is named after his daughter.

In addition to the Commodore's Cup awarded at the end of the year, the Society unanimously decided to award Mark Steele's Windling World Award, for fun and friendship with model yachts, to Don and Pat Miller. Don and Pat have been very active leaders in the Calvert Marine Museum, the Skipjack Club and the Schooner Society and recently moved to Florida.