The Herreshoff 12-1/2 sailboat—a classic day sailer that has been plying local waters for the past 100 years—was celebrated last weekend during the 2014 H Class Championship Regatta, hosted this year by Buzzards Yacht Club.
A record number of the H class sailboats—44 in all—raced for three days off Wings Neck in Bourne as part of the event.
In addition to the regatta, there was a dinner for 200 fans of the boat to honor the boat’s designer, its history and the continuation of H Class sailing championships.
This year marked the 100th anniversary of Nathaniel Greene Herreshoff’s enduring boat design, with its gaff rigging, spinnaker, and stable keeled hull.
The boat is as old as the Cape Cod Canal—which just recently celebrated its centennial anniversary—and, as it turns out, has just as many local ties. The boat is small and manageable and measures 12-1/2 feet at the waterline, and 16 feet overall.
“The boat was originally called the Buzzards Bay Boy’s Boat and was designed to be a good children’s training boat and suitable to sail in the windy and rough conditions of Buzzards Bay,” said John N. Fisher, commodore of the Buzzards Yacht Club.
Each original Herreshoff 12-1/2 was numbered as it was built. The Herreshoff Manufacturing Company of Bristol, Rhode Island, made 360 boats between 1914 and 1943.
Time and moisture are formidable enemies of wooden boats, but owners who love the look, feel and design of the Herreshoff 12-1/2 are willing to maintain them and pass them down through the generations of their families.
It is estimated that 100 of the original wooden boats are still being maintained and sailed today.
Eight of those originals sailed in last weekend’s regatta: #2-Elf, #5-Tumbleweed, #8-Bonita, #30-Man of War, #38-Moxie, #41-Lorelei, #70-Doughdish and #116-Ding Hao.
“There aren’t many of the wooden boats left to race,” Mr. Fisher said.
A fiberglass reproduction of the boat saved the Herreshoff design and H class racing, he said, noting, “That’s why we were able to have a record number of participants this year.”
Mr. Fisher has been the commodore of the Buzzards Yacht Club since 2008. Growing up in Bourne, he could be found racing the boats many summers and fondly remembers sailing #28-Privateer in the mid-1970s, when his father was commodore of the Buzzards Yacht Club. Mr. Fisher looks forward to teaching his own son, now 3, to sail.
“The class attracts all different ages. They are just beautiful boats that have quite a following, both young and old,” Mr. Fisher said. The youngest participant in the regatta, Thomas First, is just 12, while the oldest, George Moffatt is 87.
The exact fiberglass replica of the Herreshoff 12-1/2, called the Doughdish, is made locally in Cataumet at Ballentine’s Boat Shop on Route 28A.
Stephen Ballentine and his daughter, Amy Ballentine-Stevens, bought the rights to produce the fiberglass replica in 2010 from its creator, William G. Harding, an avid Herreshoff sailor and boatmaker. Mr. Ballentine has personally helped restore up to 30 Herreshoffs.
The shop is currently building the Doughdish #540.
“When it was time for Bill Harding to retire we were a natural next caretaker of the Herreshoff 12 legacy,” Ms. Ballentine-Stevens said.
“We had an extensive history with the original wooden Herreshoff 12s and we had a long history of maintenance with the Doughdishes.
We had a good and long-standing relationship with Bill so the transition was as smooth as possible. These boats are important to us and we wanted to make sure that the boats and the class continued to grow and thrive,” Ms. Ballentine-Stevens said.
The Ballentines held a reception and an awards ceremony for the weekend’s events at their shop.
Participating boats and sailors in this year’s regatta came from the Beverly Yacht Club of Marion, Quissett Yacht Club of Woods Hole, Shelter Island Yacht Club of Long Island, Wild Harbor Yacht Club of North Falmouth, The Edgartown Yacht Club of Martha’s Vineyard, and the host of the weekend’s activities, the Buzzards Yacht Club of Pocasset.
Individual Herreshoff enthusiasts not associated with yacht clubs also participated, as did the Herreshoff Museum of Bristol, Rhode Island.
The 2014 H Class Regatta champion was Joshua F. Legg.
Mr. Legg was also a five-time H Class junior champion. He traveled from his home in California for the 100th anniversary celebration and to compete in this year’s senior championship.
The regatta’s dinner was held at the former home of Robert Wales Emmons in Monument Beach, who worked with Nathaniel Herreshoff to design the boat.
“It is alleged that the contract for the first six boats was signed at the Emmons House in 1914,” Mr. Fisher said, making it the perfect spot for the celebratory dinner marking the boat’s 100th birthday.
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The top 10 boats and skippers for the 2014 Buzzards Yacht Club H Class championship regatta:
1st place: Bumble, skipper Josh Legg, Buzzards Yacht Club
2nd place: Lorelei, skipper Terry Cronburg, Buzzards Yacht Club
3rd place: Katharyn Saltonstall, skipper Chad Demarest, Buzzards Yacht Club
4th place: Nobska II, skipper Tad Chase, Buzzards Yacht Club
5th place: Chewink, skipper Richard Malcolm, Buzzards Yacht Club
6th place: Allie Rose, skipper Charles First, Quissett Yacht Club
7th place: Swan Song, skipper George Moffat, Beverly Yacht Club
8th place: no boat name listed, skipper Max Thayer, Buzzards Yacht Club
9th place: Muffin, skipper Sandy Weld, Buzzards Yacht Club
10th place: Aloha, skipper David Korb, Buzzards Yacht Club