HISTORY OF THE CLUB
The Sailing Club of the Chesapeake was originally called “The Annapolis
Sailing Club." There were three founding members - Jim Crabbe, Lee Hammer
and John Miles. The first meeting was held on Sept.8, 1944, aboard John Miles’ boat, the 1898 New Jersey-built gaff-rigged schooner ELSIE M. REICHERT.*
The purpose of the Club was defined as “promotion of the sport of sailing”. But
the country had been at war for three years and there wasn’t much sport sailing
going on. John Miles’ wife Kathy made the first burgee from a design created by
Franklin Townsend Morgan, who was Artist-in-Residence at St. John’s College.
He was a nationally prominent lithographer and water-colorist noted for etchings
of Annapolis buildings and boats in its harbor. Morgan’s design was based on
the red and white Crossland family coat of arms on the official 1904 Maryland
flag, which honors Alicia Crossland, the wealthy grandmother of Cecilius
Calvert, 2nd Lord Baltimore, who founded the Maryland colony in 1632.
Six months after the founders’ meeting, the first edition of the newsletter, The
Rendezvous, was published. There was a war on, and almost everybody was
involved in some way or another. The Navy in the Pacific had started its
massive island-hopping campaign and fought major battles against the Japanese
fleet. On June 6, 1944, a huge Navy fleet landed American forces on the beaches
of Normandy. The Naval Academy midshipmen of the Class of 1945 graduated
a year early and 18 of them were killed in the final year of the war.
Shortly after forming the Club, the Founders decided to set up a “Cruising
Contest” designed to break up the habit of daysailing and get members out to
different harbors, even if it meant sailing farther than they were used to, and to
have a party when they arrived someplace – a plan that succeeded brilliantly.
The first one was held in 1945. There were then eight members and their boats
averaged 34 feet:
ELSIE M. REICHERT, site of the first official meeting, was owned by
GEM was owned by Jim Crabbe who would later become SCC’s first
LOUISE D. was owned by Ray Lewis
KALEE was owned by Lee Hammer
WANDERLUST was owned by Al Robinson
BLACKBIRD was owned by Joe Knoerle who would become the first
ALDEBERAN was owned by Dick Borden
The name of the eighth member and his boat have not yet been discovered
* For more about ELSIE, see “Historian’s Notebook” at the back of the Roster.
The winner of that first SCC event was Jim Crabbe aboard GEM. He won a
prize of $10 and a pair of running lights. He sailed on 83 separate trips to 20
different harbors, 10 of which he had never visited before, and anchored out 39
nights. During that summer he travelled 1402 nautical miles.
The first SCC Rendezvous was at Little Round Bay April 28-29, 1945 with four
boats taking part. The Rhode River was the most popular destination that season
with 22 boat visits. Galesville was the next favorite place to go during that very
special summer when peace was just around the corner, although no one knew it
at the time. The Germans surrendered on May 8th but Japan’s surrender came as
a surprise on August 15th.
In that first year, the Club was run by an Executive Committee, but after “V-E”
(Victory in Europe) Day, work began on writing by-laws and they were
approved by the membership in July, 1945. This was to be primarily a club of
sailboat owners, and there would be a Commodore in charge. Votes were to be
cast “by boat"- only full members could vote and in order to be a full member
one “must be an owner of a pleasure sailboat of twenty feet overall minimum
length” with cruising accommodations.
Veterans like Past Commodore Lou Frank, a fighter pilot who flew P-40s and P-
47s in North Africa and Italy, (and was shot down over Yugoslavia), P/C
Duncan Holt who flew 33 combat missions over Germany and Navy patrol
plane pilot P/C Fred Zimmerman began streaming home...and the baby boom
was about to start.
Members had a lot to celebrate at that initial annual Trophy Dinner Dance in
1946. Joe Knoerle was elected as the Club’s first Commodore. He served
through 1947, when the Club had grown to 23 members, but many were still
daysailing, even in “big” boats like Jim Crabbe’s GEM – a 30 Square Meter 41’ LOA with a 6’10” beam and very limited “cruising accommodations”.
There were good reasons why the sort of cruising we do today had not caught on. For one thing, boats with cruising accommodations were really expensive - many cost more than an average house - and in those days of hanked-on sails, needed four or five crew members to sail them, and more for long races. Some had
paid “captains” tasked with drying and repairing the cotton sails, keeping up the varnished “brightwork” and making sure the boat was ready for the next race. Racing crews were picked from among the owner’s friends who often had to leave their families behind to participate. Getting a crew together for a cruise was a recurring problem. Many SCC members owned small sailboats and began to prefer daysailing with their growing families. The sailboats of the day were, of course, all
wooden hulls. The most popular daysailers were Stars, Snipes, Lightnings,
Comets, Six and Eight Meters, International 14s and 110s.
In 1949, the Club changed its name to “Sailing Club of the Chesapeake” to
recognize that many of its members lived outside of Annapolis. The following
year the original by-laws were revised for the first of several times, the most
recent being 1996.
In 1951, SCC challenged Gibson Island Yacht Squadron to a team race to be
sailed in cruising boats of approximately the same size. This came about
because two SCC members, Al Kuehnle (VIXEN) and John Trumpy (SEA
CALL), while having a drink at the AYC bar after a Fall Series race, publicly
declared that their boats, a Mackinac 40 and a S&S 40, could beat an Owens
Cutter boat-for-boat under any conditions. Owens Cutters were doing well on
the Bay racing under the Cruising Club of America rating rule. Norman Owens,
their designer and owner of Owens Yacht Co. of Baltimore, who sailed a Cutter
named FANDANGO, was chatting nearby with Miller Sherwood, who also
happened to own one named RUBICON. Both of them were GIYS members,
and both disagreed with the SCC members; they “thought that was impossible”.
To resolve this difference of opinion, they decided to have a race. SCC’s
Kuehnle suggested that it be a team race with GIYS sailing the Owens Cutters
and SCC sailing the challengers. Each club would have three boats; their four
boats plus Tom Closs’ Mackinac 40 FUN and Harold Wilson’s Owens Cutter
FALCON. A single race was held the weekend following the AYC Fall Series.
It was won by GIYS- by one point. (A list of subsequent race results may be
found in the Roster.)
A hallmark of the race was to have one designs or closely matched boats
competing. Negotiating the composition of the fleets so that they were regarded
as equal became an integral part of the contest. These “discussions” were
conducted with the highest regard for an outcome that gave neither Club’s fleet
an advantage. Of course they were! That tradition continues. Each club would pack its boat with strong talent regardless of whether their club members were regulars on those boats. Both clubs, and the big boat racing community on the Bay, took these contests seriously with spectator fleets following the action and the yachting press reporting the results.
A broom to signify a “clean sweep” was selected as the trophy to be awarded to
the victorious Club. The Broom, with the latest winner’s burgee and an engraved
plaque attached, resides in the Gibson Island Club House. The Broom Race
continues to this day, and may hold the record for the longest continuing
team/match race between two Clubs on the Chesapeake.
By 1953 there were 88 SCC members. The Korean War was winding down and
many veterans who had been recalled to military service were coming home.
The Navy decided to experiment with a new rigid material made from glass
cloth impregnated with polyester resin to make a “fiberglass” fairing for the
submarine HALFBEAK. It worked well ...and encouraged a few adventurous
souls to try fiberglass for building boats. That same year saw the publication of
the first Sailing Club Yearbook and Roster listing the Officers of the Club, its
By-Laws, its members and a fleet which had grown to 66 boats.
In September of 1954, Emily and P/C Dundas Leavitt organized a lobster party
which has become a Club tradition, morphing into today’s annual Seafood
Festival aka Oyster Roast. Our first Little Kids-Big Kids Party was held on July
4th, 1956, and has also become an annual event.
The first SCC Annual Summer Cruise took place in 1955. (The first postwar
babies were old enough to go sailing.) The introduction of “family cruisers” at
the 1959 New York Boat Show started a sort of revolution. Clint and Everett
Pearson’s 28.5' TRITON, designed by Carl Alberg using ideas from
Scandinavian Folkboats, opened the floodgates. Seven hundred TRITONs would
be built. George O’Day introduced the DOLPHIN 24 designed by Bill Shaw of
Sparkman & Stephens that same year. The next year Bill designed the TARTAN
27 for Douglass and McLeod who built 6888 of them. Bill Schock built 24 more
As fiberglass boat builders swung into mass production and competition
increased, the cost of buying and owning a family-sized boat plummeted. At
the same time, dacron sails - far better in all respects than cotton- came into use.
As prices came down and tax laws were modified to make boat loan interest
deductible, SCC families quickly responded. The kids were old enough, Dad
wasn’t crewing for someone else anymore and the family loved cruising.
In 1962 the much-beloved Alberg 30, designed by Carl Alberg for Whitby Boat
Works, was introduced. A group of Annapolis skippers (including several SCC
members) placed an order for a fleet of 12. They have never regretted it, nor
have their families.
The SCC summer schedule soon included a Spring Cruise, a Rendezvous
Cruise, a Mid-Summer Cruise, a Labor Day Cruise and a Fall Cruise. The
Club’s activities had gradually changed from what was once primarily a male—oriented competitive racing group to involvement of whole families and even to
successive generations of families. Cruising has become a lifelong activity for
many members who now have shared more than half a century enjoying each
other’s company and an amazing variety of boats and cruising destinations.
Those destinations now extend overseas with the growing popularity of SCC
sponsored “Extended Cruises" which have visited the British Virgins, Greece,
Maine, Tonga, French Polynesia, southern New England, the Bahamas, the
Windward Islands, Canada's north eastern provinces and Croatia.
The Sailing Club is an active member and supporter of the US Sailing
Association and the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association (CBYRA). The
Club sponsored one of the race days in the first CBYRA Race Week and
continues to sponsor that and other CBYRA sanctioned events, including a joint
race with Gibson Island.
In September 1974, the Sailing Club celebrated its thirtieth birthday with a
Rendezvous and party on St. Helena's Island. Sixty-eight member boats brought
270 members and spouses to the island. The event was so thoroughly enjoyed by
all in attendance that an anniversary party has since been held every fifth year
commemorating the Club's birthday as an extraordinary event. The tradition
continued in 2004, the club's 60th birthday, with a well-attended gala at the
Sherwood Forest clubhouse.
In 1975, a Cruise Medal was established for any qualifying member sailing
offshore and is now designated the James H. Fox Memorial Cruise Medal.
The year 1976 saw the introduction of the Ralph H. Wiley Award followed in
1977 by the Armada and Medway Trophies and the Chesapeake Award. In
1978, the Charles S. Dell Perpetual Award for Outstanding Committee
Service was established, and the Richard H. Hutchings IV Spirit of Cruising
Award was instituted in 1993.
Note: The James H. Fox Medal has three versions, Gold, Silver and
Bronze. The Gold Medal (for Circumnavigation) has only been
awarded three times -to Dick Zantziger for his roundings aboard
MOLLY BROWN in 1977 and 1995 and to Dick Gantt for his trip
around in CELERITY 1993-2009 with his wife Edythe as crew.
In our nation's Bicentennial year, 1976, the Sailing Club joined members of
England's Royal Yachting Association in a "No Hard Feelings" Cruise. It was
the largest and most elaborate summer cruise in SCC’s history. 400 members
and guests (including 62 British guests) embarked on 89 yachts, sailing to the
Commodore's Dinner in St. Mary's City, the colonial birthplace of Maryland.
Three beautiful and storied trophies, the Armada, Medway and Chesapeake
trophies were donated by the British contingent in appreciation of the Club's
In 2012, a second cruise called “No Hard Feelings II” was held to
commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. Sixteen British guests
attended, three of whom had taken part in 1976. Here on Chesapeake Bay where
important battles of that war took place, NHF II events in Annapolis, Baltimore
and St. Michael’s attracted over 100 members and guests. A red-and-white SCC
burgee now hangs in the Medway YC clubhouse in Kent, England, headquarters of the RYA, to commemorate the NHF cruises.)
In 1985 the CBYRA honored us and our Past Commodore, Ted Osius, when it
asked the Club to sponsor an early Summer Regatta and named it "The Ted
Osius Memorial Regatta."
As a non-profit organization, the Club contributes annually to the Sail Training
Endowment Fund established by the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. In
addition, many members and mates support a number of non-profit sailing
related programs with individual contributions.
In 1988, as some of the older members sailed their last voyages, the Club
decided that widows of members, upon payment of a nominal fee, would
continue as non-voting members, receiving all publications and invitations so
that they could maintain their SCC affiliation.
In 1992, the Club was incorporated and changed the by-laws to allow female
members. Later in the same year, P/C Lou Frank III and P/C Nick
Goldsborough, recognizing the thaw in relations growing out of the collapse of
the Soviet Union, established contact with the Russian Embassy in Washington
to arrange a co-hosted party at the Russian dacha on the Corsica River during
which SCC boats could take embassy employees day-sailing. It was a
resounding success for both Embassy personnel and the Club and has become an
eagerly anticipated annual event with only a few years skipped due to stormy
weather, either meteorological or political.
In 2000, the Eastport Yacht Club initiated the first Battle of the Chesapeake, a
PHRF, non-spinnaker, "round the buoys" race open to all CBYRA clubs in the
area. The Sailing Club won handily in 2000 and has continued its winning ways
2011 saw the first Winter Seminar on Safety at Sea, and the first joint regatta
with GIYS combining SCC’s Spring Regatta with Gibson Island’s Swan Point
to Love Point Race, which includes a new Club Cruising Class tailored for
people who have not raced in a while and who have family and friends aboard as crew.
For its officiating and management of the race, the Sailing Club was
awarded the 2011 CBYRA Race Committee of the Year Award in the Handicap
and Cruising One Design Division.
In 2012, a new event, the Shakedown Cruise, was introduced a week before the
Spring Cruise to give members a couple of nights on the water, a short race, and
a shore party to get in the sailing spirit.
In 2013 the decision was made to hold the Oyster Roast and the Lobster Party in
alternate years, “oysters” going first. In March, Extended Cruisers went from
Panama to Costa Rica on a well-appointed clipper ship.
2014 began with the Trophy Dinner Dance at the Tidewater Inn in Easton. with
113 members and guests. A Mid-Winter Rendezvous at AYC featured the
sailing adventures of James H. Fox Silver Medal winner John Clarke and his
family. A long snowy winter ended by May 10th and the Shakedown Cruise (all
the way to Lake Ogleton) was delightful. The Memorial Day cruise brought 168
of us to P/C Torgerson’s lawn party. 135 members and guests celebrated the
Club’s 70th Anniversary at Tred Avon YC on June 10. SCC boats
IMPROMPTU and ALPHA PAPA celebrated by winning trophies in the
Annapolis-Bermuda race. The Fall Cruise ended with a Pig Roast on Rob
Leigh’s front lawn. The Amsbaughs hosted the Oyster Roast .Thirty-four lucky
members enjoyed a Malta-to-Malaga Cruise aboard a 360' Star Clipper Ship.
The Annual Meeting at AYC elected the first Lady Commodore in SCC’s 70
years. Congratulations to Donna Schlegel!
2015 With Chesapeake Bay frozen over north of the Bay Bridge, on Feb. 28th,
Matt Rutherford described his first-ever singlehanded non-stop
circumnavigation of North and South America at the Mid-Winter Rendezvous.
The IceBreaker Party on March 22 at long last ushered in some really nice
spring weather as we shucked off the winter covers and got serious about getting
boats ready. April 14 brought together 15 SCC ladies for Molly Wilmer’s
seminar on Basic Navigation. They navigated 179 of us back to Torgerson’s to
wind up the Memorial Day cruise. In this year’s Annapolis-Newport Race, Nick
Iliff and his boat partner Mike Cranfield took 1st place in the Classic/Corinthian
class aboard BI-40 ALARIS, while R/C Rob Floyd navigated Tartan 46
TESTING LIFE to 1st in Performance Cruising 2. Rolph Townsend ventured up
to Toronto in late June and swept the Syronelle regatta sailed in Alberg 30s with
four consecutive wins, bringing the trophy back to the U.S. for the first time in
20 years! He missed the “Hottest Ever Rendezvous Cruise” which took us to the
new home of Lou and Nancy Frank on Antipoison Creek. (Lou is the son of the
late P/C Lou Frank). In a departure from the regular schedule, the Fall Cruise
included thirteen British guests from the Royal Lymington Y.C., some of whom
sailed with SCC’s crews led by Arthur Libby in the successful Race for the
Broom. Sadly, this sailing season ended badly on Dec. 12th with a serious fire at
Annapolis Yacht Club, site of many SCC events. Fortunately, there was no loss
of life, although two firefighters were injured. -Frederick Hallett, SCC Historian