Monday, March 29, 2010

More Alcor

Those of you that were at the first launch saw Alcor find her way into the water for the first time in some 30 years.  I've sent the Alcor story on to the Star Class and in the process found a few bits of her history. Scott Rohrer, who is familiar with the boat and had crewed on her sent a few messages that I thought I would pass on.

Scott -

I got this from the Budd Inlet Star fleet in Olympia. It mentions that Star 924, Alcor, was sailed in 1939 at the NAs in San Francisco by F. Hissock. You probably remember Sally Hiscock who went to St. Nick with me and did a lot of sailing - ended up marrying Cappy Clarke who had a Lightning (long divorced) . Her father was Frank Hiscock. I'm wondering if they are the same. I think he was a SYC member.

Perhaps you recognize others in this story, too.

Alcor is the leading boat - photo from 1939

Wow. Alcor.  That's something.  Sure, Frank was Sally's dad but I knew nothing about his Star history.  Cappy is still a member at SYC and sends me notes about my history column from time-to-time.  I lost track of Sally but remember her as fun, bright and cheerful. A couple of things;  Some accounts of the '48 silver stars report that Sunny sailed Alcor in the practice race on Lk. Washington and won it by a mile.  Question is, did Frank own her then or did he charter her from Sunny for the '49 gold stars? 
The most frequently-told Alcor tale here is about the time Sunny sank her during a fall race over by Medina.  She sat on the bottom for a while but was finally recovered.  John Graham bought her then and gave her to daughter Barbara and son Tommy to sail.  Tommy didn't like Stars so I got out with Barb a number of times - so, yes, I am a past Alcor crew. 

Thanks Melinda.  above is a photo of some early Blanchard-built Stars here, including Norman C. Blanchard's Blue Boot.  

All the best,

Scott also passed along the following article he wrote about the 1948 Star North Americans in Seattle.


In the late Nineteen-Thirties, the International Star Class Yacht Racing Assoc. (ISCYRA) introduced a new series for the North American class championship, the winner entitled to the silver sail insignia as a prize.  This allowed Star sailors on this continent to meet and race at a top-level regatta when the Worlds (Gold Star) and, as in ’48, the Olympics were held in Europe

The 1948 North Americans sailed off Golden Gardens marked only the second time the title had been contested.  Eleven boats entered after winning elimination series’ in their home fleets.  Larger fleets qualified two boats and the entry included a striking number of sailors who would become sailing icons in later years.  Gerry Driscoll (with 1944 Gold Star winner Dream) and young Lowell North (his undefeated North Star) came up from San Diego and Bill Ficker’s Chaser II was one of two Newport Harbor entries. 

The Canadian contestants were both from English Bay; C. D. Helmer’s Totem, and the Miller brothers, Sid & Phil, in Clear Sky.  Two Puget Sound boats qualified; Bjarne Jensen’s True Luff, and Cene sailed by the Ross brothers, Charles and Robertson. 

Our area had never hosted such an important championship and Seattle Yacht Club extended itself in every possible way to run a first class event, despite some sizeable challenges.  Regatta Co-Chairmen Jack Warburton and Sunny Vynne were ably assisted by Race Comm. Chair Roy Corbett, and Cully Stimson, Protest Committee.  Fittingly, Lawrence Calvert’s 46’ Starlight served as Committee Boat. . 

There was no marina at Shilshole Bay, in 1948, no breakwater.  The Stars were launched and rigged at the SYC Star hoist (where else?) and towed out through Ballard Locks to the racecourse each morning.   To offer varied conditions, and stay based at the Club, the final two races were to be sailed on Lk. Washington, the fleet towed to Madrona Park daily.    

Racing began in earnest on August. 23, and most of the sailing was in medium-to-fresh southerlies and under gray, sometimes drizzly skies.  While no one was becalmed, several racers ran aground in the stretch of shallows south of Meadow Point.  Protests, groundings and a dead heat (Ross and Driscoll) in the first race highlighted three closely-fought daily races.  Heading into the Lake, Charlie and Bob Ross held a slim lead over Dean Morrison’s Yellow Jacket from Oakland

The social schedule for the regatta was lavish with parties at SYC, the Washington Athletic Club, Seattle Tennis Club, and at Lawrence Calvert’s Lk. Washington home.  On the lay-day following the first three races, all of the visitors were taken up in a United Airlines DC-4 for a scenic ride around the Sound and Mt. Rainier.

Winds on the lake were less than hoped for and only a practice race was completed there.  At the end of the week, Cene became the North American Star Champion.  She was the oldest boat in the fleet and was designed, within generous class tolerances, by Phil Spaulding when he was a Naval Architecture student.  The success of this old boat, her local crew, and the presence of so many great Star sailors, inspired a young Bill Buchan, Jr. to join the class, build his own boats and go on to win the top titles in the class.        

The prizes were given out at a grand dinner at the club on the 28th.  Trophy Chair N. C. Blanchard got old friend mark Mayer to produce 32 beautiful silver trophies including a Mayer Bros. tea service, awarded by the Seattle Times to the winner, and sterling souvenir sugar spoons for every skipper and crew.  

Despite the disappointing conditions, Seattle had distinguished itself as the place where top-flight regattas could be supported and done well.

If anyone has photos, or recollections of this page of our history, they are encouraged to contact the author.  

J. Scott Rohrer

As Scott mentioned in the article,  Sonny Vynne in Alcor didn't participate in the North Americans because they were 3rd in the Seattle fleet that year. He did participate in, and won the practice race before the regatta. I found the following article from the Seattle PI in 1948.

Saturday's warm-up race for the Stars was won by Sonny Vynne in Alcor.  Sonny, co-chairman of the committee handling the championships. who missed by the proverbial hair's breadth of being in the series. Failing, he went to work.

Saturday he outsmarted the boys. Turning the second buoy off Evergreen Point he was only a good seventh. But, where the rest of them headed for mid-lake, Sonny headed directly south into the wind and along the shores of Mercer, Island, then tacked across to the finish line. That maneuver moved him into first place by 37 seconds over Chaser II, the Newport, Calif. entry handled by Bill Flicker and Bob White which served notice definitely that it must be considered in Monday's starting event.  All but three of the Stars entered in the championship regatta took part in the Saturday Warm-up. 
NOW FOR THE RACING— Lowell North, Star boat skipper, passes down the stick with which he and his crewman Jim Hill (left) hope their trim North Star will win the North American Star boat title here next week.
 Seattle Post-Interlligencer, Sunday, August 22, 1948, p 22

I'll pass along any other information about our oldest boat in the fleet as I find it.