Sunday, June 12, 2011

Moth Boat Racing at Miami Yacht Club in the mid-1950s

Clayton Fuller succeeded in getting about 5 minutes worth of an old 8mm film he took, of a Moth regatta in about 1955 or perhaps early 1956, transferred to a DVD disk.  Clayton took this little movie on the occasion of his brother Charlie going for the maiden voyage of what was to be Charlie's last Moth, Nr 1581.  The video opens with the 1953 World champion, Lewis Twitchell sailing past the camera in FLYING SAUCER, Nr 1332.  Next up is Ken Klare's father Ed sailing LITTLE LADY, Nr 1336, a knock off Ventnor design.  We also see Nr 1316, II Sins, sailed by David Aaron, Don Lapp in WEE E, Nr 1429, Charles Hunt in TWILIGHT, Nr 1350.  Nr 1296 is one of Charlie Fuller's (the cameraman's brother) earlier boats. Next up is Chuck Phillips sailing a Challenger Moth, Nr 1370.  Next we see Charlie Fuller climbing into his new, all varnished  Mint design Moth Nr 1581.  The blue Challenger seen next with sail Nr 1407, in later years migrated to Ocean City, NJ and was sailed by Rosemary Bellwoar.  Obviously that's not her in the cockpit in this film clip!  T. W. McGlamry slips quickly by the camera in Siesta, Nr 1400.  Lee Swihart is sailing I SIN, Nr 1315.  Finally we can see the boat which helps date this film to roughly 1955; Nr 1460 is a Cates Florida Moth sailed by Frank Sumner from Delray Beach.  The Florida design was a modification of Warren Bailey's 1954 World Champion winning boat MACH ONE.  The earliest Cates Florida Moths hit the water a year later.  Also note the total absence of windows in the sails.  This also dates the film to before the end of the 1950s.

Ken Klare, a former owner of my Moth MINT (see earlier posts) confirms that the location is in the bay near Miami Yacht Club.  Ken also identifies himself as the sailor in Opti Pram Nr 31 so that means this film was recorded before the summer of 1956 because Ken graduated from the pram to MINT in time to sail at the Nationals at Norfolk Y&CC.  For the record Ken was Junior National Champion in MINT at Norfolk and was beaten in the overall title by Ted Causey.  So this film dates to sometime between 1955 and early in the 1956 sailing season.  Perhaps someone can identify the large hotel visible midway through the film.  Can anyone identity the skipper who is awarded the big trophy at the 4:45 mark?  Can anyone pinpoint which regatta this is?  If so leave a comment!

Oh, finally, Ken indicates that the end shots featuring the seal and porpoise show is at Seaquarium off Rickenbacker Causeway, just north of South Bay.


  1. George,

    See you figured out how to get a movie up on the blog. Nice job. I didn't realize that Opti's back then had all those colorful sails.

  2. George:

    I re-posted a link on my blog

    See ya Friday at the party!

  3. Rod, Gunnar and Joe: Thanks for the positive feedback--almost like a chorus of happy bidders on "flea-bay"!. My first youtube upload isn't nearly as good as the Tweezerman's. His are set to catchy music! But at least this little film is "out there" where people can see and enjoy it. A big tip of the cap to Gunnar who's timely advise helped get this done. And Joe B. thanks for putting a link to my blog in your last post. Be sure to give George Bailey credit for that old newspaper clipping from 1949 which features his dad Warren and Charlie Hunt back in the days before sliding seats were outlawed.

    One point about the opti prams in that film: Ken Klare is the first Nr 31 (with a white sail). The blue sail opti carrying Nr 31 seen later on also has a "CG" standing for Coconut Grove YC and so is a different kid.

  4. Clayton reached way back in his memory banks and remembered the name of that hotel which can be seen in the distance about mid way through the film. It's the old Flamingo Hotel. The Flamingo was located a few blocks south of Lincoln Road and fronted on Biscayne Bay. That location puts the hotel east of the dredge spoil island on which the Miami YC was built. Looking a google map one guesses that the boats were racing in the area between the Venetian Islands Causeway and the Julia Tuttle Causeway. Apparently the Flamingo hotel was torn down in the year 1960.

  5. I recently bought the late Mr. Lewis Twitchells home in Biscayne Park, FLorida. In the Garage, nicely kept is what seems to be a classic moth boat. Can anyone tell me what I have, Is it of historical importance. A lot of his trophies are there as well and I became interested in the boat. My number is 305.812.0588 and my email is
    I will be shooting pictures of it soon, once I bring it down from storage. Seems to be old but in great condition.
    Julio Blanco

  6. Hi Julio: The last time I talked with Lew Twitchell he indicated that he still had his last Moth Boat in the garage. He raced from the late 1940s up to the mid 1960s in a number of different Moths of his construction. The design evolved over the years but his most successful boats were based on Flying Saucer, the boat in which he won the Moth Nationals in 1953. Your boat is probably one based on Flying Saucer. If you look in the boat you may find the old IMCA hull number stamped in the keel or in the centerboard trunk. Additionally, this number was also used on the sail, however numbers in the boat are more reliable than those on the sail since sails can be swapped between boats.