Saturday, February 2, 2013

Bill Schill--Over the bar.

William (Bill) N. Schill, Jr. posing by his first Moth, Win-Bag, Nr 941 in the year 1958.   Win-Bag was a Ventnor design Moth very much like Elizabeth which I've introduced in last week's posts.  Five years after this photograph was taken Bill was International Moth Class Association World Champion.  For the past year Bill struggled with cancer.  This past Wednesday, I attended his funeral.  He was a year and a half older than myself.  Photo credit: David Schill.

I first met Bill in the early 1960s when he was campaigning this Fletcher-Cates Moth, Nr 2081.  The name of this boat escapes for the moment, but that's not important.  What this photo captures is Bill and his father in the process of cutting back the decks of the boat in order to make her lighter and also to convert her from a deck stepped mast to a keel stepped mast.  These experiments paved the way to Bill's championship winning Moth Pegasus, Nr 2345. Photo credit: David Schill.

As Bill's racing skills improved he caught the attention of both sail maker Bob Seidelmann and boat builder Blair Fletcher.  This advertisement featuring Bill sailing Moth Nr 2081 (a Fletcher-Cates) is from the 1963 issue of Moth Doings, the old class yearbook.

Bill flanked by his parents after winning the Moth Worlds in 1963.  This regatta was held at Larchmont Yacht Club which is located just north of New York City.  Photo credit: David Schill.

From deep within your diarist's archives:  Winning the Moth Worlds was a big deal in those days.  Big enough that a few years later Yachting Magazine used this photograph of Bill sailing Pegasus as the frontispiece for the May, 1967 issue.  I believe I'm correct in saying that this is the only time a Moth Boat has been featured on the cover of Yachting.

This is how that cover shot was taken:  notice the man standing chest-deep in the water on the right side of this picture.  That's Bill Schill, Sr.  The elder Schill was a professional photographer and he stood in the water in front of Avalon Yacht Club while Bill Jr. made passes at close range in Pegasus.  One mistake and dad plus a very expensive camera would have taken a full immersion bath!  1963 was the high water mark in Bill's career as a Moth racer.  The following year the Moth Worlds were held in France.  Bill took Pegasus over to defend his title.  He used the British Moth Nationals as a warm up event and came in third at that regatta but at the Worlds, held at Bandol, Bill finished well off the podium.  In following years Bill moved from Moths to Comets and then International 110s and enjoyed further successes in those classes.  More recently Bill returned to Moth Boats and last raced at the 2011 CMBA Nationals at Elizabeth City.  Rest in peace old friend.  Photo credit.: David Schill


  1. Sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. But what an amazingly supportive father he had. I've never seen a Dad take a photo of his son quite that way before!

  2. Thanks Tillerman. He was a good guy who died 20 years too young. Bill's dad took some amazing photos of Moth regattas back in those days. The cover of Yachting is just but one.

  3. You must've noticed his rooster, right? Jersey thing, I guess?

  4. Yeah, I saw the burgee. I don't know it's significance. I'll have to ask his brothers.

  5. George, you're one of a kind, this is a really touching tribute. I'd always heard about Bill's past successes but the photos make it real. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Great photos! I sailed at Avalon in the 60s and 70s, (2413 and 2924) and I was quite familiar with the shallow water noted in the caption. The intracoastal waterway actually lies between the photographer and the bulkhead of AYC in the background.

  7. What type of Moths were 2413 and 2924? I raced 2249 in the early through mid-1960s. Nr 2249 was a Cates-Florida (similar to Bill's Pegasus), but built by George Szabo rather than Blair Fletcher.

    1. 2413 appeared to be a one-off, perhaps from from a kit (I think I "know" this, but how I don't really recall) based on the Vee-hull Cates designs of the era. We found it in Sea Isle around 1968 (I think). One of its unique features was the splashboard forward of the mast step, which was on-deck, not through deck. Now that I look more closely at the photo above, it's not impossible that 2413 was part of the same design or construction lineage.
      2924 Was a Fletcher Marine-built Shelly design; not the self-bailing type.

  8. I have copies of what has survived of the old class records. I'll check and see if there's any info on either of your two Moths. Moving the splash boards ahead of the mast from the stock Cates position became fashionable after Bill Schill did that on his boat. The move makes sense on a boat with a keel stepped mast like Schill's Pegasus.

  9. I looked up your boats. Nr 2413 was originally owned by Marvin and Millicent Quammen (Sea Isle City YC) and was first registered with the IMCA in 1963. Actually the Quammens had two boats, 2413 and 2414. Since these boats were registered with the Sea Isle fleet I contacted Bob Patterson to ask if he remembered the boats and sailors. The Pattersons built many of the Moths that raced out of Sea Isle YC. Bob did remember helping his father and brother built your Cates-design Moth. So the boat was a modified Cates, built by the Pattersons. In 1968 this boat was transferred to Niles vdB (I'm guessing that's you).

    As for the Fletcher-Shelley, Nr 2924, that boat was first owned by Candy Sheperd from Stone Harbor YC and registered with the Moth Class in '67. In '68 she was transferred to Joe Mallon who sailed out of Avalon YC. The boat's name during Mallon's ownership was "U.R. Over".

    Any old pix of your boats? Any idea what happened to them?

  10. My post seems to have evaporated. In a nutshell: 2413 was sold to someone from out of state who wanted to learn to sail. I believe she left the South Jersey scene for good. I needed the money to buy 2924 from Joe Mallon.

    2924 was traded to Fletcher Marine in the early 70s when I acquired a Hobie 14. Hanging behind me in my office is a picture of me sailing that 14 with AYC in the background, almost exactly as it appears in the shot of Bill's Dad standing on that well-known sandbar, taking Bill's picture.

  11. At Avalon Yacht Club in the late 60s there was a "Rooster Flag." My recollection is that a race or regatta winner had to fly the flag, and that the flag was "bad luck," opening the door to other winners in the next competition. Or so the story went.

  12. If you look closely at the first pix in this post (Bill standing next to the bow of his Ventnor Moth) you will see a Rooster Flag on the bow stay. Bill's brother Dave found two of these Rooster Flags in Bill's workshop and plans to offer one back to AYC if they'd like it in their memorabilia collection. The flag was awarded to the leader of the club summer series at periodic intervals to spur competition among the kids racing at Avalon.