Thursday, January 30, 2020

The 1938 Governor's Cup Race

Once again Flea-bay has produced a piece of Moth Boat history.  This time in the form of an old newspaper photograph dated the 17th of October, 1938.  I was particularly drawn to this photo because William Duffield and I have been slowly restoring the 1938 National Champion, Imp Too, Nr 449. 

Imp Too was designed, built and raced by Edwin Channing, a naval aviator.  At the beginning of hostilities, Channing asked Dorr Willey to store his boat for the duration.  Channing did not survive the war and Dorr had this boat in storage along with one of his own Moths until a local Elizabeth City man, Gordon Fearing, asked if he could buy them.  Dorr agreed.  One of the interesting features of Imp Too is that she has "soft" or rounded chines.  This feature is very difficult to build but Dorr, obviously influenced by Channing's boat, built four or perhaps five examples of his own design, incorporating this feature rather than the normal "hard" chines which are featured on not only on his stock design but many other Moths as well.  The other Moth which Dorr held onto after the passage of time was one of his own soft chined Moths, Miss Inez, Nr 808.
The Governor's Cup was one of a number of races held during the National Regatta.  There were also separate races for Junior sailors, Ladies, etc.  This permitted some boats to be shared and gave those skippers competing in the heats that constituted the Nationals a chance to tune their boats and sharpen their boat handling skills prior to the main event.

The back side of the photo.  Many old press photos have a note like this one which provides a limited  description.  Sadly, there is no mention of which newspaper this photo was published.  However the note provides the location (Elizabeth City) and the name of the winner of this race (Harry Andrews).  Harry Andrews won the inaugural National Moth Boat Regatta five years earlier in 1933.
A close up of the photograph.  One sail number, partially obscured, appears to end in 49.  Could this be Nr 449?   If so, is that Edwin Channing at the tiller?
One might ask what I mean when I speak of hard vs soft chines.  A few pictures might clear that up.  First, here are a couple of pix of my "stock" Dorr Willey- build Moth which has hard chines:

Note the sharp chine edge of the blue side board.
Another pix showing Blondie on her lines in the water.

Compare that with these photos of Imp Too, currently under restoration:

In contrast, Imp too (and a very limited number of Dorr Willey's Moths) do not have a chine edge, but rather the planking "wraps around" the hard turn of the bilge.  Imp Too was quite revolutionary in the late 1930s and by accounts from the old timers I've talked with was considered very tricky to sail.  Indeed, when I acquired this boat she came with a dagger board with the leading, trailing and bottom edges covered with heavy bronze strapping.  I haven't weighed this board but it's heavy; the bronze was fitted no doubt to add ballast to an otherwise very tender boat.
Another view of the "soft" chine.
The next two photos show the shape of the frames.
We have to make wood planks, at the turn of the bilge, conform to the shape of those ribs!  There are three ways we could do that. 1. we could take a thicker than required plank and "back it out" on the inside to fit the shape of the frames; 2. we could steam planks of the actual required thickness and hopefully not have them split once they cooled; 3. we could resort to using thin cedar strips with bead and cove edges as is commonly done during the construction of wooden canoes.  The first choice produces a heavy plank and requires a special plane.  The second approach is probably the one Channing and Willey used.  The third option, while the easiest is unauthentic and in my mind not suitable for this restoration.  William and I have built a steam box twelve feet long and will no doubt waste some good cedar before we master the technique.  Since this photo was taken, we have removed all of the original planking in order to repair the keel and framing.  The boat was heavily damaged after being hit by a car while on the way home from a regatta.
So, getting back to the picture which started this post, while I may have a rare photo of the 1938 U.S. National champion on the water, the resolution is too poor to learn anything new about the boat or her skipper.  I will keep trolling Flea-bay in the hopes that a better photograph will eventually surface.


  1. I like the look of 'Blondie' very much.

  2. looking to get into contact with the owner of a Dorr Willy boat. Dorr Willy is related to my husband. We have some of Dorr Willy's plans, would love to chat more with someone that owns his boats.

    1. Hi Renee: I am the owner of the Dorr Willey Moth (Nr 807) pictured above.

    2. Hi George! My husband would love to chat with you about your boat. Our son started sailing this year and he is thinking about making a moth boat with plans from his Uncle Dorr. Is there anyway we can private message you or get in contact with you?

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  3. note: Dorr Willy was a great uncle. My husband talked to his daughter the other day and apparently Nr 807 was her boat back in the day. ;o)