Friday, May 1, 2020

The 1959 Moth Nationals

Bill Spencer, the US Moth National Champion in 1959 recently contacted me.  We emailed back and forth reminiscing about the time Bill brought his Bill Lee designed moth Cobia up to Brigantine for our annual summer regatta which was prior to the 1963 Nationals at Ocean City YC (New Jersey) and the International Regatta which that year was held at Larchmont YC  (New York).  Bill reminded me that he had won the Nationals in 1959 when they were hosted by the Corinthian YC of Cape May (New Jersey).  That jogged my memory and led me to the pages of an old scrapbook which another Moth Boater, George Spiecker, had given me about a year earlier.  Indeed, inside the pages of George Spiecker's book were news clips detailing the 1959 event.  Bill won, sailing Cobia.  The regatta, initially slated for three days was shortened to just the completed races from Friday and Saturday.  High winds with gusts measured at 50 mph cancelled Sunday's activities for the remaining 83 boat fleet.  What follows is a distillation from George Spiecker's scrap book plus the official results, kindly supplied by Bill Spencer from his Moth archives.  Thanks to both, there will be more Moth history from the the late 1950s period coming to light in the following posts.  Stay tuned.

In those days Moth Boat Regattas were big news!  This photo was taken for the front page (above the fold, thank-you very much) of the August 6th, 1959 issue of the Cape May Star and Wave.  Overall regatta winner Bill Spencer is third from left.  The arrow indicates George Spiecker, who won the Junior Nationals and also finished 3rd in the overall standing.  Second from the left is the Ladies Champion, Mariann Wark.  Back in 1959, a copy of the Star & Wave set the reader back 7 cents.  The newspaper survives to this day but now costs $1.00.

I haven't figured out how to get blogger to incorporate a "click to enlarge" feature for these hard to size news clips.  If anyone knows how to do that please leave a detailed comment.  Meanwhile I will distill the major points of this very thorough article. 

George Spiecker sailing his Cates-
Florida Moth By George, Nr 1620 the the 1959 Nationals at Cape May. George finished as the Junior National Champion  photo courtesy of George Spiecker
The Bill Lee-built Cobia  being sailed by Bill Spencer, the 1959 U.S. National Champion.  Cobia while similar to Bill Lee's earlier boat Mint, Nr 1335 differed by have a keel stepped mast rather than a deck stepped mast and also by having an extra inch of rocker in the keel.  photo courtesy of Bill Spencer.
Bill's surviving copy of the registration list is quite informative.  It lists several Brigantine sailors as well as Tom and Bob Patterson, plus their dad Carl.  Bob and his dad shared a boat since general participants sailed at different times than  the juniors and ladies.  The Pattersons sailed Connecticut design Moths. Tom came in 50th and Bob was 57th out of 60 juniors.  Bill Schill also sailing a Connecticut, raced at this event, coming in 5th in the junior division.  Overall there were 124 skippers and109 boats at this event.  Many of the juniors sailing  this event, such as Frank Adshead, would go on to become major players in the next few years.

The ladies division was 28 competitors deep.  Where are women Moth sailors today?  Mariann Wark swept both of the races sailed.  Sadly, other than the photo at the top of this post, I  have no photo of the Women's Champion sailing her Titan Moth, Nr 1585, Lil Warrior II.  

So, that's a wrap on the '59 Nats.  The Moth Class was at a peak in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Later the Sunfish and then the Laser would undercut the Moth Boat but in the era reported here, the Moth was perhaps the biggest game in town--at least along the eastern seaboard of the U.S.A.