Snipe Fleet 17 – Narragansett Bay

It Takes a Fleet: Narragansett Bay Snipe Sailing Update

Snipe Fleet 17 – Narragansett Bay Image
Fleet 17 rigged and ready for the final practice of the 2023 season. L to R: Bob/Steph Adam, Carol Cronin/Jensen McTighe, Kathie/Dennis Kloc, Cara Voss/Chris Snow, Andrew Pimental/Kathleen Tocke

It Takes a Fleet: Narragansett Bay Snipe Sailing Update

I’ve been a card-carrying member of the International Snipe Class since 1990. In that time, I’ve “graduated” from crew to skipper and from rigger to boat owner. I’ve also learned to adjust my goals and competitive expectations each year, depending on how much other stuff is going on.

But there’s one goal that has remained steady, if elusive: to someday rebuild Narragansett Bay’s Snipe Fleet 17. This year, I can finally report a significant step in that direction.

When I first showed up as a brand-new crew in June 1990, the locals welcomed me to the Tuesday night Snipe series run out of Ida Lewis Yacht Club—which they took completely for granted. As a newbie, I didn’t recognize the sure signs of fleet ill-health: fewer boats than the previous summer, with several skippers and crews aging out of dinghy sailing. Little socializing after sailing. And, last but not least, a HUGE untended gap in both communication and performance between the front of the fleet (who traveled to regattas in Boston, Annapolis, and wherever Nationals took place each year) and the tailenders (who didn’t). Sure enough, by June 1991 we could no longer gather enough boats for a series. Fleet 17 became a “paper” fleet, nothing more than a forgotten listing on the class roster.

As its low number implies, Snipe sailing on Narragansett Bay is much older than I am—and the early 1990s wasn’t the first time the fleet had gone dormant. The 1965 Snipe Bulletin includes results from “the first Narragansett Bay Invitational in many years,” adding that “Fleet 17 is one of the oldest Snipe Fleets in the world but had been inactive for a long time…” In 1962, Fleet Captain Gerry Forman had made “strong efforts to revitalize it,” and three years later a 24-boat turnout at Edgewood Yacht Club (near Providence) included nine local boats. Gerry finished eighth overall, well behind teams who had traveled from Massachusetts and Connecticut, but just ahead of several boats from his own fleet. 

In 1966, Fleet 17 hosted the New England Championship. “The turnout of 21 boats was nearly as high as the Invitational,” the regatta report states, “and the event was again dominated by Massachusetts skippers.” Terry Cronburg, “a recent graduate of M.I.T. from the Winchester Yacht Club,” won the windy regatta by “nearly 700 points”—two phrases that capture what hasn’t, and what has, changed about Snipe sailing in five decades. 

When the wind piped up to 25 knots for the second race, only twelve boats finished; “a few came to grief and others exercised what should probably be described as wise judgment.” Gerry Forman is not listed in the results, but a couple of names are still recognizable fifty years later. “The obvious success of the affair attests to the revitalization of Snipe racing in Narragansett Bay, and Fleet 17 looks forward to the opportunity to host many such events in the future.”

Maybe local fleet racing just became too routine to write about, but the next recorded Fleet 17 news fast-forwards us to 1999, when Paul and I each bought Snipes and hatched a plan with local boatbuilder (and my second Snipe skipper) Andrew Pimental: let’s join the Newport Yacht Club Tuesday night race series. After many phone calls and emails, four or maybe five teams rigged up over at Sail Newport (since Newport Yacht Club has no room for dinghy launching) and went out to the race course. I still remember crossing the starting line and shouting, “Hey look! We’re FLEET RACING!”

But by the time we’d sailed two races, hauled, rinsed, unrigged, and driven all the way around the harbor to Newport Yacht Club (through town, on a busy summer evening), the hotdogs were cold and the party was wrapping up. Though we raced a few more evenings that summer, by the following season one of our core teams had sold their boat and started a family… a huge blow to our small numbers. We did host regattas in 1999 and 2000, and while it was fun to share Narragansett Bay’s excellent conditions with out-of-town Snipe sailors, that did not actually help grow the local fleet. 

After the 2004 Olympics, I returned to Snipe sailing as a skipper and, eventually, boat owner. I now understood just how much energy it took to maintain an existing fleet, let alone start one up again from zero. So, I put my organizational skills into other aspects of the sport: trying to provide perspective and guidance to U.S. Olympic Sailing, and helping to start SnipeToday. About a dozen Snipes did participate in a couple of Sail Newport regattas, but any time the subject of rebuilding the local fleet came up, I shook my head. 

(I did, however, continue to pay the annual fee that maintained Fleet 17’s official status.)

And then in 2021, another “Hurricane Bob” arrived. Almost as powerful as the one that hit New England during my second summer in the Snipe, and not nearly as destructive; I’m talking about the unflagging energy of Bob and Steph Adam, who bought a Snipe as a way to keep up with their son Bradley—and then fell in love with its Serious Sailing, Serious Fun. 

Bob and Steph live in Rhode Island, so at every 2022 regatta our after-sailing discussions returned to a favorite topic: how to revive the Newport fleet. Bob began to work the phones, reaching out to potential fleet members… even if they didn’t yet own a boat. When he announced that there were four or five teams who sounded serious, I reached out to the organizers of Monday night racing to see if we could join their “sport boat” series. Their response was surprisingly encouraging; “If you show up with three boats, we’ll give you a start.”

Which is how we came to a beautiful evening in late June of 2023, when we started our very first Fleet 17 race since 1999. Once I realized that my ace crew Jensen McTighe was born that same year, the historical significance became even more obvious—as was the lesson; to grow a fleet that will last, we need to include the next generation. Days later, I was still so excited that I tried to capture the special moment in a blog post called The Serious Significance of One Evening Sail. 

As the summer progressed, we managed to fit in two more nights of fleet racing. In September, we closed out the season with a five-boat Saturday afternoon rigging and practice session—one team shy of doubling our numbers from the first Monday night. A fleet dinner gave us the chance to debrief, and over dessert, Bob led a discussion about the summer of 2024. As I looked around, I realized that Fleet 17 was already too big to be seated comfortably on our front porch. 

Will this revival continue in 2024? Well, Bob’s energy shows no sign of letting up… so I’m quite optimistic that we will carry 2023’s seeds of momentum forward into an even more successful “second” season. Especially since we can learn from the previous ebbs and flows of this historic fleet: Minimize the logistics. Make sure there’s socializing after sailing. And facilitate both knowledge sharing and communication between the front of the fleet (who travel to regattas) and the tailenders (who don’t). 

No matter where this leads, I’m proud to say that Fleet 17 is no longer just a “paper” fleet; we’re a fleet that actually goes sailing. 

Want to join us? Drop me an email. (Or call Bob!)

Fleets: Let us know the Story and the Activity of your Fleet

The heart of the Snipe Class is the local fleet. Fleet activity boosts regional, national and international activity. It is also a “family” where the sailors can spend their time sailing, chatting, drinking, eating and dancing. Where they can experience the true essence of the Snipe: Serious sailing and serious fun.

Let us know the story and the activity of your Fleet. So please send your contributions to [email protected]


  • History of the fleet: When the fleet was founded? Most important sailors and fleet captains
  • Where is it located? Where do you sail (Racing area)?
  • How many boats and sailors? Who are they?
  • Which regattas has the fleet held in the past? Are there annual regattas or events?
  • Social events: does the fleet organize parties, dinners, clinics, promotional events etc.? Do you have a site, a mailing list or a FB page?
  • Programs or ideas for the next future
  • Also, please send photos



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