Dirty Tricks in the Early Days
From the book “Snipe Tales” (written by a Great Group of Snipe Sailors – edited and censored by Buzz Levinson – 1996)
“In 1938, Bill Crosby asked if I would go to Los Angeles and supervise the International Snipe Class Championship Races as a special observer of the class that had precedence over the race committee. Bill Crosby had gotten the word that there might be some skullduggery involved and wanted someone that could make a tough decision and prevent any animosity against the host yacht club.
The first thing that happened was when I tried to rent an automobile, I was told I had to have a driver’s license. There was no such thing in Texas in those days. I had to rent a taxi, go to the Department of Public Safety, take a driver’s test while the driver waited, and then rent my car so I could get to the yacht club. The first license I ever possessed was a California driver’s license.
Upon arriving at the yacht club, I was informed privately that one of the entries had a crew who was a professional and they were suspicious of the activities of that particular boat. I, therefore, put a mark boat by each buoy and informed the person aboard the mark boat to carefully look to see if the proper person was at the tiller of every boat that rounded the buoy.
After the first race, it was reported to me that the professional was at the tiller of the suspicious boat when it rounded the buoy. My mark boat man was clever enough that he had a camera with him and had taken a photo of the boat when it rounded the buoy. When confronted with the information that the man at the helm was not the sailor, it was first denied; but, when told that there was a photograph of the infraction, that boat withdrew from the regatta and left immediately. Bill Crosby’s advance information turned out to be correct!”
Perry R. Bass, Fort Worth, TX, USA, was a pioneer in the Snipe Class and served as Commodore of SCIRA in 1941
Comments from John Rose:
Attached are the two scanned pages of report on the 1939 Snipe Internationals at Los Angeles, California USA, which appeared in the October 1939 issue of The Rudder magazine.
A comment or two: The winner was Walter Hall from San Francisco/Oakland California, sailing a borrowed (new) 1939 Varalyay Snipe #3456 “Grey Goose” owned by Fred Schenck of Los Angeles California who loaned the boat to Hall. Hall was using his own sails from Snipe #544, and sailed consistently while winning only one of the five races and always finishing in the top five boats in the other races. The winning team appears in the second of four photos at the top of the second page of the article.
The third place boat in the championship division might have won the event if the mast had not broken in high winds in one race. This was a prototype Snipe for many others that were built subsequently by employees of the Douglas Aircraft Corporation in the wood shop of the company’s production plant at Los Angeles/Santa Monica California.
There were several new or recent Varalyay-built Snipes in this event. It was the “debut” rollout of Varalyay Snipes into championship status for many following Snipe National and International Championships to follow.
Sadly, the winning Snipe was destroyed a couple of months after this event when it blew off a dock in a monster wind storm that hit Los Angeles. Schenck had another new duplicate Varalyay Snipe built afterward and using the same hull #3456.
This was also the first event that included a womens division as a part of the regatta. A women’s Snipe national champion series was held a year later during the 1940 Snipe Internationals on a large inland lake in central New York state (Canandaigua Lake). Many Snipe fleets (40) were chartered over the years in that state.
The Rudder magazine from mid-1931 and after published a monthly article about Snipe news (early articles were titled “News of Snipe – The Rudder Restricted Class”, later toward the end of 1932 when SCIRA was formed officially, the article title was changed to “The Snipe Class International Racing Association.” Bill Crosby, editor of The Rudder magazine from 1928 through 1941, wrote all of these monthly Snipe news articles.
Snipe news appeared again after WW II when the Jib Sheet magazine was first published starting in 1945 with Bill Crosby again serving as Editor (Chet Miller, a Snipe sailor in Rochester New York USA and SCIRA Commodore 1942-43, was publisher). Jib Sheet continued on for several years (my last copy was dated in 1948). Snipe Bulletin, devoted entirely to Snipe class activity, started publication in June 1951, with Bill Crosby as Editor until his passing in 1953. [As a side note, the last Snipe that Crosby registered with a SCIRA issued hull number before he passed away was Varalyay-built Snipe #9551, and recently I have been in contact with the current owner of that Snipe, which is still in fine original condition and located in northern California, north of San Francisco. A photo of that Snipe is attached.]