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Jul 24, 2018 4:58 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Shinnecock Yacht Club Celebrates 110th Anniversary Of SS Class Despite Gnarly Conditions

Anne Carr, left, Brooke DiCapua, Kathy Lomas and Joy Flynn, along with an SS sailor, on Saturday. SARAH WARREN
Jul 27, 2018 10:07 AM

Despite strong winds and stormy skies, the Shinnecock Yacht Club in Quogue hosted the SS Class Association Championship Regatta on Saturday afternoon in celebration of the 110th anniversary of the one-design, wooden sloop with a whole lot of history.

Of the 150 or so SS boats in existence today, 82 of them were made by Benjamin Hallock, from 1908 until he died in 1932, according to local SS sailor Robert Dudley. Hallock's assistant, Oliver W. Howell, continued building them—32 of them to be exact—up until 1941. Then his assistant, Howard Welch, continued building them until the mid-1960’s. Fred Scopinich built one in the 1960’s and he and his son Fred Jr. have restored many. Beecher Halsey built one in 2008 and one was built at the Long Island Maritime Museum in West Sayville, which was also complete before the 100th anniversary race in 2008.

The boats that sailors use to compete in SS Class events must be restored to their original condition, with no added technology or frills. At Shinnecock Yacht Club, people were ready for the celebration with tables lined with longtime Westhampton resident and author Meredith Murray’s book, “The Magic Boat and the People Who Sailed It.” Some were even donning 20th-century period costumes.

“The SS Class is really unique because of the restoration process. Sometimes it can take years of work on the boats to get them to racing quality,” said James Schelter, a member of Shinnecock Yacht Club. The boats typically are sailed with two people and are 16½ feet.

In a consistent 18 knots of breeze, with gusts up to 23 knots, two races were sailed, and the third and final race was called off due to safety concerns. After just two races, only four of the original 10 boats had not broken a mast or capsized in the gnarly conditions. But the spirit of SS racing is definitely alive and well here on Long Island, even on tough days like Saturday. The SS class is one of the more popular classes at Shinnecock Yacht Club, and as Schelter says, is going through “a rejuvenation” period.

“We only had four or five SS boats here in 2013, but now we have about eight within our membership, which is a large portion considering there are only 150 in the world.” Other sailors hailing from Westhampton Yacht Squadron, Sag Harbor, and Eastport came to celebrate the 110th anniversary regatta.

After three broken masts, and various capsizes within the fleet, Rob Dudley and Jim Ewing took home first place with six points, followed closely by Bob Murray and Jock McLean in second place with seven points. In third place was John Sartorius III and John Sartorius Jr. with 12 points. The Atwater Trophy, which is given to the boat that wins the first races of the Championship Series, was awarded to the Sartorius family.

Even with repairs to be made and boats to be pumped out, smiles were still seen all around during the post-race awards barbecue, because, as Schelter noted, at this little but hearty yacht club, “at least if anything goes wrong, you can always just walk home.”

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