Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Thanks to Tweezerman, who writes the excellent sailing blog Earwigoagin, for bringing to our attention this old video of wooden lapstrake Tech dinghies participating in collegiate sailing at MIT around 1945. He wonders if any of these beautiful examples of wooden boat-building survived.
Great question Tweezerman. And not just because they were beautiful boats. The fleet of Tech Dinghies that you see in the video gave birth to American college sailing as it we know it today. The Tech was designed specifically for MIT by Professor George Owen, and the first boats were made for the opening of the MIT Sailing Pavilion in 1935 by the famous Herreshoff Yard in Bristol, Rhode Island. In the following years, the first ten Dinghy Championships of the newly organized Intercollegiate Yacht Racing Association (ICYRA) were sailed on the Charles River in that fleet of cat-rigged, wooden Tech Dinghies.
So what happened to them?
In 1952, MIT's Second Fleet of Tech Dinghies was built in fiberglass by Cape Cod Shipbuilding in Wareham, MA. (MIT are now on their Fifth Fleet.) I don't have a clue what MIT did with the First Fleet after taking delivery of the Second Fleet, but if modern day practice is any guide they probably sold the old boats to another college (or perhaps high school) sailing team.
Using the most sophisticated and powerful research tool known to professional historians I have discovered the following information about the whereabouts of some surviving boats from the First Fleet.
The website of the Little Boat Shop in Maine has pictures of the hulls of two of the original MIT Tech Dinghies. One is described as "on display at the Cape Cod Maritime Museum" and the other is being restored by the Little Boat Shop and is said to be "scheduled for complete restoration this year and is available for sale." (It's not entirely clear to me whether these are two different hulls or whether the shop is restoring the boat that was in the museum, or indeed if the website is actually current.)
There are also some pictures of an old wooden Tech dinghy on Flickr.
The caption is a little confusing in that it doesn't specifically say it was one of the First Fleet (but that was the only wooden fleet as far as I know) but it does say that it is "the only remaining one of its class" which seems to conflict with the claims for the boats in the photos on the Little Boat Shop website (unless they are all three actually pictures of the same boat.) The Flickr boat is said to be "at the pavilion" (presumably the MIT Sailing Pavilion), has a very old (torn) sail, and is apparently kept outside. I wonder if it is still sailed?
I mentioned that the First Fleet of Techs was built by Herreshoff in Bristol RI and I know that the Herreshoff Marine Museum has an extensive collection of boats built and/or designed by the Herreshoffs over the years. Sure enough the museum's website confirms that their boat collection does include an MIT Tech Dinghy built in 1936, presumably also one of the First Fleet.
So there we have it Tweezerman. Apparently at least four of those original forty boats still exist (unless I've counted some boats twice) and there may be more. I know that at least one former MIT sailing team member and Tech ace reads this blog so perhaps he, or others in the know, can cast more light on this subject?
Now that I've answered Tweezerman's question I have a couple of my own...
Is the video found by Tweezerman the oldest (or at least the oldest online) video of dinghy racing?
Does anyone know the names of any of the sailors in the video?
Posted by Tillerman at 3:32 PM