THE HISTORY OF THE MID-CONNECITCUT FLEET

By David Bolles

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In 1922 when the fleet system was first organized by the newly formed International Star Class Yacht Racing Association the Long Island Sound was divided into three fleets: Western Long Island Sound (W.L.I.S.), Central Long Island sound (C.L.I.S.), and Eastern Long Island Sound (E.L.I.S.). When the C.L.I.S. fleet charter was first issued the fleet territory was "Long Island Sound east of a line running from Great Captains Island to Oak Neck and west of a line running north and south through Falkners Island", a distance of some 50 nautical miles. By 1935 the description of the C.L.I.S. fleet in the Star Class Logs had been reduced to "Long Island Sound east of Riverside to Branford Reef", still a distance of some 40 nautical miles.

From the beginning Milford Yacht Club was included as one of the various yacht clubs which lay in the C.L.I.S. territory. However, it was not until the late 1940's that interest in sailing Stars at the Milford Yacht Club began to grow. Finally, 1951 a separate fleet charter was given to the Milford fleet. The new fleet was named the Mid-Connecticut fleet. With the formation of the Mid-Connecticut fleet the C.L.I.S. fleet's territory was even further reduced, and now the territory of C.L.I.S. is "Long Island Sound east of Riverside to Fairfield Point". The Mid-Connecticut fleet took up the rest of the territory, namely "Long Island Sound east of Fairfield Point to Branford Reef".

The original charter members of the Mid-Connecticut fleet, as shown on the fleet certificate issued on May 1, 1951, were Mead Batchelor, James McLaughlin, William Weston, Jr., George Meng, Donald F. Spengler, Earle Kones, Mead Batchelor, Jr., Betty Kelly, and Jonathan Doolittle.

In the beginning the Stars of the Mid-Conn fleet were wet-sailed. Then in 1954 a long pier was built at the northern end of the Club's property. At the end of the pier was a hoist on a jib-boom. In those days most of the boats were on four wheel trailers built out of old car chassis. It was quite a chore to wheel the boats out to the hoist and then take the trailer off the pier before the next boat could be launched. The next advance came in 1956-1957 when a bulkhead located at about the line of the present bulkhead was constructed. A dredge was brought in to dig out the mud in front of the bulkhead. This mud was piled up on the parking lot and became known as "Mead's mud pile", because the pile sat there for some time until a local contractor finally took it away for fill for a housing development.

NUTMEG TROPHY

Don Spengler, one of the charter members of the Mid-Connecticut Star fleet, was commodore of the Milford Y.C. at the time the fleet received its charter. He started the Nutmeg Regatta which was first sailed in 1952. The trophy was named after the state's nickname. It was the enthusiasm of the growing Mid-Conn fleet which brought trophy into existence. The original trophy was very nice. However, it disappeared after one of the early regattas and was then replaced by present trophy.

When the Nutmeg Regatta began the boats of Mid-Conn fleet were wet-sailed as mentioned above. In order to host the Nutmeg regatta the visiting boats sailed out of oyster docks which used to be located across the river from Club. A crane was brought in for the regatta to launch the visiting boats. The Club members put together a temporary dock on beach where hoists now are for the visiting boats to tie up to.

ARMS-WHITE REGATTA

The Arms-White series is named after two sailors from the C.L.I.S, John Taylor Arms and Elwood S. White. In 1937 John Arms donated the Arms Trophy and in 1942 the family of Elwood White donated the White Trophy for the winning crew of the Arms series. The series, originally known as the Noroton Race Week, was sailed out of the Noroton Yacht Club of the C.L.I.S. fleet until 1969. The series was relocated to Mid-Conn in 1970. The historical account of the C.L.I.S. fleet written in 1947 by Harold Nash has the following note about the Arms-White:

NOROTON RACE WEEK

In the Winter of 1936-37, Mr. John Taylor Arms approached Paul Smart, Commodore of the Noroton Yacht Club and Harold Nash, Fleet Secretary, with a suggestion to inaugurate an open series in the early Summer. Mr. Arms offered to present a perpetual trophy for the event and to assist with the incidental prizes. His idea was that it should be a tuning-up series of the three red chevron or Class C category; that it should always be held under the auspices of the C.L.I.S. with the Noroton Yacht Club as host. This idea received the sanction of the I.S.C.Y.R.A. and was held for the first time in 1937. The series was to consist of five races ending on the Sunday before July 4th. The response to this event was immediate and heartening. Forty-two boats crossed the starting line, which was almost a record. Mr. Arms, whose son was then Fleet Captain for the fourth successive year, had taken a great interest in the class and hoped that the entry list would some day pass the 50 mark. To date, this goal has not been reached. In 1939 a peak entry list of 49 was attained but, due to the war, it fell off and reached a low of 23 in 1942. Due to the rationing of gasoline and other factors, it was considered to be a patriotic duty to discontinue the series in 1943 and 1944.

Definite interest was shown by W.L.I.S. in the resumption of Noroton Race Week and one of the clubs in that district was considering an open Spring series in the event that C.L.I.S. did not hold theirs. So, for the benefit of those who lived near by and who would enjoy the contest as a diversion from war duties, the series was raced in 1945 with war bonds and savings stamps as prizes. The entry list was short but it was considered to be entirely worth while. 1946 dawned as the first year of peace when many of the boys were coming home and war restrictions were off. There were 27 starters, ten of which came from Western and Southern Long Island Sound and Great South Bay Fleets. The best C.L.I.S. could do against these invaders was a fifth place, E. W. Etchells and his wife from W.L.I.S. capturing the cup. In 1947 the entry list jumped to 48. Noroton Race Week had returned to form and it again looks possible to reach Mr. Arms' hope of seeing 50 contestants start together. Etchells and his wife again took first honors with three firsts out of the five races.

This event has always been held in an atmosphere of informality, taking on the nature of a community house party. Entries from distant places are lodged in the dwellings of local residents; teas and supper parties are held both at the club and at private homes and a friendly spirit prevails throughout. While the best skippers fight hard for first honors, the others are glad of the opportunity to compete against such good sailors and to use the contest for the purpose Mr. Arms had in mind to tune their boats up for better performance in their local fleets during the Summer. Some skippers have suggested that a method be devised whereby the fleet is divided into two sections. It has generally been considered, however, that the large number of boats create a thrill that can only be had in such an informal event as this. Besides being an unsatisfactory compromise in many respects, such a division would deprive some members of racing against the boats which they want most to observe. So far, this thought has not been given serious consideration. Of the nine series held to date, Stan Ogilvy won three and Skip Etchells two. W.L.I.S. has been able to take the cup seven times while C.L.I.S. kept it only twice. Peconic-Gardiners Bay and Southern Long Island Sound Fleets each won a second place.

In 1942, John Hazen White offered a perpetual trophy in memory of his father, Elwood S. White, who had acted as his faithful crew for many years. This trophy was to be presented to the crew of the winning boat of the Noroton Race Week each year. Blair Kinsman, jib-sheet tender for Paul Smart, was the first to have his name engraved on this trophy. Since then, two women, Wilma Bell and Mary Etchells, have added their names.

On the mornings of the regatta, special events such as Ladies, Junior and Crew Races were held. These added to the fun and interest of many who otherwise would have had to be content with watching or tending jib sheets.

 

NORTH AMERICAN CHAMPIONSHIPS HELD AT MILFORD

Since the founding of the Mid-Conn fleet Milford Yacht Club has hosted three North American Silver Star Championships; 1960, 1980 and 1987. The 1960 Championship hosted 40 boats and was won by Richard Stearns and Lynn Williams of Chicago. In those days each fleet was limited to two entries to a Silver Star event. The two entries from Mid-Conn fleet were Mead Batchelor-Buzz Worthen and Richard Gordon-Wallace Sigler.

In 1980 there were 46 entries. The event was won by Alexander Hagen and Vincent Hoesch of Germany. By this time the hosting fleet was allowed more entries, and in this Championship the Mid-Conn fleet entered 5 boats. The Mid-Conn representatives were Peter Conrad-Peter Beam, John Lombard-Robert Lombard, Alan Pritchard-Mike Whitford, Richard Hovey-Bear Hovey, and Mead Batchelor-Joan Batchelor.

In 1987 there were 50 entries, of which 16 boats were from the Mid-Conn fleet. John A. MacCausland, a perennial winner of open events held at Milford, won the series with Alan Romefelt crewing. The Mid-Conn representatives were: Bear Hovey-Neil Foley, Mead Batchelor-Mead Batchelor III, Jack Button-John Densmore, Richard Hovey-Mark Wentworth, David Burger-D. Szymanski, John Lombard Jr-C. Keyes, Ralph B. Curd III-Howie Shiebler, John Lombard Sr-P. Gwiazdowski, Marshal Brown-W. Price, Marshall Converse-D. Cap, Mike Whitford-D. Lambert, D. Schutz-T. Courtney, Joseph Giunti-J. Saint Jean, Emil Karlovsky-D. Sullivan, David Chittick-Michael Chittick, Ernie Wiggins-T. Wiggins.

Aside from the annual regattas Arms-White and Nutmeg which have continued to be successful regattas, in 1995 the Atlantic Coast Masterís Regatta was begun by the Mid-Connecticut Fleet. It was held in Milford annually until 2000, when the regatta traveled to the Boston Harbor Fleet. However, in 2000 the Mid-Connecticut Fleet held the 1st District Blue Star Championship. The holding of the 2001 North American Silver Star Championship at Milford will continue the tradition of having Milford Yacht Club play a strong role in holding Star Class regattas.