MILFORD STAR FLEET EVOLVED FROM ONLY ONE BOAT IN 1945

By RAYMOND E. BIRKS
return to MYC STAR

 As the Milford Yacht Club grew and prospered after World War II, one of its most active racing fleets has become the Star class. From one boat in 1945, the fleet has expanded to approximately 20 Stars.

 The first Star in Milford (902) was bought by Herb Kelly, a director of the yacht club, for his 13-year-old daughter Betty. What a sight it was as it sailed though the Sound, filled with teen-agers. This boat introduced Stars to many Milford High School young people.

 The second Star (56) was acquired at City Island, N. Y., and sailed to Milford by Don Spengler in 1946. During that year, Don and Betty had to sail in the handicap division, while waiting for a third boat to form a yacht club fleet. They didn't have to wait long. One year later, a third Star was bought by Sam Trowbridge, who had been recently discharged from the armed forces.

 As more and more servicemen returned from the war, boating and sailing across the country, and in Milford, grew as never before. Between 1947 and 1951, six more Stars were added to the Milford roster. Finally, in late 1950, a group of Milford Star sailors, spearheaded by Spengler and Mead Batchelor, applied to the International Star Class Yacht Racing Association for a charter. The charter was granted, and beginning in 1951, the local Star skippers became the Mid-Connecticut Star Fleet (Mid).

 During the first season of ISCYRA sponsored racing, Batchelor and Spengler, in "Kismet" and "Skarliss III," respectively, led the way, with Spengler taking the eliminations. For these first few years, all of the Stars were wet boats because of the lack of a hoist. Their only traveling was done by sailing to and from Black Rock for the annual regatta. This sail was the official long distance race for about four years, after which the annual long distance race was to either Middleground or Branford Reef.

 In 1952, Batchelor won the first major out-of-town victory for a Milford Star. In his "Kismet," he took the First District Green Star. Another first that year was the racing of the first Past Commodores' Nutmeg Series, part of the Nash Trophy Circuit. This series was won that first year by C. Stanley Ogilvy in "Flame" (2700).

 The launching facilities for this first Nutmeg race consisted of a crane on the oyster docks. But the sight of these dry boats from other ports, with their beautifully polished finishes inspired the Star sailors to build a dock at the northern end of the yacht club property. This dock, now commonly called the Star dock, was installed with a hoist to provide greater speed of launching and hoisting. With the advent of this hoist, the 1953 season saw many new boats, or the old wet boats converted into dry boats. The new trailers that also showed up that year meant that Milford could be represented at many more regattas along the Sound and on Long Island.

 In that season, Dick Gordon, then of the Central Long Island Sound Fleet, won the Green Star championship in his "Caber" (3339), although Wally Sigler of the home fleet, in "Dawn" (1659) excited Milford skippers with a first in the first race. Meanwhile, competition at the regular Milford series was keen between Batchelor, Dave Gaillard, Paul Voytershark, Sigler, Ray Birks, Bert Kopf and Spengler.

 In 1954, Gaillard, in his new "Blue Chip" (3450), led a Milford sweep of the Green Star at Westport. He finished first, while Sigler, in "Kismet," and Voytershark, in "Scrimshaw" (1647) sailed in second and third, in that order.

 As the years have passed, the Nutmeg Series has grown in prominence, with 49 boats competing last year. One of its high points was the '54 series, which saw three former world champs ions finish 1-2-3 (Lippincott, Etchells and Knowles, respectively).

The most significant Star regatta held to date in Milford has been the Atlantic Coast Championships (Blue Star) in 1956 and 1959. The '56 series was taken by Boston's Joe Duplin, while in 1958 Skip Etchells captured the laurels.

There are larger Star fleets over the world, but few have had the fun and eagerness of the Milford fleet. Looking back over the years, we miss such die-hard competition as George Meng, Bill Weston, Gaillard, Bill Chandler, Voytershark and Buzz Worthen, to name a few. But each year brings new faces, in new and old boats, to threaten Batchelor, the perennial favorite. This year, Batchelor has taken six firsts, but not without many a battle with Gordon, Foley, Kevin Jaffe and Dick Hovey.

This year, Milford has been chosen as the site of the North American Championships (Silver Star). We hope it will be a memorable week, and who knows but what some day Milford may see a World's Championship.