Chatham Yacht Club

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CYC Workman's Series

The traditional trophy was this trash can

This Friday Night we are going to have an evening sail/race in honor of a fun CYC Tradition: The Workman’s Series. The course was always around all of the buoys.

Chuck Bartlett describes this oldtime CYC race series this way:

"The Workman’s series was started in the early 1950’s by a group of folks who were slightly older than I was, as Alan points out. By the time I was old enough to join in, the protocols were pretty well worked out.

The idea was to start the race at the time the sun was setting so you could see the starting line and the first mark. After that you were on your own. Sometimes we weren’t sure all the boats got around all the buoys!

Many times there was a small bonfire after the race, and we sat around swapping stories about racing and singing songs.

You didn’t have to have a crew to race in the series, so not everyone had a date. If I remember right, the date’s job was to bring a picnic.

It should be remembered that in those days there were very few boats moored at CYC. Most of us had to sail our boat to CYC and sail home after the party. It could make for a long evening!"

In the mid-1950s a CYC Newsletter described the series this way. We think this was written by Julie Lane (Alan McClennen’s cousin), and the participants that year probably included: Charlie Leighton, Freddie Leighton, Joe Cook, and Mary Zizette – and others.

"One of the most interesting features of C.Y.C.’s racing occurs on Wednesday nights in the so-called “Workman’s Series.” Last year the club members felt that there was not a proper opportunity for the sailors who worked during the daytime to race. As a result, there was initiated a series of races for Wednesday nights for the workers over 18 yrs. Old.

When the days come around, the boys pick up their dates and go to the clubhouse at around 6 PM. From then until 8 they have a large picnic supper. Immediately after the picnic the race begins with just enough light to see 2 of the 3 markers. This third and last buoy must be found by extremely careful navigation - for if a lead boat misses or can’t find his mark on the first try his lead may dwindle or disappear completely. This difficulty only adds to the fun of the race.

By many common standards these races are haphazard and not really a true estimate of a sailor’s skill. In the first place, there is a large amount of luck involved. Also, there are no protests allowed because it was felt that protests make racing too serious and therefore less fun. But the kids all feel that the relaxed attitude which results is more important. And besides, there is a lot more skill required of a sailor if he can’t see his sails.

An excellent example of this pleasant atmosphere in the races is shown by the glorified ash can which serves as the series trophy. Also, in some of the races so far this year all the kids sang songs to the strummings of a guitar on the down-wind legs. And, too, the evening is ended by a fire and a beach party.

From picnic to beach party the kids have a grand time. Their enthusiasm is greater in many respects than that of the same kids in the much more serious Saturday Series.

Jensie Shipley has this to add:

"Bill and I met in the CYC clubhouse after a Workman’s Series race in July 1960. This was my first summer at CYC. I thought this race sounded like fun so I got a crew (Frankie Fitz) and raced in our Whistler #11. I remember using the headlights along Route 28 to locate the Head the Bay buoy. I have no idea if we rounded the rest of the buoys but I remember gathering around a fire inside the clubhouse and being introduced to Bill. He found where I was living that summer and appeared at the house the next day. We went waterskiing, and the rest is history."

In response to Jensie’s story, Alan McClennen noted:

"When I won in 1958 my crew was Frances Fuller Tyng. We were married in 1962."

This definitely sounds like a tradition worth reviving!


Chatham Yacht Club | P.O. Box 531 | North Chatham, MA 02650

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