Chatham Yacht Club

Teaching Love of Sailing on Pleasant Bay Since 1921

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A Love for Racing Beetle Cat Boats

–Ted Dickson

Excerpt from the program for the Leo J. Telesmanick Champtionship Centennial Regatta held at Chatham Yacht Club 2021

As we have been collating this program, the number of registrations has kept growing, and this looks like it could be one of the largest gatherings of Beetle Cats ever. Why  is this the case? Is it the true one-design nature of the class? The simplicity of the boat, but the complexity of racing it? The zen of a wooden boat? The families and friends with whom we share the experience? The incredible number of skilled sailors in the class? Or maybe even the beauty of Pleasant Bay as a Beetle Cat venue?

Some of us who love racing Beetle Cats have been doing so our whole lives or have rediscovered it later in life. Others are fairly new to the class. And it seems that every generation there is a new appreciation for this classic boat.

In 1955, Time, Inc. first published Sports Illustrated: Small Boat Sailing. In the 1960 edition, eighteen one-design classes are identified as the most popular class boats in the U.S., including the Beetle Cat. Here is what the editors said: has ungainly gaff-headed rig, but is safe, broad-beamed all-weather boat. A handy boat in shallow waters, she measures 12 feet 4 inches, costs about $1000.

The class has 1800 boats.

In 1980, in The New York Times Bruce Porter pointed out that while the boats are not fast or luxurious or modern: for generations of summerfolk up and down Cape Cod who have been sailing Beetle Cats for nearly 60 years, the boat is as cherished a part of their lives as weathered shingles and deserted sand dunes.

In 2008, in his book The Competitive Cat: Racing Small Gaff-Rigged Catboats, Bill Welch, MD includes the following observations in his chapter on Beetle Cats:

  • The Beetle Cat is the second oldest successful one-design class (second to Stars)
  • The Beetle Cat is a well-organized class with strict one-design class rules.
  • There is a wide range of racing skills in the typical Beetle Cat fleet making it fun whatever your skill level.
  • Camaraderie and social ties within the class are strong.

Running a regatta of this size and significance could be a daunting task – but this is what we do here at CYC. We celebrate and teach sailing and run races and regattas. We can do this because of our dedication to these goals and our spirit of voluntarism. We love sailing on Pleasant Bay, and we love sharing that experience.

Special thanks to the many people who have made this event possible – and happy sailing

on Pleasant Bay!

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

CYC is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization. Your donations are tax deductible!

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